It is possible to share an Internet connection with wireless-ready devices without using a WiFi router. Nevertheless, your computer does need special hardware to have such a capability.
Most modern laptops already have internal wireless network adapters, and even some desktops. If you have an older laptop with no WiFi capabilities you'll need to buy a wireless network card or a USB network adapter (this works for both laptops and desktops).
For a desktop you can use a USB network adapter (as mentioned above) or an internal wireless PCI card.
System and hardware requirements
Wireless Hosted Network is a WLAN feature available in Windows 7,8 and in Windows Server 2012/2008 R2 with the Wireless Lan Service installed. The wireless Hosted Network is what makes it possible for your computer to virtualize a physical wireless adapter into multiple virtual wireless adapters. Long story short, only the above mentioned editions of Windows support this feature.
In this tutorial you will learn how to use Virtual Router, a free application that lets you easily create a wireless Internet connection from any other active connection that's present on your computer. Virtual Router supports only Windows 7, 8 and 2008 R2, so if you want to turn your computer into a virtual WiFi router and its running under Windows Server 2012 you can either use another program or the Windows built-in settings.
Concerning hardware, your computer needs to have a wireless device and driver supporting the Windows Virtual Wifi and Wireless Hosted Network features. If the drivers are Windows 7/8 certified, they should be supported by Virtual Router. If you're not sure, check out the list of known supported devices on the developer's page.
Step 1 - Download and Install
After you made sure your computer is wireless-ready you need to download Virtual Router. This is a free application so you don't have to pay anything for it. Once you've downloaded the installer, double-click on it to start the setup.
The installation process for Virtual Router is extremely simple. All you have to do is agree with the license terms and proceed to the setup window where you can select the installation folder and whether you want to install the program for just the current Windows user or all users. If you're not sure what to do with these options, leave the default settings and click the "Next" button.
Virtual Router Setup
Step 2 - Settings
Now it's time to actually use Virtual Router, so double-click the application to run it. By default, the application runs in the system tray. To open Virtual Router Manager (the program's interface) double-click the tray icon. Make sure you are connected to the Internet using the connection you want to share.
The settings are straightforward:
1. Fill in the network's name (SSID) - This can be any name you want, although you should choose a relevant one so you know that's your shared Internet Connection.
2. Choose a password - Since a virtual router works just like the physical device, you need a password to prevent unauthorized intruders from using your Internet Connection.
3. Select the connection you want to share from the drop-down menu - You can use the Refresh button if you've connected to it while the Virtual Router Manager was already open and it wasn't showing up in the list.
4. Start Virtual Router - Press this button, once you've completed all the settings to enable your shared connection.
Virtual Router Manager
Step 3 - Test the shared Internet Connection
If everything went well and Virtual Router is started you should be seeing your newly created connection in the Windows connections list.
Your computer should be currently connected to two connections: the connection you've shared, and the one you've just created.
To connect to it with any wireless-ready device (phone, laptop, tablet...etc) simply select the appropriate network and fill in the password, like you would for any other connection. Voila! You are now successfully sharing your Internet connection!
Step 4 - Troubleshooting
"The group or resource is not in the correct state to perform the requested operation
This is the most common error you can get from Virtual Router. There's a number of reasons for this error and several fixes, but you can't know which one works for you until you try them. After each step you should try to start Virtual Router to see if it solved your problem.
- The first step is to make sure your wireless adapter has the latest drivers. You can find in in the Windows Device Manager under Network Adapters.
- The second step, you need to make sure the hosted network can run. To do that, press the Windows Start button, open "Run" and type cmd to open a Command Prompt window (you'll need administrator rights). In the window type : netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow
- To continue, check if the Microsoft Virtual WiFi Miniport Adapter is enabled. It's also under the Network Adapters section in the Windows Device Manager. Double-click it and the Properties window will pop-up. If under Device Status you see the message : "This device is disabled (Code 22). Click Enable Device to enable this device." it means it wasn't running and you do need to enable it.
- If the previous step didn't work either, there's a Microsoft hotfix available for a common problem that can occur on computers running under Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. You can download it from here.
If you experience other problems with Virtual Router the first thing you can do is check if your wireless device's drivers are up to date and that you didn't give your shared connection the same SSID of a network you already have. After that take a look at the developer's F.A.Q since your problem can be listed there.
