Have you ever been in a situation where you have no W-Fi router, just one network cable and five people who need to use the Internet? Or maybe you have a 3G dongle that works with your laptop, but leaves your Wi-Fi-only tablet offline. Sounds familiar? It would certainly be handy to share the Internet connection amongst all users and devices without a router, right?
Or maybe this scenario will ring a bell. Many hotels offer wired Internet access for free, but charge you for Wi-Fi and/ or for using the Internet on more than one device. So should you just pay the crazy amount they ask for? Not necessarily.
You can share your laptop or desktop Internet connection via Wi-Fi to other devices, and for the most part, it's quite simple. Mac users face no trouble at all, as setting up Internet sharing in OS X is just a couple of click away, but for Windows users the process can be a little bit more laboured. The built-in options don't always cut it due to the complicated setup and reliability problems.
How to create Hotspot on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1
Thankfully, there are quite a few apps that let you use your machine as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Before you use any of these apps, you may want to check the steps on Microsoft's site to see Windows' built-in Internet sharing and see if you have better luck than we did. We do recommend that you skip that and use a third-party app instead, since the experience is usually much better.
We tested some popular apps that let you do this - Connectify and Virtual Router Plus. The latter didn't work very well for us. Our anti-virus flagged it as a threat and during installation it tried to make us install unwanted software.
We didn't have the same issues with Connectify. It is a reliable app for turning your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Before you proceed, know that you will need a Windows PC with a Wi-Fi adapter (or built-in Wi-Fi) to make this work. If your computer does not have Wi-Fi, then you can buy one that connects via US.
Here are the steps to setup your Windows machine as a Wi-Fi hotspot:
1. Download Connectify and install it. The installation is pretty straightforward and when installation is complete, restart your computer.
2. After restarting the computer, check whether it is connected to the Internet. If it is, run the Connectify Hotspot app.
3. You'll see two tabs in the app - Settings and Clients. In the Settings tab, under "Create a..." click Wi-Fi Hotspot.
4. Under Internet to Share, you'll see a drop-down menu. Expand it and select the connection you want to share. We tested this app with a wired and a wireless connection and found that it worked perfectly with both.
5. Under that, you'll see some more options. Add a Wi-Fi password. Click Start Hotspot.
That's all you need to do. Now other devices will detect a Wi-Fi network labelled Connectify-me. Key in the password and you're good to go.
Connectify is a paid app, but it has a stripped down free version. You can create a hotspot with the free version, but the main limitation is that it automatically disconnects every 30 minutes and shows pop-ups asking you to buy the pro version. You'll have to re-enable the hotspot manually to start using it again.
The Pro version has more features and costs $25 for a year and $40 for a full licence. Apart from unlimited hotspot uptime, you get features such as custom hotspot naming, the ability to share Internet from 3G and 4G networks (for sharing USB Internet dongles), and advanced firewall controls (choose which devices can access Internet and personal files on your LAN).