Sometimes things happen that deprive people of their usual luxuries they no longer consider luxuries, but take them for granted. Internet access is one such thing we can no longer function without as productive beings, so whenever we venture outside our comfort Home – Office zone, we run the risk of discovering that the world can and does exist without Wi-Fi. How? I don’t know, but I had to quickly figure out a way to keep my devices connected when an unusually rough weather phenomenon left my entire neighborhood beyond the reach of civilization for weeks. On the flip side, you don’t need to be struck by lightning to feel the Internet deficit. Traveling, house repair works, moving in and out of houses often challenge the Internet-dependant.
This guide is for Windows laptops, irrespective of the type of connection your laptop is using, be it a Wi-Fi or a broadband wired connection, or a mobile USB modem. There are certainly more than the two methods described below, and the Method #32 works for Win 7 and 8 devices, while the Method #3 works for Win 7, Win 8 and 2008 R2. With the help of these two apps, you can turn your laptop into a virtual router and share your Internet connection with any mobile device that connects to a Wi-Fi, that is Android, iOS and Windows Phone devices.
Method #1. USB Reverse Tethering [Android]
The process is sometimes referred to as reverse tethering, and there are apps that let you do that, but those require rooted Android devices. Since it’s the walk around for root users, they should know how to deal with USB Reverse Tethering. This is the most hassle-free way since it lets you use your laptop’s Internet by connecting your mobile device via a USB cable. It may have performance issues, and the app itself has not been updated for a while, though, but rooted devices with sqlit3 installed may just as well get connected using this little app. It also supports Ubuntu and Linux besides Win laptops.
Method #2. Connectify
Connectify is a program that lets you share your laptop’s Internet connection with your mobile devices, as well as other laptops and devices that support Wi-Fi. It has a free and paid versions. By default, the download installs the full version so you can try it for a couple of days for free and see if it works for you. From there, you will either have to buy, or opt for a free app with a limited time you can use it daily.
Connectify pushes its Pro solutions quite persistently, and you will see plenty of offers and ads in the client itself.
Installation and Firewall Issues
The installation process does not bring any bundles, but requires a reboot. Connectify installs its own driver, too. You will need to pay close attention to your antivirus because it can block Connectify by default. To let the program connect to your Internet, you will need to add the program to your firewall’s white list. For example, in Comodo, you can simply Allow a program by choosing its executable files one by one. For other antivirus products, you will need to browse Connectify documentation, or browse for your specific antivirus product.
After reboot, everything is pretty straightforward. The program opens in a thin window, where you can set up your connection. The app lets you share a Wi-Fi wireless connection or wired router connection. You will see a drop-down menu for Internet to Share, where you will see the list of connections you can share.
The free version does not let you re-name your hotspot, but you can choose a random password or make up your own. Next, hit Start Hotspot and jump to your mobile device to see if it can ‘see’ your hotspot. All there is left to do is enter the password and enjoy your connection.
Pros and Cons
My personal experience with Connectify is two-fold. On the one hand, it did work out on one of my laptops that had antivirus other than AVG Internet Security. AVG seems to have an issue with Connectify, and I was not the only one to encounter the problem. On the other hand, the limited usage time in the free version is not a very attractive option, and unless you are willing to cash out $40-$60 per Pro version, you will have to limit your mobile browsing and gaming.
- Connectify offers an unlimited plan for Lite version when you initiate the un-install process. To get your Lite license for free, you will need to share news about Connectify or follow its pages on Twitter or Facebook.
- You can use Connectify to extend the coverage of your wireless router inside your house, if you have some blind rooms.
- If you have trouble setting up Hotspot, check out Connectify blog and support pages for troubleshooting. Chances are you might encounter one of the frequently occurring issues with either a driver that needs to be updated, or firewall blocking the app, or choosing the right network to connect to when you are not sure.
As the name suggests it, Virtual Router works with Windows OS 2008 R2, 7 and 8, and as of now, it’s my favorite option. Here is why:
- It is free and open source, and despite the fact that it has not been updated since February, 2013, it works and keeps generating downloads.
- It is simple to use, and you can connect as many devices as you want and use it without any time limit.
- It is ad-free and the only time you see ads is on the download page.
- It comes without any unwanted bundles.
Installation and Troubleshooting
Installation is pretty simple, and even though it does not require a reboot, I would suggest you still do it. In my personal experience, I could not set up the virtual router after installation due to Error: “group or resource is not in the correct state to perform the requested operation.” The documentation page of Virtual Router suggests you resort to this Microsoft Hotfix. However, after having read how scary a hotfix can be, I decided to keep on digging and found a simple solution for Windows 7, at least.
Initially, the troubleshooting tutorials would require you update WiFi drivers, Windows 7 itself, uninstall and re-install devices, and then there is that questionable hotfix that can render the entire system unusable when the problem can be in the Microsoft Virtual WiFi Miniport Adapter that is off. To ensure it is working, before you move on to the more complicated ways, follow these instructions:
- Launch an elevated Command Prompt window. In Windows 7 -> Start -> type cmd in the search box -> in the search results, find Command Prompt and right-click on it -> choose Run as Administrator.
- Type: netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow and hit enter.
- Go to Virtual Router and try again. Give it some time; it can take a while to load. Rebooting also helps.
Virtual Router is dead simple, and all you have to do is choose a Shared Connection, that is the Internet connection you wish to share, and think of a safe password. Next, hit Start Virtual Router and head to your mobile device, or other laptop to find the Network you just set up, and connect to it using your password. Voilà!
Pros and Cons
You can connect as many devices to your Virtual Router as you have – it works seamlessly once you set it up. It may not have the sleek design of Win 8, or the advanced settings of Connectify Pro, but it lets you connect any smartphone or tablet, Android, iOS or Windows Phone, as well as other Wi-Fi enabled devices to that tiny source of Internet connection you have on your laptop. Besides, it is free and open source, which means the community of users can review the source code and report security holes, if found.
One More Option If You Have a Mobile USB Modem, but No Laptop
As far as connecting your mobile USB modem to your smartphone or tablet directly, the process is rather non-inclusive because it only works for rooted devices.
You will need a mini OTG cable, a USB modem with a GSM SIM card and its login and password credentials. Your device’s kernel must also have the required PPP drivers installed.
The process is quite simple, though:
- Download the PPP Widget 2 from Google Play;
- Set it up on your home screen and grant it root permissions;
- Connect the USB modem via OTG cable to your device;
- Enter your login and password in the widget;
- Tap Connect.
Now, there is no guarantee since the app is young, but the developer seems to keep track of user feedback to roll out updates and bug fixes, so give it a chance.
I hope this helps. Do let us know your apps suggestions as far as Reverse Tethering is concerned.