How to turn your laptop into a wireless hotspot
Did you know you can use your laptop to share its wireless network connection, allowing you to turn it into a new wireless hotspot? It’s easy to do, and it lets you connect other devices to the network via your laptop.
It’s also handy if you have an ageing router whose wireless prowess is fading. Most laptops have decent Wi-Fi adapters in them, and by hooking your laptop to your router via an Ethernet cable, you can create a powerful Wi-Fi network that can reach the furthest corners of your home.
If you’re abroad and the hotel offers a wired internet connection you could connect your laptop to it, create a hotspot and then connect your smartphone to the new wireless network. This will allow you to browse the internet without incurring roaming charges. But the best thing is it’s not only easy, it’s also free.
1. Get the software
To turn your laptop into a wireless hotspot, we’ll be using the free software Virtual Router. First you’ll need to download it, so head over to the website and on the right-hand side of the screen click the large ‘download’ button.
When prompted ‘Save’ the program, then when it’s downloaded select ‘Run’.
2. Install Virtual Router
After clicking ‘Run’ you’ll go to the Virtual Router setup. Click ‘Next’ and you’ll be asked where you want to install the software. If you have a hard drive or location you want to install it to, type in the address or click ‘Browse’. Or, leave it as the default.
You can select if you only want your user account to use the program, or every user’s. If don’t want others making networks, select ‘Just me’.
3. Naming your new network
Once Virtual Router has been installed, a window will appear where you can give the network a name (also known as an SSID).
The default name is VirtualRouter.codeplex.com, but you can personalise this. It’s worth making this a memorable name, bearing in mind you’ll be searching for it on your other wireless devices.
4. Choose a password
Underneath the SSID box you’ll see a textbox where you can enter in a password. It’s important to include a password, otherwise anyone will be able to join your network – which could lead to problems.
Try to think of a password that will be difficult to guess, but won’t be a chore to type in on all of your wireless devices. Make sure it’s at least eight characters’ long.
5. Choose which network to share
The next box lets you choose which network to share. By default it will be on ‘None’ so click the dropdown box to see a list of connections you can share. The amount of connections that are available will depend on how your laptop is connected to your network.
Most of the time you should see an option for Wi-Fi, so select this to share your wireless network.
6. Start your virtual router
Now click the ‘Start Virtual Router’ to turn on your new network. Your laptop will broadcast a new network that your wireless devices can connect to. At the bottom of the window you should see a message that says ‘Virtual Router Started…’.
In the box above it where it says ‘Peers Connected’ it should be empty. When you begin connecting devices, you’ll see them appear here.
7. Connect to the hotspot
Now your laptop is broadcasting a new Wi-Fi network that you can connect devices to. The method of connecting will depend on the device, but open the settings and choose the Wi-Fi network.
Click on the network and enter the password. You should now be connected to your hotspot, and you’ll see devices you’ve connected to in the Virtual Router window.
8. Enjoy your hotspot
While you’re running the virtual router keep an eye on the peers connected window and make sure there aren’t any devices you don’t recognise.
Also make sure everyone connected knows that when you turn off your laptop, the hotspot will also turn off. If you want to turn off your hotspot at any moment simply click ‘Stop Virtual Router’ and the hotspot will close down.
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