Being connected to the internet is pretty much a requirement for all our mobile devices these days. But whether you’re at home or away, it’s not always possible to get the best signal for every bit of your kit. One easy solution is to turn your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot. In big houses and offices, where the Wi-Fi may have dead zones - a hotspot can give access to devices that wouldn’t normally be able to connect.
Your laptop-hotspot can also come in handy when you’re out and about. If you’ve paid to connect to a public Wi-Fi, you can use your laptop to connect your other devices or friend’s computers and make the most of it.
A new feature in the Windows 10 Anniversary update called Mobile Hotspot makes it very easy to set up a quick network that uses your laptop's Wi-Fi connection, allowing up to eight devices access to the web.
It works with either Wi-Fi or an ethernet connection and is simple to use, so here's how to turn a Windows PC into a Wi-Fi hotspot.
How to turn your laptop or PC into a Wi-Fi Hotspot
To create a hotspot on your Windows 10 PC make sure you've already installed the Anniversary update.
If Windows is set to automatically install updates - which we'd recommend - then the chances are that this has already happened. The way to check which version of Windows you're currently running is to open up the Start Menu, select Settings>System, then scroll down the left hand column until you find About. Click on this and in the main pane look halfway down for the Version number. Window 10 Anniversary is 1607, so if you have that (or higher) then you're good to go.
If you're not on the Anniverary update you can manually update your version of Windows by going back to the Settings menu and selecting Update & Security. In here you'll see the option Check for updates. Click that and Windows will look for the most recent release.
How to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 10
Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot is simple thanks to the new Mobile Hotspot feature. First of all go to the Start Menu and select Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile hotspot.
In the main pane there is a drop-down menu entitled Share my Internet connection from which will most likely display WiFi if you're using a laptop, or possibly Wired for those of you who have the PC connected directly to the router via an ethernet cable. If you're using a desktop and don't have the Mobile Hotspot option showing, this most likely means that your machine doesn't have a Wi-Fi adaptor, so the Mobile hotspot feature is disabled.
Select the connection you want to use for your hotspot then click the Edit button to add a new network name and password. This won't alter the logon details the PC uses, instead it creates a new virtual connection from your PC that other devices will need to log onto the hotspot.
With that done the last step is to turn on the Share my Internet connection with other devices that you'll find at the top of the Mobile hotspot settings.
Now you can use your phone, tablet, or any other internet enabled device to connect to the network on your PC. Just open the Wi-Fi settings on your device, look for the name of the network you created, enter the password, and you should find yourself online.
We have seen people experience problems with the Mobile hotspot setting, where their computers report they can't turn on Wi-Fi when users toggle the Share my internet connection with other devices option. The solutions for this error seem to vary across different systems, with some people finding turning off Bluetooth clears the problem. If you do encounter this issue then we suggest Googling both the error and your computer model to find the answer as fast as possible.
How to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot in Windows 7 or 8
Under Windows 7 it was relatively easy to share your Internet connection as part of an ad-hoc network. Though that functionality is still there in Windows 8, it’s much more difficult to configure. Instead, you can use a piece of software that can set up a hotspot.
To begin with, your laptop will need to be online. It could be connected up by Ethernet cable to a modem or via Wi-Fi. We’ve tried a couple of software solutions, but the easiest is Virtual Router Manager.
The program works on Windows Vista, 7 and 8 - and unlike other, similar tools, it doesn’t install any extra toolbars are adware when used.
Once installed, you can enter a new Network Name (SSID) and password for the hotspot. Select your Wireless Network Connection from the “Shared Connection” menu. Finally, click “Start Virtual Router”.
The hotspot’s name should now appear in the network settings of any of your Wi-Fi enabled devices and you should be able to connect using the password you entered.
While the Windows Mobile hotspot is a good way to increase your Wi-Fi capabilities there are also dedicated solutions such as Powerline adaptors and bridge routers that can extend the range of your network so that it reaches to every corner of your home. Check out our How to improve Wi-Fi in the home guide for more details.