Windows can turn your laptop (or desktop) into a wireless hotspot, allowing you to connect other devices to it. With Internet Sharing, it can share your Internet connection with these connected devices. Here’s how it all works.

Thanks to Windows’ hidden Virtual Wi-Fi Adapter feature, you can even create a Wi-Fi hotspot when you’re connected to another Wi-Fi network by sharing one Wi-Fi connection with another.

Turn Your Computer Into a Wi-Fi Hotspot The Easy Way

If you can’t use the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows, try using Connectify Hotspot instead — it’s a completely reliable Wi-Fi hotspot with tons of options and a nice interface.

Connectify Hotspot is great if you’re in a hotel that charges for the device, or if you’re on a plane and plugging in your laptop but don’t want to pay more to connect your phone. If you pay for the Pro version, you can even use your computer as a Wi-Fi repeater or wired router, or use a tethered connection from your phone.

It’s really more of a tool for power users, but if you’re looking for a good solution, Hotspot is free to try, while the basic version is free with some limitations.

Sharing a wired or wireless Internet connection in Windows 10

RELATED: What’s new in Windows 10 Annual Update

If you’re running Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update installed, then you’re in luck. With this update, Windows now has a single switch to turn any Wi-Fi PC into a hotspot, and it doesn’t matter if the Internet connection you want to share is wired or wireless.

First, launch Settings by pressing Windows + I on your keyboard. On the main settings page, click «Network and Internet».

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On the Network and Internet page, on the left side, click Mobile Hotspot.

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On the right, turn on the «Share my Internet connection with other devices» switch. If you want something other than the default network name and password, click the Change button.

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In the Edit window, enter the network name and password you want to use and click OK.

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And that’s all you really need to do in Windows 10. It’s one of the best new features in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, although it was released with relatively little fanfare.

If you’re having trouble with this feature, here are a few possible troubleshooting steps.

Sharing a Wired Internet Connection in Windows 7

The ability to share your PC’s wired Internet connection with wireless devices is integrated into the Windows 7 network interface through what’s called an ad hoc network. An ad hoc network is simply a simple, direct network connection between devices. In this case, you will be creating an ad hoc network between your PC’s wireless connection and any wireless devices you wish to connect. You just need to make sure your wired connection is set up and that your PC has Wi-Fi.

Please note that when you set up an ad hoc network using your PC’s Wi-Fi, it will disable all existing connections using that Wi-Fi adapter. That’s why this method only works if your internet comes from an ethernet source.

RELATED: Sharing an Internet connection between wireless machines with an ad hoc network in Windows 7

If you’ve never set up such a network, be sure to read our complete guide to sharing your Internet connection through an ad hoc network. In short, you’ll open the Manage Wireless Networks window (you can find it by opening Start and searching for «wireless»), click the Add button, and then click Create Ad Hoc Network. Enter a name and passphrase for the network and it will appear in the list of wireless networks. Select it and your laptop will disconnect from the current Wi-Fi network and start hosting an ad hoc network that other devices can connect to.

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Be sure to check the «Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection» checkbox to have your computer share its wired Internet connection with devices connected to your computer through an ad hoc network.

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Sharing a Wired Internet Connection in Windows 8

Unfortunately, Windows 8 removed the GUI for ad-hoc networking, so it’s not as easy to set up as it was in Windows 7 or 10. However, the basic functionality is still there. You just have to resort to a little command line cheating.

First, you need to make sure that your existing wireless network is shared with other network users. Press Windows + R on your keyboard to open the Run dialog box, type «ncpa.cpl» and press Enter.

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In the network connections window, right-click on the wireless network and select «Properties» from the context menu.

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Click the «Sharing» tab and check the «Allow other network users to connect over the Internet on this computer» box. If you like, uncheck «Allow other network users to control or disable the overall Internet connection» and then click the «OK» button.

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Then you need to run Command Prompt with administrator privileges. Right-click in the lower left corner of the screen (or press «Windows + X») and select «Command Prompt (Admin)» from the Power Users menu that appears.

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Note . If you see PowerShell instead of Command Prompt in the Power Users menu, this switch was introduced in the Windows 10 Creators Update. If you want, you can easily switch back to displaying the command prompt in the Power Users menu, or try PowerShell. In PowerShell, you can do just about everything you can do on the command line, plus a lot more.

RELATED: How to bring Command Prompt back to Windows Menu + X Power Users

Once you open the command prompt, your next step is to set up your wireless network using the netsh command:

  netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode = allow ssid = "" key = "" 

Where is the name of your network, and is the password that users want to connect to. The access point is created with WPA2-PSK (AES) encryption.

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Next, you will start broadcasting our network with the following command:

  netsh wlan start hostednetwork 

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And at any time you can use this last command to show connection information. It lists things like the channel your connection is using, the ssid name, authentication type, radio type, and the number of clients connected to your network.

  netsh wlan show hostednetwork 

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When you’re done, you can connect any Wi-Fi device to your new ad hoc network.

Sharing a wireless Internet connection in Windows 8 or 7

Note: this software no longer works. You’ll want to use Connectify Hotspot or one of the other methods mentioned above.

If you want to use your Windows 8 or 7 wireless internet connection with other wireless devices, you need to use a third party app. We recommend Virtual Router because it’s free, open source, and easy to set up. You can also use it to share a wired connection if you just want to make it easier than creating an ad hoc network.

Start by downloading the virtual router and running it. Using it really couldn’t be easier. Provide a name for your network, enter a passphrase, and select the connection you want to share with devices that connect to that Wi-Fi network. Click the «Launch Virtual Router» button and you’re done. You can even see a list of connected devices in this window.

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Setting up a mobile hotspot on a Windows PC can be a bit of a hassle or quite easy. It just depends on which version of Windows you’re using and if you want to use a third party app. But the next time you’re stuck somewhere with only a wired Internet connection, you’ll at least know that you can use your computer to share that connection with other wireless devices.

Image Watson on Flickr

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