Building a wireless home network for free (or very little)

Having recently bought my first Android device I found the need to set up my first wifi network. I say first in the sense that I mean my ownership of one. I’ve set up many home networks with traditional routers,  ranging from small to medium in size but have always avoided it in my own home. First because I’m mostly a 1 computer household, second (and should probably be first) is the frustration that comes with a wireless router… But the new baby Android in the house is going to change all that.

I started out by doing what any good geek does: I searched Google and waded through a myriad of ways to go about solving the problem at hand. I know you’re probably thinking “get a wireless router and move on..”  Allow me to explain why that will never be a solution for me:

Always having a single desktop connected directly to a cable modem has spoiled me. I’ve never had to deal with the frustration of wired or wireless routers in my home. No port forwarding, no dropped connections, no interference, none of that. All this sums up to, I do not want to pay for, nor do I want to use, a router. I install and configure them on a regular basis for friends, family, and customers and find that they are the “weak link” in most users private networks. Be it from the user not knowing how to maintain and utilize it, or just overall poor performance due to poor firmware or various environmental conditions.

It wasn’t long until I discovered that Windows 7 (and Vista) are quietly sporting a slick new feature to do just what I need. They will use any connected wireless adapter to share an existing internet connection, effectively turning any computer into a basic router. This is called “Wireless Hosted Networking” or “SoftAP”.

So now I’m intrigued. I can share my 20Mbit cable internet connection on my desktop with any wifi device without using (or buying) a router? The questions sprang forth!

Q: How do I do it? A: If you have a device with a built in wireless adapter, like a laptop or you already own a USB wireless adapter, you can skip right on over to the tutorial and be up and running in no time. Before you go take note this is the point where you just skipped buying a router!

Q: How fast will it be? A: The speed is going to depend on your wireless adapter. All but the very cheapest ones usually support at least 54Mbit/s. So even these would be fast enough not to bottleneck most home connections.

Q: How scalable is it? A: Technically infinitely! Being as most modern wireless adapters can receive and share a connection at the same time you could in theory string a network of laptops around the planet never using a single router. This is of course in theory but in a multiple PC home this means each device can be told to share its connection, thus making a redundant set of access points for every device in your home to use.

Q: What if I don’t have a wireless adapter? A: I didn’t either! View this post I made about the process of choosing the right one to fit your needs. Please note that if you do have to buy a USB adapter, that it is still about 1/4 the cost of a router.

Already using wireless hosted networking? Please share your experiences and questions.