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Do you use a complicated password for your Wi-Fi network? You should. But that password can feel like a liability when letting trusted friends connect to your network. Well, it turns out there’s a simple and pain-free way to allow them to access your network without having to type anything. There’s also a fancy, newfangled way. Let me show you both.

Simple Wi-Fi Sharing For Android Users

Assuming your friends use Android, there’s a laughably simple and free way to share access to your Wi-Fi network with them: Generate a QR code for your network. When you click the link, you’ll find yourself looking at a simple form that looks something like this:

wi-fi-qr

Note that the Contents drop-down defaults to Contact Information. Click it, find Wifi Network in the list, and you should get the form you see above. SSID is your network name. Type that in, as well as the password. You’ll also need to know your network security type (WEP or WPA/WPA2). If you’re not sure, go with WPA/WPA2 – almost no modern Wi-Fi networks use WEP. By the way, now would be a good time to learn more about WEP, WPA2 and friends WPA2, WEP, And Friends: What's The Best Way To Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? WPA2, WEP, And Friends: What's The Best Way To Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? When setting up wireless encryption on your router, you'll come across a variety of confusing terms -- WPA2, WPA, WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. Read More .

You can leave all other settings as they are and just click Generate. The QR code on the right side of the screen will change to a new one, containing all of your network information.

Now it’s time to test and see if it works. Leave the barcode on the screen – don’t close your browser window. Then, grab your phone and make sure you have a barcode scanner installed. Almost all Android phones do, but if you don’t, go ahead and grab QR Code Reader by Scan. It’s better than what most people use.

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Next, go to Settings > Wi-Fi. You should see you’re currently connected to that same network (assuming you’re at home), or at least, that your phone remembers it. Long-press the network name and tap Forget. This will remove the network password from the phone.

Now run the barcode scanner and point it at your computer screen so it can read the barcode. You should get this:

qr-scanned

Tap OK, and your phone should take a moment and then connect to your home network without asking you for anything else. If this works, awesome. if it doesn’t, make sure the SSID and password are correct, and try switching to WEP if you picked WPA/WPA2 above. Click Generate again, and scan the barcode again.

You now have a magical barcode that grants access to your home network to anyone who points a scanner at it. Click the little Download link on the barcode generator, and you’ll get it as an image file. If you’re feeling old-school, you can print it out and stick it on your router. A more modern option would be to save it to an app like Google Keep Simple Notes On The Go: Google Keep For Android Reviewed Simple Notes On The Go: Google Keep For Android Reviewed There are some amazing note-taking apps out there, but here's one that merits a closer look: Google Keep, a note-keeper which has both a great-looking Android app and a slick webapp. Read More and just bring it up on your phone when a friend needs access.

Not everyone likes QR codes Four Reasons QR Codes Are Unquestionably Awesome! Four Reasons QR Codes Are Unquestionably Awesome! There's only one universal truth in the world of technology today: people can't get enough of scanning QR codes. Whether they're driving to work, reading a magazine or just taking a walk, people love the... Read More , but this is one great use for them.

Fancy Wi-Fi Sharing

If messing around with QR codes feels like too much trouble, you can try one of several swanky Wi-Fi sharing apps. These are nicer-looking and feel more modern, but they are not without their flaws: For one thing, there are several such apps on the market, so your friends will have to use the same one you’re using. Another drawback is that for these apps to work, they must keep a centralized database full of the Wi-Fi passwords of all of their users. I’m sure these are encrypted and safeguarded with the greatest of care, but still.

What you gain, apart from using a nicer-looking interface, is free Wi-Fi hotspots all over town – or all over the world, for that matter. Here’s a video for Instabridge that sells the concept quite well:

Another Wi-Fi sharing app in a similar vein is WifiPass. This one drops the notion of friends altogether, though, to focus entirely on allowing you to access Wi-Fi spots others have shared passwords for (as well as share passwords yourself, of course).

Don’t Forget The Little Button

As a final word, many modern Wi-Fi hotspots have a little button somewhere that says WPS, or has a logo similar to this:

WFA_WPS_Mark_Horiz

You should be able to reach the button – after all, our wireless feng-shui Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Setting up a Wi-Fi network should be an easy prospect, shouldn't it? I mean, a house is a closed-in box, and you'd think when you place a device that transmits wireless signals in all directions... Read More guidelines clearly state that you should place your router away from walls and obstacles. Your friend’s phone probably has a button bearing this symbol somewhere in the Wi-Fi connection screen. You can press this button on the phone, then press the same button on the router, and presto — your friend is connected.

That said, I still prefer the QR code method, because WPS has security risks. It can seem a bit daunting to set up, but you have to do it just once, and it worked well in my testing. Plus, your password stays with you.

What’s your favorite way of sharing Wi-Fi access with friends?

Image Credits: Marcus Exner Via Flickr

  1. Caroline H
    March 28, 2014 at 3:15 am

    So are you saying that learning the password (and passing it on) is more difficult than all of the above or that it's risky to do so? Because reading this article and the comments just makes me think that I'd rather continue to remember the password.

    • Erez Z
      March 28, 2014 at 7:43 am

      lol :) I can understand that about the comments... but the QR trick shown in the post is simple, I promise. Once you have the right QR printed, it's just a matter of pointing a phone at it and tapping a button -- definitely simpler than remembering a password (unless the password is super-easy, which it should not be).