If Virtual Router doesn't work for you, try out some alternatives. Connectify Hotspot is also a very popular and capable application, although the free version (Lite) has limited functionality. Another free tool for wireless sharing of Internet connections is Virtual Router Plus, which was created as an improved version of Virtual Router that also supports Windows 2012.
Turn your computer into a virtual wireless router
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Share your thoughts!
Aliya Crox on August 23, 2016:
We tested some popular apps that let you do this - Connective and Virtual Router Plus. The latter didn't work very well for us. Our anti-virus flagged it as a threat and during installation it tried to make us install unwanted software.Check this useful link
Robert Connor from Michigan on October 02, 2014:
Shamim Rajabali from Texas on September 16, 2014:
Good to know. Thanks for the info.
Shaohua Li from Singapore on August 20, 2014:
Please note in Windows 8 the important device is renamed as "Microsoft Hosted Network Virtual Adapter" (clicking "show hidden devices" in device manager). If you encounter the error "The group or resource is not in the correct state to perform the requested operation", make sure this device is enabled. This device will be disabled if you accidentally disable the Virtual Router network adapter.
Technogala on July 30, 2014:
I saw your article for right time.It's help me lot.Thanks for sharing
James N. Whitaker from Dallas, Texas on July 30, 2014:
This is interesting and I guess we are going to try this st home. Just like setting up a small network. Thanks.
Suraj Chaudhary from Punjab on July 28, 2014:
It is really nice article.. I used it on my system and it working........
Thanks for sharing......
Kampua on July 05, 2014:
I think this will be much more reliable than most on the shelf Wireless APs as the computer will have much more powerful CPU and more RAM.
David Hamilton from Lexington, KY on June 17, 2014:
Very cool demo! This could come in handy sometime.
Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on June 11, 2014:
We were only talking about this at my work, our IT guys were trying to tell us how to do it. Of course, I was totally confused! Thanks for sharing this filecluster because now I have a step by step right in front of me.
Odlanar from Ca. on May 20, 2014:
Jimmy Gent from California on April 19, 2014:
Good information, definitely worth sharing. Don't you just love the tech age we live in? I cannot begin to envision what life will be like in 20-30 years from now. Perhaps a Star Wars-like world will come to fruition...
Hezekiah from Japan on April 16, 2014:
Interesting, but so many devices can becomes routers/hot spots nowadays
Alexandra Vasiliu (author) from Timisoara, Romania on April 02, 2014:
No it doesn't. It simply allows you to wirelessly share the Internet connection you already have (which I'm guessing isn't free).
Moronke Oluwatoyin on April 02, 2014:
First, thank you for sharing this knowledge. Technology is dynamic and one has to keep up to date.
I'll have to read the steps again before I try it.
The question is, does it provide free internet service?
Alfin Loencontre on March 28, 2014:
Very interesting article, thanks for the information.
Tim Anthony on March 24, 2014:
This is indeed a nice knowledge base. People could surely use it. I did that with my laptop. But, it failed to connect with mobile phones. Now I understand why. I will try to do it once more with the technique you have described.
Kenneth James on February 17, 2014:
Nice article. Thanks you
John Fox from Richmond, VA on February 11, 2014:
Wow I had no idea I could do that with my computer I have in my room. Now I can get faster speeds on my phone! Thanks man! Voted up and following now!
Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on September 15, 2013:
Oh, right! If one has a limited allowance of data connection with their wireless plan, a connection via PC can allow for more. Great!
Alexandra Vasiliu (author) from Timisoara, Romania on September 15, 2013:
The first one that comes to mind is you can't use or have limited monthly traffic on your phone's data connection.
Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on September 14, 2013:
Interesting as I'd not heard about Virtual Router. Question: What would be the purpose for connecting one's cell phone wirelessly to one's PC? (Showing my ignorance :/ .)
Alexandra Vasiliu (author) from Timisoara, Romania on August 30, 2013:
Thanks. I'm glad this can be useful for some people.
Nicole S Hanson from Minnesota on August 30, 2013:
Very interesting. Much too over-my-head, but it seems useful if you know what you are doing!
ajayshah2005 from Mid Asia on August 30, 2013:
Very Informative Hub.Thanks for sharing!