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Have you ever been the only person in your group with an Internet connection? You can easily turn your PC or laptop into a wireless hotspot, allowing others to piggyback on your Internet connection in times of need. It is easily done, and what’s better is the massive amount of free tools at your disposal to help you out.
Windows also has two integrated methods to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. We’ll show you how to use those, as well as a run down of some of the best free Wi-Fi Hotspot software. Let’s go!
Native Windows Tools
We’ve actually been able to turn our Windows systems into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for some time, but it was only successful to varying degrees, and even now it still somewhat depends on the type of Internet connection you have.
Windows 10 has made the process easy, with a proper menu entry and easily toggled buttons. That said, you can still use the Command Line if that’s what you prefer.
1. Windows 10 Hotspot
I actually went and dug my 25m Ethernet cable out for this little tutorial. I’m not that far from my router, but it is the only one that can traverse the room.
If you attempt to create a hotspot using an existing Wi-Fi connection, you will not be able to use the incoming connection to access the Internet on that system. However, if you have a wired Ethernet connection, you’re fine, as you’re directly connected to the network.
Press Windows + Q and type mobile hotspot into the search bar, and select the best match. Alternatively, head to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot. Here you can select where to share your Internet connection from. You’ll also note that “You won’t be able to use a VPN or Wi-Fi when mobile hotspot is turned on,” as mentioned above.
Choose where you’d like to share from, then hit the mobile hotspot toggle to turn the connection on. Up to eight devices can now connect to the hotspot.
2. Using the Command Line
You can use the Command Line to enable and disable a Wi-Fi hotspot, using a wired connection.
Press Windows Key + X to open the Start button settings menu, and select Command Prompt (Admin) to open a new window. Enter the following command, replacing the SSID and key entries with the network name and password of your choosing:
netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=AdHoc key=password
Now run the following command to start the network:
netsh wlan start hostednetwork
Press Windows + Q, enter view network connections into the search bar, and select the best match. Right-click your main Ethernet connection and select Properties, then head to the Sharing tab. Click the box next to Allow other Internet users to connect through this computers Internet connection, then change the Home networking connection drop-down box to your newly created hotspot, and press OK.
You should now be able to see the hotspot, and other devices should be able to connect to the network.
3. Using a Batch File
If you’re going to regularly use this hotspot, you can create a batch file to automate the process. Open a new text document and enter the following:
@echo off CLS :MENU ECHO. ECHO………………………………………… ECHO. ECHO Press 1, 2, or 3 to select your task, or 4 to Exit. ECHO………………………………………… ECHO. ECHO 1 – Set Wifi Sharing Attributes ECHO 2 – Start WiFi Sharing ECHO 3 – Stop WiFi Sharing ECHO 4 – Exit ECHO. 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 :SET netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=YourSSID key=YourPassword keyusage=persistent GOTO MENU :START netsh wlan start hostednetwork GOTO MENU :STOP netsh wlan stop hostednetwork GOTO MENU
Again, alter the SSID and key to your choosing, then save the text file to your desktop. Now alter the file extension from .txt to .bat to create a batch file, and accept the warning. If you cannot see the .txt file extension, Windows may have hidden known file type extensions.
If this is the case, head to Control Panel > Folder Options, and uncheck Hide extensions for known file types. Once you press OK, the extension will be accessible via right-click > Rename, or simply by pressing F2 on the desired file.
Double-click to run the file, and follow the onscreen instructions.
Third Party Software
Despite the now well integrated hotspot function of Windows 10, you should also try some free third-party software to see what works best for your situation.
Baidu Hotspot brings some of the advanced (and therefore premium) features of the massively popular Connectify to your system, for free. Combining an excellent mix of basic and advanced features, Baidu Hotspot works extremely well out-of-box, connecting to a range of devices, as well as featuring direct file transfers to any device connected to the hotspot.
The image I’ve included is Baidu Hotspot happily sharing my 5 GHz incoming wireless network, with my phone connected to it, working seamlessly.
A “Connectify Hotspot makes all your devices happy,” and this really is how it would seem to be. It is one of the easiest and most intuitive pieces of Wi-Fi Hotspot software you’ll use, offering a pretty powerful solution for day-to-day users. You can share you wired connection as a hotspot, as well as sharing your existing wireless network, too. If you want to upgrade to the PRO or MAX version, you’ll also be able to share 3G or 4G LTE to those nearby.
This is an extremely popular choice, and it easy to see why.
However, it is frustrating navigating through the software and meeting “only for PRO/MAX users,” and despite the software’s obvious capabilities, it can detract from what you’re trying to achieve. I also noticed two background processes consistently restarting, despite being manually killed, even after disabling Connectify from running at Start-up.
As with so many things in life, sometimes the simplest design is best. Well, perhaps not the best of all, but Virtual Router Plus gets the job done with a jolly nice no-frills attitude. It is because of this simplicity we include Virtual Router Plus, and it has won it a significant number of fans, too.
You only have a couple of options: change the SSID and password of your hotspot, and stopping and starting it. That’s all. But it does that job well, and I like it.
You may have encountered OSToto Hotspot in its former life, named 160WiFi. Aside from the massive name change and reversal from a paid application to free, the software itself remains handy, relatively powerful, and comes with a few neat features, such as being able to blacklist specific IPs from your impromptu network (take that, Keith!), or manually setting a time for the hotspot to turn off.
For a free option, OSToto Hotspot delivers a pretty comprehensive package, and I’d advise giving it a once over.
MyPublicWiFi is another free Wi-Fi Hotspot creator that ticks many of the important boxes. It features an open, somewhat dated, but intuitive design, and can share wired connections as well as Wi-Fi, DSL, 3G, HSDPA, and 4G LTE connections to your immediate surroundings.
It comes with some handy advanced features other applications lack, such as IP blocking, and you can track and block the individual URLs visited by those connected to your network, for better or worse. MyPublicWiFi is one of the oldest entries on this list, but it still does the job extremely well.
My final free Wi-Fi Hotspot selection is mHotspot. As well as turning your wired connection into a wireless hotspot, mHotspot also acts as a Wi-Fi repeater, allowing up to 10 different devices to connect to the network.
Please be careful when installing mHotspot, as it does come bundled with third-party taskbars and search “applications,” which are highly likely to give you a bad time. Try installing Unchecky, a tiny application working to keep your system clear of potentially unwanted programs.
You’re Such A Hot…Spot
You should now be able to navigate to the integrated Windows 10 Wi-Fi Hotspot, choosing your network source along the way. There are also options to use the Command Line, and to create your own batch file, if you’re always using the same network settings. As well as this, we’ve listed six tools that take care of business, while adding some extra functionality along the way (except for Virtual Router Plus, of course!).
What is your favorite Windows Wi-Fi Hotspot tool? Have we already listed it? Or is there something amazing we’ve glossed over? Let us know below!