You’ve got an Internet connection via a network cable, but you want to have your other computers and devices get Internet connections wirelessly. Can you do this? Can you make your Windows computer run like a WiFi router?
The short answer is a qualified, ‘Yes.’ The key component in this process is making sure that your Windows computer has a wireless network card. If you have that installed properly, then you can turn your Windows computer into a WiFi hotspot and share your Internet connection.
How Does This All Work?
Most WiFi cards for PCs can be used to share wired Internet connections, wirelessly. Mind you, it does take some software, or special configuring, to use that capability. Essentially, the software or configuration is what will act as the ‘virtual router’ to enable your computer to share that Internet connection. We’re going to look at a few different ways that you can do this on a Windows computer, as well as the positives and negatives of each method.
Ad-Hoc Wireless Connection via Windows Menus
Ad-hoc is a Latin phrase meaning ‘for this’. It is meant to describe something that is set up for this particular purpose only. Often it is something of a temporary nature with minimal setup, planning, or support. There are two ways to set up an ad-hoc wireless network in Windows: one is through the graphical menus, and the other is through the command line interface. Let’s take a look at the graphical menus first.
Click on your Start Menu, then Control Panel, then Network and Sharing Center. You’ll see the following window:
Now click on Set up a new connection or network. When the new window opens, scroll down until you see Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network. Highlight that option by clicking once on it, then click the Next button.
You’ll now see a window that explains what an ad-hoc wireless network is and it tells you a few things about it. The most important thing to note is that any devices using the ad-hoc wireless network must be within 30 feet of each other, in any direction. Consider that as a maximum upper limit, as so many other things can affect the range of a wireless signal. Expect maybe half of that. You can optimize the range by following a few tips on what we’ve come to call wireless feng shui.
The second most important thing to note is that if you create an ad-hoc wireless connection, any wireless connection you have to a device right now will be dropped. So, if you think you can connect wirelessly to one network and share that network wirelessly with others – you can’t. It’s one or the other. Click the Next button to move on to the next window.
This window is where you set the name of your network and what kind of security it has on it. It is recommended to use the WPA2-Personal choice for Security type. This gives you the best security you can get with an ad-hoc connection like this. Use a password that you don’t mind giving to other people. Don’t recycle a password you use for other things like Facebook or banking. You’ll soon regret that, if you do. If you intend to set up an ad-hoc wireless network again in the future, you can check the box that reads Save this network and click the Next button.
Congratulations! You’ve just created an ad-hoc wireless network! Share it with your friends and family as you see fit.
The problems with this kind of connection aren’t many, but it isn’t the most universal solution. People with Windows 7 or earlier trying to connect with non-Windows devices have had some difficulties and have had to investigate deeply to find out how to configure their non-Windows devices in order to connect.
Sometimes, the issue is that the device isn’t compatible with the type of security or encryption that your ad-hoc wireless network is set up to use. Sometimes, it’s a matter of the firewall on the host computer blocking the devices from connecting. Sometimes, you can solve the problem by assigning static IP addresses to your connecting devices. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem like there’s a good reason at all why it won’t work.
From the research I’ve done, it appears that Windows 8 and newer have less issues like this. We have previously explained what you can try if you are having issues with Windows 8 and WiFi.
The Verdict On This Method
The positive is that this is an easy connection to set up and quick to disable. This method is best suited for allowing short and temporary connection of devices you know that will work.
Ad-Hoc Wireless Connection via Command Line or Batch File
You can also create and disable an ad-hoc wireless network using the command line. When you can do something through the command line in Windows, you can also write a batch file to do the same thing. This is especially useful for tasks that you would repeatedly perform.
To do this via the command line, you need to open the Command Prompt. The quickest way to do that is to click on the Start Menu then type cmd in the Search programs and files field. When it finds the Command Prompt program, right click on it and select Run as Administrator, unless you are the administrator.
First, you must initialize the hosted network mode. This is the command: netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=YourSSID key=YourPassword keyusage=persistent where you change YourSSID to whatever you want to name the network, and YourPassword to whatever password you want on the network.
Second, you must turn the network on: netsh wlan start hostednetwork
Third, when you want to close out the network, use the command: netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
Pretty simple. If you want to create a batch file for this, open up Notepad and copy and paste the following into it. Again, change YourSSID to whatever you want to name the network, and YourPassword to whatever password you want on the network.
ECHO Press 1, 2, or 3 to select your task, or 4 to Exit.
ECHO 1 – Set Wifi Sharing Attributes
ECHO 2 – Start WiFi Sharing
ECHO 3 – Stop WiFi Sharing
ECHO 4 – Exit
SET /P M=Type 1, 2, 3, or 4, then press ENTER:
IF %M%==1 GOTO SET
IF %M%==2 GOTO START
IF %M%==3 GOTO STOP
IF %M%==4 GOTO EOF
netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=YourSSID key=YourPassword keyusage=persistent
netsh wlan start hostednetwork
netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
Save the file to your desktop as something like AdHocNetwork.bat. Make sure it doesn’t have the .txt extension. Now, when you want to create an ad-hoc network, all you have to do is run the batch file (as Administrator) and follow the menu prompts. It’ll look like this:
The Verdict On This Method
The same pros and cons apply to this as to the other ad-hoc network you created through the Windows method. It’s great for setting up a short and temporary connection of devices, but automated and quicker to set up.
The Software Approach
There are plenty of software applications that make setting up your Windows PC as a virtual WiFi router as easy as can be. Most of them take care of the various issues that you might encounter with the more traditional ad-hoc networks. Virtual WiFi Router (free, our review), VirtualRouter (free, our review), WiFi Hotspot Creator (free), Thinix ($13 USD) and Connectify Hot Spot PRO are just a few of the applications available that can do this. Connectify HotSpot Pro has consistently been the best virtual router software that I have used, so I’ll share a bit more about it with you here.
Connectify Hot Spot PRO – $40 USD
In my experience, Connectify is the best application to use for this, as it is super simple to set up, runs flawlessly, and I’ve never had an issue with any device being able to connect to it, as long as it was in range. I’ve connected Android phones and tablets, iPads and iPhones, BlackBerry Playbooks and phones, and of course, Windows PCs. The most I’ve had connected at one time has been five devices and it performed wonderfully, with no noticeable lag on my PC or the other devices.
Sure, Connectify costs a few bucks, but the aggravation it saves easily pays for that. The software also aids in sharing of files between devices connected to it and access to the Local Area Network. I’d go as far as to say that Microsoft should consider acquiring Connectify and making this software part of Windows.
The image on the left shows just how easy it is to configure, and the image on the right shows you how it keeps track of who is connected, and has previously connected.
Some of you might be thinking, “Why would I buy Connectify to do this, when I could just buy a wireless router?” That’s a valid question. If your PC is typically going to be stationary, then getting a WiFi router makes a lot of sense. However, if you have the need to be able to set up a WiFi router in different places, if you travel for work, then software is a lot easier to lug around.
The Verdict On This Method
Connectify is ideal for people who might be sales people, corporate trainers, lecturers, and more.
Summing It Up
Now you know that you CAN turn your Windows PC or laptop into a virtual WiFi router, and you have a few different ways to do so. Pick the one that is right for your needs, try it out, test it, and learn more about what you can do with it.
What other things will a virtual WiFi router allow you to do? Play around, and let us know. There definitely is other uses than just connecting to the Internet, but we’ll leave that to you to explore and learn for now.
Ever set up a virtual WiFi network? How did you do it? What were the ups and downs to your method? Is there one way that you would recommend over another? Let us know in the comments, that’s how we all learn, and we’re all in this together.