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Virtual Wi-Fi Networks in Windows 7

In a digital world – which is also increasingly wireless – seamless integration and syncing of devices has become the norm. Consequently, wired internet connections are slowly becoming a thing of the past. The focus is on ease of use and flexibility, and being tied to a LAN port for internet does not fare well on this front. Most homes and office workspaces these days use wi-fi networks and hotspots to connect to the internet. This helps bestow a feeling of mobility on computer users.

Virtual Wi-Fi in Windows 7
However, there are times when you dont have access to a wi-fi hotspot, or rather, have internet on only your laptop, and wish you could share it with other devices such as another laptop / smart phone. Well, Windows 7 has a nifty little hidden feature which will allow you to do just that.

Virtual wi-fi is a relatively unknown feature in Windows 7 which can be put to very good use in such a scenario. Virtual Wi-Fi refers to virtualization of the wireless network adapter or WLAN card, and helps create a virtual network adapter or VWiFi. A software access point known as a Soft AP gets created for the virtual Wi-Fi network. Enabling or disabling either one of the network adapters in Control Panel -> Network and Sharing will result in both of these getting enabled / disabled.

To setup virtual Wi-Fi, execute the following steps:

Open a command prompt (as Administrator) and type the below commands:
– netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=SSID key=PWD
– netsh wlan start hostednetwork

This functionality exists only with certain WLAN cards and you need to ensure that your network adapter drivers are up to date with the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s site and support this feature. However, once it is enabled the hardware functions as two distinct wireless networks with independent access points. This feature can be very useful when you need to share internet with all the features of an access point and do not want to just make use of an ad-hoc network with ICS (Internet Connection Sharing).

Virtual Router [1] and Connectify [2] are two software programs which can also be used to help setup Virtual Wi-Fi.

~Deepak Kannan