Make your Windows laptop work as a Wi-Fi access point

When you travel, you encounter all kinds of Internet access arrangements. Some hotels make it easy, allowing you to use their Wi-Fi networks without restrictions. More often than not, however, connecting to Wi-Fi on the go is not simple. For example, some hotels limit connections to their Wi-Fi networks to one device only. Or, one device at a time. Or, some places offer the wired (Ethernet) lines only. Sure, you can connect your laptop to the Internet this way, but what about your tablet or the smart phone, wouldn't it be nice to connect them, too?

Turns out, it may be possible to set up your laptop to share its Internet connection with other devices via its built-in Wi-Fi device. The following steps should work well if you have a laptop with Windows 7 or later. If you have Windows Vista or XP, a different procedure may work instead. (A hint: search the web for how to create an ad-hoc connection for the specific version of Windows that you have.)

The first thing to do is to check that your Wi-Fi network adapter supports the so called Hosted Network mode. To do that, open Windows command prompt and enter the following command:

netsh wlan show drivers

Look for the line that reads Hosted network supported: Yes.

Hosted network supported

Don't worry, you don't need to know what hosted network is, all you need to do is find that line. If you see it, you are good to go. If not, then your Wi-Fi network adapter does not support this feature, sorry.

Now, let's configure your laptop to offer its own Wi-Fi access point, to which you could connect your other Wi-Fi devices. First, decide on the name of the wireless network your laptop would create. It could be nearly anything. In the example below, we chose the name MyLaptopWiFi. Second, decide on the password that you would need to enter to connect your other devices to this access point. We chose Orange6725 as the password; you can obviously choose something else.

To actually create the access point, open the command prompt in the Administrator mode. To do that on Windows 10, you could press the Win-X keys and select Command prompt (Admin) from the menu. Then, enter the following two commands into the command prompt:

netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=MyLaptopWiFi key=Orange6725
netsh wlan start hostednetwork

Of course, replace MyLaptopWiFi and Orange6725 with your own name and password that you have chosen.

Hosted network started

This creates the access point, but it's not fully operational yet: you need to tell Windows that you want to share your actual Internet connection with the access point you've just created. To do that, use Windows Control Panel to open the Network and Sharing Center window. There, click on the connection that provides the actual connection to the Internet (which could be your Wi-Fi connection or the Ethernet line, depending how you have connected to the Internet.), press Properties for that connection, and finally select the Sharing tab:

Hosted network sharing

Check the Allow other users to connect through this computer's Internet connection box, and also select Local area connection in the Home networking connection list.

This should make your laptop to work as a Wi-Fi access point. If you open another device, you should now see MyLaptopWiFi in the list of the Wi-Fi networks offered. Connect to it, as usual, entering the password you have set up, and your device should now be connected to the Internet via the laptop. Pretty neat, huh?

Well, it all should work well in theory. In practice, though, we discovered that not all is smooth. If you connected a device to MyLaptopWiFi, but there is no connection to the Internet on that device, try to restart the laptop, and repeat the steps above again, it may work better the second time. Or, it appears that enabling the access point may not work well with the power transitions of your laptop. That is, if you try to put the laptop to sleep, it may not work and the laptop may stay awake while the access point is enabled. We also experienced a few blue screen crashes, although not that frequently to make it a real concern. It may depend on the model of your laptop or the Wi-Fi card that your laptop has; some combinations may work better than others.

Keep in mind, that if you put your laptop to sleep or restart it, the access point disappears and you would need to set it up again each time you wake up the laptop. If you do this frequently and don't want to go through the same steps every time, you may want to use Windows Task Scheduler to do it for you. For example, put the two commands shown above in a batch file, and then create a new task that would run that batch file, and set the trigger for that task On workstation unlock. This way, every time you wake up the laptop and unlock it, the batch file would run for you automatically. When you no longer need it, disable the task in Task Scheduler.

We also found that sometimes an attempt to create the access point fails with Windows displaying the following message:

The hosted network couldn't be started. The group or resource is not in the correct state to perform the requested operation.

If this happens, it could be because the hosted network adapter got disabled for some reason. To solve this problem, open Device Manager, navigate to Network adapters, right-click Microsoft Hosted Network device, and choose to enable it. (If you don't see it in Device Manager, restart the laptop.) Check also that the real Internet connection is still shared.

Finally, what if you've created the access point, used it for a while, and no longer need it, - how to turn it off? Easy: open Windows command prompt and enter the following commands:

netsh wlan stop hostednetwork
netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=disallow

Happy travels!

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