How to set up a Windows virtual router to create a VPN-enabled wifi hotspot

Published by on June 6, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

power and signal
Most laptop owners don’t realize that their computers are capable of broadcasting their own wifi hotspots. Similar to setting up a wifi hotspot on your smartphone, a virtual router allows you to share your internet connection with other nearby devices.

In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to set up a virtual router with a VPN. Once finished, you can use the virtual router to connect other devices and route their traffic through the VPN. This is especially useful for devices that don’t natively support VPN connections, such as Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, smart TVs, game consoles, and first-generation Amazon Fire TV sticks (newer Fire TV sticks support VPN apps). The process is much easier than setting up a VPN on your physical router, which often requires the risky task of flashing new firmware onto the device.

A virtual router can also be used to extend the range of a weak wifi signal. My friends and I recently used this in a hotel where the wifi didn’t extend all the way across the room. I placed my laptop in a spot where it got a better signal, then connected our phones to my laptop’s virtual router.

What you need to create a virtual router in Windows

To get started, you’ll need the following:

  • A laptop with a Broadcom-based wifi-adapter (most laptops made in the last five years have this)
  • A VPN app and subscription that supports the OpenVPN protocol
  • Administrative privilege on your laptop

First off, check to make sure your computer supports setting up a virtual router:

  1. Type cmd into the Windows search bar. In the search results, right-click Command Prompt > Run as Administratorwindows virtual router 0
  2. In the command prompt window that appears, type netsh wlan show drivers and hit Enterwindows virtual router 1.5
  3. Check for the line that says Hosted network supported. If it says “Yes” then your computer is capable of broadcasting its own wifi hotspot

This tutorial is for Windows 10, but Windows 7 and 8 users should be able to follow along as well.

How to configure your Windows Virtual router

Now to actually set it up:

  1. In the command prompt, type netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=<MY-NETWORK> key=<MY-PASSWORD>, replacing <MY-NETWORK< and <MY-PASSWORD> with a network name and password of your choice. Press Enter.windows virtual router 1
  2. Some text will appear indicating you successfully created the virtual router. To turn it on, type netsh wlan start hostednetwork and press Enter
  3. A message will appear that says the hosted network has started. If not, you need to update your network adapter drivers and try again.
  4. Next, we need to share the virtual router’s connection with other devices. Press Windows Key+R to launch the Run prompt, type ncpa.cpl, and press Enter.windows virtual router 2
  5. A list of connections will appear. Find the one you just created. It will have the network name you input earlier. Memorize or write down the name of this connection.windows virtual router 3
  6. On the same list of connections, find the one that says TAP-Windows Adapter. Right click it and select Propertieswindows virtual router 4
  7. Click the Sharing tab at the top and check the box to Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
  8. Under Home network connection, click the dropdown and select the name of the network you created earlier. Press OK.
  9. Open your VPN app, set the protocol to OpenVPN if necessary, and connect to a server in whatever location you wish. Using OpenVPN activates the TAP Windows Adapter.windows virtual router 5 expressvpn
  10. Your PC is now a VPN-enabled wi-fi router!

Now all that’s left to do is connect your devices to the virtual router. When you enter the wifi settings, the new network you just created should appear in the list of available wifi connections. Connect to it, enter the password that you created above, and that’s it!

If you disconnect from the VPN, the TAP adapter will de-activate and the virtual router will stop broadcasting the wifi signal.

Troubleshooting tips

If you have trouble starting the network, chances are there’s something off in your network adapter settings. To find these settings and adjust them, do the following:

  1. Press Windows Key+X and select Device Manager
  2. Click the arrow next to Network Adapters to see a list of available adapters.
  3. Find your main wifi adapter. It will usually contain Broadcom or 802.11 or something similar in the text. Right click it and select Update Driver Software to check for any available updates. You can choose the option to search automatically.
  4. Next, find the adapter that says TAP-Windows Adapter V9 or something similar. It might contain the name of your VPN provider instead of “Windows”. Double check that this is enabled and up-to-date by right-clicking. Select Enable if it is not enabled, and Update Driver Software to check for driver updates.

Day 124 – Power And Signal” by Iain Watson licensed under CC BY 2.0

8 thoughts on “How to set up a Windows virtual router to create a VPN-enabled wifi hotspot

  • So here is an interesting thing maybe you can shed some light on. I can use the mobile hotspot feature in Windows 10 fine (without vpn). But when I go through the command prompt to check for “Hosted Network support” it is listed as NO . . . and won’t let me continue to setup a network with vpn tunneling . . . doesn’t the fact that I can make a mobile hotspot mean I can host a network?

    Lenovo Yoga 900 Laptop running Windows 10 (with all recent updates)

    • If it says you don’t have hosted network support but still offers you the option to create a wifi hotspot, then that’s a discrepancy you might want to take up with Lenovo.

      • Apparently all I have to do is skip the command prompt portion, share the vpn tap adapter in settings, and then turn on the wifi hotspot. . . . still says I have no hosted network support but ive confirmed that all my wireless devices on the hotspot are running through the vpn . . . don’t get it but ill take it.

  • Paul thanks for the article but I’m confused. Windows 10 on my laptop has a super easy option to make a mobile hotspot with a click from the wifi settings. Would it not also work to simply turn on a vpn and then activate the mobile hotspot?

    • I personally have not been able to get the built-in wifi hotspot feature in Windows 10 to work reliably, and from what I’ve read I’m not the only one. Even if you got it to work, I’m not sure it would tunnel other devices’ traffic through the VPN. You need to tunnel it through the VPN adapter, not the default wifi adapter. My tutorial here works more reliably from what I can tell, and it should also work with Windows 7 and 8.

      • Yea since posting I’ve done my own trial and looks like you’re right it does not tunnel all connections through. My wife and I haven’t had too many issues with the hotspot feature, we use it constantly on the road. Now that we’re heading up into China for a year however I’m looking forward to hopefully adding VPN through it so I don’t need to worry about also getting a trace router. Do you know if the script works with any protocol and not just open vpn? Also if I read this correctly, does this mean that anytime I turn on my vpn (currently ExpressVPN) the wireless router on my laptop will also activate from here on out? If for some reason I do not want to broadcast a network and just use my laptop on its own with the vpn is it a simple edit? (Thanks for your time, I’m tech savy but not a power user)

        • It should work with any VPN connection that shows up under your list of network connections after setting it up. I’m not certain about other protocols but it’s worth a shot if you need them. It’s fairly easy to disable the connection if you don’t want to broadcast it.

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