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.
Windows 10: easiest option
If you’re using Windows 10, you can follow the instructions in the video below. Windows 10 users do not need to use the Command Prompt to set up a VPN-protected wifi hotspot, as this features is now accessible directly from the Settings app.
For older versions of Windows, keep reading.
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:
- Type cmd into the Windows search bar. In the search results, right-click Command Prompt > Run as Administrator
- In the command prompt window that appears, type
netsh wlan show driversand hit Enter
- 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:
- 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.
- Some text will appear indicating you successfully created the virtual router. To turn it on, type
netsh wlan start hostednetworkand press Enter
- A message will appear that says the hosted network has started. If not, you need to update your network adapter drivers and try again.
- 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.
- 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.
- On the same list of connections, find the one that says TAP-Windows Adapter. Right click it and select Properties
- Click the Sharing tab at the top and check the box to Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection.
- Under Home network connection, click the dropdown and select the name of the network you created earlier. Press OK.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Press Windows Key+X and select Device Manager
- Click the arrow next to Network Adapters to see a list of available adapters.
- 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.
- 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.