  2. Nahla D
    March 20, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Does this also work with a smartphone to smartphone WIFI connection?

    • Erez Z
      March 20, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Smartphone-to-smartphone WiFi is usually established with one of these smartphones acting as a hotspot (if you mean WiFi sharing, that is). In that case, it should work.

  3. sulasno
    March 18, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    couldn't connect to my wifi router though had no problems connecting to the modem

  4. Network Matter Expert
    March 18, 2014 at 6:29 am

    WPA2-AES with MAC filtering, complex password, and hidden SSID (unless you have an auth server like radius than use that instead of AES) is the best way (Kevin yes WPS is still crap) (David yes MAC filtering is good but only if used in combination with other security which I'm sure your college does) also a guest network and subnetting is the best way for guests just write complex guest pass on tape on router

  5. Judge Gary J Dean
    March 18, 2014 at 2:48 am

    I don't really worry about REAL FRIENDS connecting to my wi fi when they visit, or sit in my driveway at night needing a connection. They wouldn't try to hack me, and I don't have any NSA secrets anyway! Forget the QR codes too, my 32 character password is all I need! grin????

  6. madazz
    March 16, 2014 at 10:30 am

    In barecode scanner i use the password shows up clear before you accept to connect to the wifi. thats not safe ...

    • Kevin D
      March 16, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Madazz, you're providing the password to an untrusted machine in the first place then. This isn't a matter of keeping the password unknown, but easily transfering the password of "WTFISMYPASSW0RDL33T!?(c)" without having to type it on a mobile device. Any device can pretty much recover a wifi password once it's installed.

  7. Mrinal S
    March 15, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Another way of sharing WiFi would be by using NFC tags. If you and your friends have NFC supported devices than you can easily write (uisng apps like Instawifi ) your WiFi credentials on NFC tags and when your friends come over, just give him/her NFC tags. By just tapping the NFC tags to their device your friend will connect to your Network. Easy isn't it !!

    • Kevin D
      March 16, 2014 at 12:16 am

      I wonder, with the WPS, if this security issue I found a while back has been fixed. WPS is easy for when you want to connect a new device, but it's brute-forceable, more so than your WiFi password.

      The thing that tripped me up here is that even if you disabled WPS, it would still allow things to connect to your network with your WPS PIN. Meaning you could STILL brute force it even though it was "disabled" and gain access to the network.

      Your best security policy? Two networks, one filtered for guests, using mac address filtering, strong passwords and maybe even third party authentication, like a server to authenticate a username and password. Nothing is going to be 100% secure, but you can make it not worth the crackers time.

  8. rob
    March 15, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I click the link you posted for the QR code generator but I'm not seeing the same for you posted. The form that I see displays nothing about a wifi network.

    • Erez Z
      March 16, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Note that the Contents drop-down defaults to Contact Information. Click it, find Wifi Network in the list, and you should get the form you see above.

  9. dragonmouth
    March 15, 2014 at 12:03 am

    "But that password can feel like a liability when letting trusted friends connect to your network."
    It may seem like a liability to them but not to me. I'm sorry but when it comes to security, there are no "trusted friends." I know MY Internet habits, I don't know anybody else's. MY network, we do things MY way! If they do not like it, tough noogies.

    • Kevin D
      March 16, 2014 at 12:12 am

      OpenDNS might help you manage this? They can block things like that of questionable content. Of course one could bypass it.

  10. David M
    March 14, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I use MAC filtering instead of passwords.

    • dragonmouth
      March 15, 2014 at 12:04 am

      Egads! That's like using the Rhythm Method for contraception.

    • Richard
      March 15, 2014 at 8:39 am

      What is it? Not heard of it.

    • David M
      March 15, 2014 at 11:02 am

      What do you mean Dragon? UMaine does the same thing.

    • David M
      March 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Richard, MAC filtering means they can only get on my network if they are on my list. My list contains MAC addresses of allowed devices. This way if I don't want someone on my network anymore, I simply delete them. No need to change passwords in hopes that someone might guess it.

    • User965
      March 15, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      I think that dragonmouth means is that using MAC filtering is useless as someone can spoof their MAC address and gain total access to your network.

    • David M
      March 15, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Spoofing a MAC address is more difficult that cracking a password. And besides, when someone attempts to log into a password protected site, they automatically know they need to crack a password. If someone attempts to log into my network, they have no idea why they can't connect.

    • Kevin D
      March 16, 2014 at 12:11 am

      Sorry, MAC spoofing is NOT more difficult than cracking a password. A decent password takes hours to crack. I can spoof a mac address in 10 seconds.

    • David M
      March 16, 2014 at 11:21 am

      How can you spoof a MAC address in 10 seconds?

    • David M
      March 16, 2014 at 11:23 am

      Don't you have to know one of the MAC addresses first before you spoof it?

    • Kevin D
      March 16, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      David, that's easy enough with watching the packets in the air with any 30 dollar wireless card. Mac addresses are provided in every packet.

    • Chris
      March 17, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      One command on a linux command line and you have your mac spoofed. The same applies to MacOS X. Iphones and PCs are a little more complicated, but it's possible.

    • David M
      March 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Why would a university use Mac filtering if it is so easy to crack?

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