In just over a decade Wi-Fi has gone from relative obscurity to becoming nearly ubiquitous. Like any other popular technology, there are numerous utilities that can help you to get the most out of what Wi-Fi has to offer.
1. Virtual Wi-Fi Router
Virtual Wi-Fi Router is a free utility that is designed to turn any Wi-Fi enabled Windows PC into a wireless access point for Internet access.
This utility has a very clean and easy to use interface that allows you to assign a password to your virtual access point to prevent unauthorized access. The interface even offers a tab that lets you confirm who is using the wireless access point.
2. Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield is a free utility that is designed to help protect your privacy when you connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots.
The program has a very simplistic interface, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't work well. Once protection is enabled you can click on a Test Protection link to verify that the utility is working. Doing so takes you to TestMyIP.org. In my case, my static IP was hidden and TestMyIP.org thought that I was located somewhere in Los Angeles instead of on the east coast where I actually reside.
3. WiFi Guardian
WiFi Guardian is designed to protect your privacy by redirecting your Internet connectivity to a proxy server that allows your session to be encrypted and made anonymous. The software does require you to create an account and to choose a WiFi Guardian server to use as a proxy. Servers are available in the United Kingdom, France, and Australia.
WiFi Guardian sells for $49.95, but a free 3-day trial is available for download.
4. Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector
Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector is a free tool designed to help you to verify the health of your wireless network. Upon launching the tool, you must select your computer's wireless network adapter. After doing so, the utility will display some vital statistics for your Wi-Fi connection, such as the SSID, IP address, etc.
The utility also keeps track of your wireless signal strength on a graph at the bottom of the interface. Buttons at the top of the interface link to external Web sites that can be used to test your connection speed and quality.
5. WiFi Profile Manager
WiFi Profile Manager is a free utility that is designed to manage wireless network connections on a computer that is running Windows 8. The utility can make a Wi-Fi connection the default for your computer and can move access points up and down a list by order of priority. A Properties screen displays vital statistics (such as the encryption key) for connections.
One of the nice things about this utility is that it is completely portable. The utility consists of a single executable file that can be run on any Windows 8 PC without having to be installed.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.