Tip on Travel Light: Turn Your Laptop into a Hotspot or Wi-Fi Router

Using a cellular modem, you can easily turn a computer into a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot.

You likely already know how to turn your phone into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. If not, well, go to your phone’s settings, search for “hotspot,” and the rest is self-explanatory.

The idea is that you make the phone work as a mobile hotspot, like a JetPack from Verizon, to share its cellular Internet connection with other Wi-Fi devices.

What you might not know is you can do the same with a computer, say a laptop. It’s a great way to get multiple devices online when the Internet connection is available to a single device, like when you travel and don’t want to pay for more than one device.

This post is all about that.

What you need to turn a computer into a hotspot Wi-Fi router

You first need a computer (running Windows 10 or macOS) and a live Internet connection. And then you need a bit more.

The computer must have a free Wi-Fi card — one that’s not being used to access the Internet connection you want to share. That said, the machine must access the Internet via a different mean, such as:

  • A cellular connection like a mobile modem — I used one as an example for this post. Or
  • A wired connection via its network port — Only available on a computer that has a network port, most news laptops don’t. Or
  • A separate Wi-Fi card — you can always add another Wi-Fi adapter card to a computer using a USB adapter.

Again, make sure that the computer has a dedicated Wi-Fi adapter for the hotspot function. Since we tend to use Wi-Fi to access the Internet, it’s a good idea to get a second USB Wi-Fi card. It’ll come in handy.

The good news is a relatively cheap one will do and do better than when you use a phone as a hotspot. However, the quality of your computer-based Wi-Fi network depends on this Wi-Fi card so, it’s a good idea to get a good one.

How to make a hotspot Wi-Fi router out of a Windows 10 computer

You can make a Windows 10 computer work as a mobile hotspot via two quick steps.

1. Find Mobile Hotspot Settings on the Start Menu — you can search for it — and click on it to open up the dialog where you can turn on this feature and customize it.

You can quickly find any setting by searching for it on Windows 10’s Start Menu.

Now, on the Settings page that appears, click on Edit to change your Wi-Fi network’s name or password. Or you can accept the default value.

Windows 10 automatically pick the network card that’s currently connected to the Internet as the source of the Wi-Fi hotspot.

2. Move the slider under Share my Internet connection with other devices to On.

And that’s it. Now on a Wi-Fi device, you’ll find the Wi-Fi network and connect to it. Windows 10 allows for sharing the Internet to up to eight devices.

How to turn a Mac into a hotspot Wi-Fi router

There are a few more steps on a Mac computer, but the process is still quite simple.

1. Open the Mac’s control panel by clicking on the Apple icon (top-left corner) and click on System Preferences…

2. Click on Sharing, which will open up the Sharing setting window.

Sharing

3. Pick the right hardware

  • Click on Internet Sharing (don’t check the box yet).
  • Then pick the sharing source, which is the adapter that currently connects to the Internet.
  • Now check the Wi-Fi box as the method used to share the Internet.
  • Click on Wi-Fi Options…
Customize

4. Customize the hotspot’s Wi-Fi settings to your liking. Then click on OK.

MacWi FiNetwork

5. Check the Internet Sharing box and answer the prompt that appears affirmatively.

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MacHotSpotDone

And that’s it. Generally, you can connect around five devices to a Mac’s hotspot.

The takeaway

There you go. Turning your computer as a mobile hotspot — or as a Wi-Fi router for that matter — has a lot of advantages.

Among other things, you won’t need to worry about battery life. Also, when you use a high-end add-on Wi-Fi card for this job, you can deliver a much better range and performance than any mobile hotspot or travel router.

Most importantly, this trick saves you from having to carry along an extra piece of hardware, like a portable travel router or a mobile hotspot itself.

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