Those of us who have ever traveled with laptops will be familiar with this problem: The cost of Wi-Fi or wired Internet access at hotels is typically exorbitant, and gives you only a single user login that doesn't facilitate any sharing. This is often frustrating, should your room mate also own a laptop, or if traveling in a group.
On top of this, most smartphones these days have Wi-Fi capabilities, which can be used to either access e-mails or download files; Wi-Fi access for these devices can yield tremendous savings in long distance data rates. And we haven't even mentioned the many gadgets with Wi-Fi only access, such as the iPod Touch, the initial models of the Apple iPad, or dedicated Internet tablets such as the JooJoo.
Carrying a small wireless router will help resolve the issue, of course. However, that is one more device to carry, and who wants to be stuck with lugging around yet another piece of hardware and its associated power adapter? In addition, this solution won't help share (non-free) Internet connectivity at a cafe.
How does Connectify work?
Enter Connectify to help alleviate the above situations. The free software application "virtualizes" the wireless adapter so that it can be used concurrently to connect to an access point (AP), while also simultaneously serving as an AP. It depends on internal code residing within later versions of Windows however, and hence will only work on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (or later). Windows 7 Starter Edition is also not supported, as it lacks some of the features Connectify utilizes.
Being able to operate in standard AP mode will require that the wireless device is supported; otherwise, only Ad-hoc mode will be available, though its ability to connect to an AP simultaneously is not affected. Pretty much all the newer devices are supported though, so that shouldn't be an issue. You can check out the full list of supported devices here.
Download, install, go
Setting up Connectify was a pretty straight forward affair -- a matter of downloading the installation package here (smaller than 1MB) and installing it. Configuration consists of setting a Wi-Fi name and password. Internet access can be defined via a simple pop-up applet, and ranges from wireless, LAN, or basically any other network on your workstation. In the screenshot, you can see the Connectify applet running in "advanced" mode.
I have tried tethering my BlackBerry smartphone for Internet connectivity, and was able to easily share the Internet access via wireless to my iPod Touch without any hiccup.
Though Connectify 1.0 came out only late last year, a new version, Connectify 1.1, was released a couple of weeks back. Besides various bug fixes, the new version sports enhancements such as wireless cloning, and the ability to save WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) data to a flash drive to quickly configure other clients to use the Connectify AP.Conclusion
One suggestion when making use of Connectify would be to use the same network name (SSID) for both Connectify and your home router. Assuming the same passphrase and security settings, wireless devices will be able to seamlessly "roam" between Connectify and your home network -- even when the machine running Connectify is switched off.
Connectify seems robust, and performed flawlessly when I used it. For me, it is a must-have install for my Windows 7 laptop.
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.