Introduction to Windows 7 Virtual WiFi or How to Turn Your Computer into a WiFi HotSpot

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The other day I was staffing the community table at Microsoft’s Office 2010 launch event. With me at the table were several developer MVP’s that run local usergroups. There was 1 ethernet cable provided. One of the guys volunteered to go home, pay for parking again (we were in downtown Detroit, cha-ching), fight city traffic and return with a router and bunch of cables. Just then I remember something that Dana Epp taught me and we turned the Windows 7 computer into a WiFi Hotspot. I publicly thanked Dana for making me look smart and Jason picked up on it with a twist. “I can see myself configuring my blackberry to tether to my laptop virtual wifi to reduce my device data in favour of using wired service when it’s available.  Kinda the reverse of my usual tethering manoeuvre  where I’m using the handset for laptop internet…”

There are two methods for accomplishing this task. We can create an ad-hoc network or if full functionality is desired we can use the command line to create a fully functional wireless access point.

To create an ad hoc wireless shared network:

  1. Open Network and Sharing Center and chose setup a new connection or network
  2. Next chose Setup a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network
  3. Enter a name for your SSID and type in a security code that your friends are going to use to connect to you
  4.  image
  5. Next Click Turn on Internet connection sharing press Close and you are done.


***Don’t forget to disable this network when you are finished using it***

To turn your computer into a fully functional Wireless Access Point:

This option is new in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. This is a command line maneuver, which is documented on TechNet in the article Netsh Commands for Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) in Windows Server 2008.  This article lists all of your command line options for the WLAN you are about to create. I’ll mention a couple of those in a minute. First let’s get the network going.

This is direct from Dana Epp.

“To set it up, open a cmd window as Administrator and issue the following commands:

netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=YOURFRIENDLYSSID key=SOMEPASSWORD
netsh wlan start hostednetwork

At that point, if Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) is setup, anyone can connect to your SoftAP (if they know the PWD of course) and the traffic will be sent through whatever adapter you want. You can actually bridge it across an entirely different adapter… or the same one a different wifi LAN.”

At this point we have something that is not that different than the ad hoc network above functionally but there is so many more options here because what we’ve just done is enable a software access point with all the bells and whistles. There’s a lot more we can do from here. MSDN has a nice article 

From the article:

The wireless Hosted Network is a new WLAN feature supported on Windows 7 and on Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Wireless LAN Service installed. This feature implements two major functions:

  • The virtualization of a physical wireless adapter into more than one virtual wireless adapter sometimes referred to as Virtual WiFi.
  • A software-based wireless access point (AP) sometimes referred to as a SoftAP that uses a designated virtual wireless adapter.

These two functions coexist in a Windows system together. Enabling or disabling the wireless Hosted Network enables or disables both virtual WiFi and SoftAP. It is not possible to enable or disable these two functions separately in Windows.

With this feature, a Windows computer can use a single physical wireless adapter to connect as a client to a hardware access point (AP), while at the same time acting as a software AP allowing other wireless-capable devices to connect to it. This feature requires that a Hosted Network capable wireless adapter is installed in the local computer. The driver for the wireless adapter must implement the wireless LAN device driver model defined by Microsoft for use on Windows 7

The possibilities are endless for this useful but little known feature. If you find a creative use for it, let us know.

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0 thoughts on “Introduction to Windows 7 Virtual WiFi or How to Turn Your Computer into a WiFi HotSpot

  • Tokunbo

    please i would like you to break the command line down totally because i tried entering it all in the command box but it did not create it at all.
    i understand computers on the basic level,i have been trying to connect my blackberry to the ad-hoc connection i created but it is not working.
    couuld you please help me with this,thank You in advance.