Share Your Wireless Network With Guests

By Eric Geier

April 21, 2011

If you want to share your network with guests but don't want to give them the run of your personal files and computers, setting up a guest network is the way to go.

Letting Guests onto Your Wi-Fi

More and more mobile phones, tablet computers, gaming consoles, and other gadgets have Wi-Fi now. There'll be a time when a friend, family member, or other guest wants to connect to your Wi-Fi for the Internet connection. Whether you're planning ahead or are trying to get them connected now, this tutorial can help.

Guest Feature on Router

If you bought your own wireless router, it may have a nifty guest or multiple network name (SSID) feature that you can use. It will broadcast another virtual Wi-Fi signal with a different name and security key or passphrase. It gives guests wireless Internet but doesn't let them access your private network. Therefore, you don't have to worry about them possibly being able to see or edit your files and you changing your security key when they leave.

Most Wi-Fi routers or gateways provided by Internet providers won't have this guest feature, and only a limited number of off-the-shelf products have it. If you still have your router's box and papers, check them to see if there are any clues to whether it has this feature. If it came with a disc, pop it in and take a look at the manual. You can also download the manual from the support section of the manufacturer's website.

Keep in mind, some products offer multiple SSIDs, which may also be able to work in this situation. Just make sure it can separate or isolate the traffic between the SSIDs. Some let you enable/disable this isolation while some automatically do this and don't give you an option.

You might also want to browse through the settings and features on the router's control panel by typing its IP address into a web browser. You can find the router's IP by opening the network connection details in Windows; it's the default gateway.

If you don't have a router with the guest or multiple SSID feature, you can consider the following products if you want to upgrade:

  • D-Link Xtreme N Gigabit Router (DIR-655)
  • TRENDnet 150Mbps Wireless N ADSL 2/2+ Modem Router (TEW-657BRM)
  • Linksys Valet Wireless-N Router
  • Belkin N+ Wireless Router (F5D8235-4)

Give Them the Passphrase

You could simply give your friends and family the same security key or passphrase you use to connect to your Wi-Fi. Obviously, only give it out to people you completely trust. Remember they could give it to others as well. To feel more comfortable, you could change it after they are done with your Wi-Fi.

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