How to Use Your Windows PC or Laptop as a Wi-Fi Hotspot

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Creating a laptop hotspot on any device running Windows has never been easier. Microsoft’s release of Windows 10 in 2015 included this ability with the vanilla operating system, tucked away in the Settings app. If you’re having difficulty configuring this or find the whole process intimidating, this tutorial walks you through it and makes sharing your connection with others through your network look as easy as cutting through butter.

Tip: you can make your PC automatically connect to the right network.

Setting Up Your Hotspot

Before you set up your Wi-Fi hotspot, check that you have the following:

  • A working Wi-Fi adapter. (If you’re using a portable device like a laptop, you generally can’t do anything on the Internet without one.)
  • An active connection to any other network with access to the Internet that is not another portable hotspot. Connecting to another hotspot, then establishing one of your own, can lead to its own set of issues.
  • Windows, fully updated.

To get started with the setup, go to your Settings app, and click Network & Internet on the sidebar.

Click Network & Internet in Settings app

Scroll down a little until you find Mobile hotspot. It should be the fourth item, though this could vary depending on your network hardware configuration and edition of Windows. On Windows 10, it appears in the left-hand sidebar after you’ve accessed the Network & Internet area of the settings window.

Click the arrow on Mobile hotspot. You’ll be greeted by the hotspot configuration window. On Windows 10, the configuration panel is available when you click on Mobile hotspot in your sidebar.

Click on Mobile hotspot in your sidebar

Under Share my Internet connection from, select the active connection you’d like to power your hotspot. The default is Wi-Fi, but if you’re exclusively on a 4G LTE or 5G connection or Ethernet, you’ll need to choose something else. Generally, if you have more than one connection to the internet, the best choice is the one that offers the fastest connection.

Under Share over, choose either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Generally, Wi-Fi works better with multiple devices over longer ranges. On Windows 10, you only get to share your network over Wi-Fi. There is no Bluetooth option.

Click the Edit button on Network Properties.

This allows you to configure the name and password of your network, as well as the bands (if available) you’d like to use to share Wi-Fi. 2.4 GHz has a longer range, and 5 GHz can handle higher speeds. Generally, you should leave this as Any available. Most devices will choose a band automatically that works best for them.

Leave Network band as Any available.

Don’t forget to turn your mobile hotspot on at the top of the window! If you forgot before you close Settings, just click on the networking icon in your taskbar, and enable it from there.

Click on the networking icon in your taskbar.

You can now share your own portable laptop hotspot with every device in range.

Just keep in mind that you’ve opened your network to the public. Even if it’s password protected, there are many ways of getting a hold of the password over time. Keep changing the password, and the problem will virtually vanish.

Troubleshooting the Hotspot

If your hotspot isn’t starting, or you aren’t able to successfully share your connection with others, that doesn’t always mean that there’s something wrong on your end. Take these steps to eliminate any factors on your end that could affect the connection.

1. If you’re sharing a Wi-Fi connection via a Wi-Fi hotspot, make sure that the name you chose for the hotspot doesn’t coincide with the name of the network itself. Otherwise, there will be an SSID conflict, and you won’t be able to establish a reliable connection.

2. Double-check that the hotspot is actually on. Go to your taskbar, and click on the networking icon. The indicator with your hotspot’s name should be blue. If it isn’t, click on it to activate it.

3. Make sure that all devices attempting to connect to the hotspot are nearby. If the problem disappears as soon as devices are within three meters (about nine feet) from your hotspot, you may have a range issue and need to limit the distance other connected devices can be from you.

4. Edit the hotspot’s network properties. Under Network band, select 2.4 GHz. This maximizes compatibility throughout the network and eliminates any “confusion” some devices with faulty network hardware may have when selecting or broadcasting in a band.

5. Check the guest device to make sure that Wi-Fi is on and that the network actually shows up. If Wi-Fi is on, and it still doesn’t see the network, check whether other devices experience the same issue. If they see the network, the guest device in question may have faulty hardware. If they don’t see the network, your laptop hotspot may have issues because of your own hardware. Send the faulty device to be serviced.

With your hotspot enabled, you can offer connectivity to everyone else in your vicinity, as if they were connecting directly to the Internet. Even if you’re inviting friends over at home where you have a working Wi-Fi network with a public SSID, add a second layer of security to it by “repeating” the network with your hotspot.

Nonetheless, if you decide to give your router’s Wi-Fi password to people, it’s probably a good idea to know how to kick out unwanted connections, which you can find out more about in our guide.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. All screenshots by Miguel Leiva-Gomez.

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Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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