Whether you want to share a wired connection with your friends or just link multiple devices to a single Ethernet connection, having your own portable Wi-Fi hotspot can come in handy. Here are five free applications that can turn your own PC into a Wi-Fi hotspot to share its internet connection.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Free WiFi Hotspot

Free WiFi Hotspot (Figure A) is a basic tool for sharing your Wi-Fi hotspot. Its only real configuration options are the hotspot name (the SSID) and password. After entering this information, you simply select your network connection and click Start to begin sharing. When you’re finished, you can terminate the connection by clicking the Stop button.

Figure A

2: Virtual WiFi Router

Like Free WiFi Hotspot, Virtual WiFi Router (Figure B) is a simple tool with limited configuration options. However, this tool allows you to limit the number of peers that can connect to your hotspot. There is also an option to see which devices are connected.

Figure B

3: Winhotspot WiFi Router

Winhotspot WiFi Router (Figure C) is another free tool for turning your PC into a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it offers a few extra options. Like the other tools, you can specify a custom hotspot name and password and choose which network connection you want to share. But you can also monitor upload and download bandwidth and see which clients are connected to your network. There is also an auto run option and a safe mode option.

Figure C

4: mHotspot

mHotspot (Figure D) has one of the better interfaces among the tools on this list. It lets you specify your hotspot’s SSID, password, internet source, and maximum number of clients, and it provides detailed information about bandwidth usage and device connectivity.

Figure D

5: My WiFi Router

My WiFi Router (Figure E) takes things to the next level. In addition to letting you share an internet connection with your friends, it has built-in video sharing capabilities. My WiFi Router also has some nice extras, such as automatic conflict detection and the ability to prevent your PC from going to sleep when the Wi-Fi hotspot is activated. There is even a power-off timer you can use if you want to provide limited internet connectivity.

Figure E

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Other good choices?

Do you rely on a hotspot tool that didn’t make this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.