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 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 some 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 feature in Windows 10 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.
Using Mobile Hotspot in Windows 10
Creating a Wi-Fi hotspot is simple thanks to the 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 called 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 PC and don't have the Mobile Hotspot option showing, this most likely means that your machine doesn't have Wi-Fi, so the Mobile hotspot feature can't be used.
If you have one of the new Project Athena Windows 10 laptops, then you may also see an option for LTE if your model has that feature. If you're intending to use this for a hotspot then make sure you know how much data is on your plan and monitor the usage so you don't accidentally use it all up streaming YouTube videos in the coffee shop.
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.
Improve home Wi-Fi
While the Windows Mobile hotspot is a good way to share Wi-Fi there are alternatives if you want better Wi-Fi coverage in your home, such as powerline adapters and mesh Wi-Fi kits that can extend the range of your network so that it reaches to every corner of your home.
You should also read our guide to improving Wi-Fi in the home for more details.