Create wireless networks and share Internet connections Virtual WiFi Router

Create virtual WiFi networks in Windows with this free tool.

If you access the Internet via Wi-Fi at home, work, or school, it's almost always through a Wi-Fi router. Almost -- because you can turn any Wi-Fi-capable Windows 7 PC into a virtual Wi-Fi router that can share Internet connections and create wireless networks. The capability is built into Windows 7 (and some earlier releases), but it's not easy to enable. Virtual Wi-Fi Router's simple GUI and user-friendly controls make it easy to turn your Wi-Fi-equipped PC or laptop into a wireless hub. Your laptop can be a mobile Wi-Fi router you can use in the car, hotels, or anywhere you can connect to the Internet. Virtual Wi-Fi Router is portable freeware for Windows NT, Vista, Server 2008, and 7, but it runs in Windows 8, too.

Virtual Wi-Fi Router has a small, simple user interface with tabs for displaying Settings and Clients Connected. Our only gripe is that it stays pinned to the notification area, even if you use the pin button; you can't drag it into a new position. We keep the taskbar on the right side of our wide, wide desktop, and it obscured Virtual WiFi Router's edge. But if you've set up a public Wi-Fi connection on your computer before, you should have little trouble configuring this app's settings, which don't involve much more than naming your new hot spot, choosing a connection to share, and pressing either Start (if your connection is already set up) or Configure (if you need to set up or edit your connection). The Clients Connected tab displays each device and IP address accessing your hot spot. Clicking Refresh rescans the network, just like with your other Wi-Fi software. At the bottom of the interface are Help and About panels with links to configuration instructions, e-mail support, and updates and log files.

Our ad-hoc Wi-Fi network seemed to perform as well as the dedicated Wi-Fi router providing the connection. What can we do with it? Carry it with us, for starters, to create collaborative, password-protected networks on the go. You can also extend your main router's range with it. Virtual WiFi Router makes it easy.

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