Scott Hanselman

Connectify creates and shares Virtual WiFi Hotspots with Windows 7

October 29, '09 Comments [9] Posted in Reviews
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Somewhere around 2002, Microsoft Research started trying to figure out how to virtualize a WiFi adapter so one physical adapter could act as multiple virtual adapters. This functionality is actually baked into Windows 7, so if you've got 7, you've got this.

Fast forward to today and there's a new product in Beta called "Connectify." Since I just started using a new 4G WiMAX product called Clear I thought this would be the perfect match.

First, on my Dell Mini 9, I made a connection with Clear.com's WiMAX.

Screenshot of my Dell Mini 9 connected to Clear and using Connectify

Then, I simply ran Connectify, gave it a new secret WPA passphrase, and created a new WiFi hotspot. I could have called the HotSpot anything and the passphase can be anything.

Next, over on my Lenovo T60p, I checked out the list of WiFi hotspots nearby:

Conectify in my list of WiFi hotspots

There it is. For the test, I disconnected my primary WiFi and connected only to the Connectify spot and it worked famously. I was sharing my Clear.com connection with two laptops.

I love this product and I know I'll use it all the time. The real question is going to be how they price it. I'd totally pay $19.95 for this to connect up to, say, 3 people. If they try to charge $40 for a basic service, that's going to be a hard sell in my opinion. Personally, I have no idea how much they intend to charge, I just caution them and hope they think about this.

Isn't this just Internet Connection Sharing?

This was my first question. I asked their support and suggested they add the answer to their FAQ. It's a very good answer and spot on:

The ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) feature you mention is really ICS + Ad Hoc WiFi. 

My quick response is:

1) It's a real wifi access point, not an ad hoc Wifi connection.

2) The Virtual WiFi driver feature in Windows 7 lets us set up your Wifi access point, while actually staying attached to another Wifi network at the same time.  With the old ICS/ad hoc thing, you could not use your internet connection for anything but the ad hoc sharing.  (ie, you needed to get your internet from another card).

3) I realize you're at Microsoft, but ICS has severe issues.  It loses all of your settings every time the machine reboots for example, making it effectively useless for anything but a quick demo. 

Makes total sense to me. ICS is nice if you have two network cards, but it's hardly convenient or easy.

One unrelated caveat:

Warning: You need to check with your provider if you're planning on sharing your connection. I'm planning on using it from, for example, my hotel to share with my phone, or at a coffee shop to share with maybe one additional person. Share smartly. From Connectify's site:

Am I allowed to share my Internet?

This depends on the terms of service of your Internet Service Provider. Many have terms against reselling the connections, however sharing with friends, family and your other computers is generally fine.

It works fantastically. The UI is a little goofy, particularly the form validation is unclear. Make sure your WPA password is at least 8 characters or you'll get flummoxed.

Still, Connectify is a winner and I wish them all the best!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:32:46 PM UTC
Nice!
I have a 3G modem (here in Mexico 4G will be available in 10 years if we are lucky) and I was looking for some ways to share the connection.
Friday, October 30, 2009 3:20:22 AM UTC
Everytime I think of something I wish windows had, I find it already has it! Also a huge plus now that they have Clear here in the Vegas valley.

Thanks for the hot tip!
Friday, October 30, 2009 3:04:32 PM UTC
If Windows 7 has this already, what is the purpose of using Connectify?
Matt
Friday, October 30, 2009 4:01:34 PM UTC
Thanks for the tip.
Friday, October 30, 2009 6:33:31 PM UTC
Matt - What is built in to Windows 7 is the technology to use a single physical WiFi adapter as multiple virtual WiFi adapters. Connectify puts a friendly UI on this low-level feature.
Saturday, October 31, 2009 2:58:03 PM UTC
Now it's all coming together. Thank you for the clarification!
Matt
Sunday, November 01, 2009 2:33:34 PM UTC
Of course there's a lot of "fun" to be had here with the Wifi virtualization, something the linux people have had for a while. Simply have software which broadcasts as, say AT&T Hotspot, with no encryption and sit there waiting for usernames and passwords to flow ...

Hmm, where is the API for the WiFi virtualization, and can I call it from C#? *evil*
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 12:22:28 PM UTC
I looked into how simple it would be to implement an app that wraps up the Wireless Hosted Network and Internet Connection Sharing functionality of Windows 7 into a nice little app, just as Connectify does, and it really wasn't that bad. In fact the Windows 7 SDK contains a C++ sample app of doing it. So, I worked out an app that does this, and posted up on CodePlex.

Download: http://virtualrouter.codeplex.com
Saturday, November 21, 2009 4:04:50 AM UTC
to Chris Pietschmann

it doesn t work with Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN. The problem you have is that your program like connectify, needs a MS extra driver to work and most adapters don t allow this to install this including mine. So you have to figure a way of getting this installed with your program. It is nothing new I had a friend who had a program that came with his wifi drivers on XP

DAz999
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.