6 Useful Wi-Fi Tools for Windows
This very nifty piece of free software lets you turn a Windows 7 PC (it only works with Windows 7) into a Wi-Fi hot spot that can be used by nearby devices -- your smartphone, for example, or devices that your co-workers are using in the same location.
The PC on which you install it will, of course, need to be connected to the Internet itself and have Wi-Fi capability so it can provide access to other devices. The computer doesn't necessarily need a wired connection to the Internet (although it won't hurt to have one); its Wi-Fi card can perform double-duty as Wi-Fi signal receiver and transmitter.
Setting up a hot spot is simple: Once you have a connection, run Connectify on your PC and give your hot spot a name and password. Your computer's Wi-Fi card will begin broadcasting a Wi-Fi signal that other devices can connect to, in the same way they can connect to any other hot spot. (Your PC card will broadcast in whatever Wi-Fi protocol it was built for. It also should support devices that use earlier protocols -- for example, an 802.11n signal should allow 802.11b/g/n devices to connect.)
Since your hot spot is password-protected, only people who know the password can use it; the signal is secured with WPA2-PSK encryption.
You can even use Connectify to set up a local network without an external Internet connection. Run it as a hot spot, and nearby devices can connect to each other in a network, even though there's no Internet access. You can use this for sharing files in a workgroup or setting up a network for multiplayer games.
Note that I had problems connecting my Mac to a Windows 7 machine running a Connectify-created hot spot, but I was able to make the connection with other PCs and devices.
Compatible with: Windows 7
Tools like InSSIDer and Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector are great for finding hot spots that are currently in range of your laptop. But if you want to find hot spots in other locations -- a part of town that you'll be in later in the day, for example, or a city you'll be visiting next week -- you'll want to give WeFi a try.
Like other Wi-Fi sniffing tools, WeFi uses your Wi-Fi card to find your current location and show you nearby hot spots. You can click on a link to see a particular hot spot on a map, along with its address. (Note, however, that in practice I found it was not always accurate.)
But you can also type in a different location to see hot spots near that location. Click the Wi-Fi Maps tab and enter an address; a map of that location will appear on Google Maps and you'll be provided with various details about nearby hot spots, such as type (municipal, hotel, café and so on), distance from the location and whether there's an access fee.
WeFi also helps you manage how to connect to hot spots. It can, for example, automatically connect you only to your favorite hot spots or only to hot spots that have been discovered by other WeFi members.
The basic version of WeFi is free, but there's also a version called WeFi Premium that you have to pay for. WeFi Premium finds and connects you to paid hot spots. The amount you pay for WeFi Premium varies depending on whether you want to pay an hourly rate, prepay for a certain number of minutes and so on. You'd be better off skipping WeFi Premium; it's much easier to find paid hot spots on your own.
Compatible with: Windows XP, Vista and 7