Wi-Fi Sharing is a new feature on Windows 8.1 and RT 8.1 devices, such as Surface 2 & 3, that lets you share your Internet connection with other devices over Wi-Fi. You can connect to it from any device, such as another laptop or tablet, an Xbox One, or even a Windows Phone.


Wi-Fi sharing isn't a new idea by any means. However, few people are aware of it. We're all familiar with mobile hotspots. They make use of the data on your phone to enable other devices to connect to the internet. Wi-Fi sharing is the same idea, but using a local wireless network.


Wi-Fi sharing is useful because it doesn't require your device to be online. It works even when you don't have a data connection! Other devices connect directly to your wireless network. This makes Wi-Fi sharing extremely fast because it doesn't go through any third-party service.


It depends on what you're doing with the other devices. If you need faster speeds than a mobile hotspot allows, or want always-on access then Wi-Fi sharing might be right for you. For example, playing Xbox One games over the internet is much better when your Surface is acting as a Wi-Fi hotspot because it can deliver very fast speeds.


How To Use It?


Surface 2 and Surface 3 both support this feature. All you need to do is connect to the shared network and open an internet browser. You will see a notification telling you that "Your network has no Internet access". Clicking on "Connect anyway" will let you use the web!


How is Wi-Fi Sharing Different from a Wi-Fi Hotspot?

While a hotspot gives other devices internet access, a Wi-Fi sharing connection doesn't. This means that you still need to have an active data connection on your Surface for this to work. If you don't, then other devices will be able to use the shared network as if it was their own but won't be able to go online.


In addition, a Wi-Fi Hotspot requires your device to be connected to the internet for other devices to connect. With Wi-Fi sharing, the opposite is true – you must not have a data connection on your device, or else other devices can't access your shared network.


Finally, there's no security with a Wi-Fi sharing connection – anyone who connects can share your connection. And since they're connected directly to your network, it's fast!


How Do I Set It Up?


You need at least one Surface that supports this feature. Then you just go to the "Network" settings page on that device and select "Wi-Fi sharing". You will see a list of all other devices on your local wireless network (including PCs, phones, game consoles, printers, etc). Select the devices whose internet access you want to share and click Next.


On the next screen, you can choose whether or not to use encryption (security) for your shared Wi-Fi network. Here's what each option means: No security – anyone connecting can access your shared network with no security. This is okay if only you are using the shared network.


WPA2-enterprise – this is the most secure option, which requires devices to authenticate against a central server before being allowed on the network. This method is useful if you're sharing your internet access with guests frequently. Their devices will need to be configured correctly to connect to your Wi-Fi Networking server (for example, via OpenDNS). This type of system may well be overkill for home use though.


When is Wi-Fi Sharing Crucial?

 

The best time to use Wi-Fi sharing is when you don't have a data connection on your Surface. For example, if you are roaming abroad without a data plan or are using the internet at school/work where you don't have an allowance.

 

So what should you do? Well, if you want other people to be able to go online at all times then Wi-Fi sharing is perfect. For everyone else, it's probably better to use a mobile hotspot instead because the speeds will be much faster. This method also provides security for your local network, which may well be important depending on who's around! If you're just looking for a quick way onto the internet from your laptop then it might not be worth the hassle.


Wi-Fi sharing is not the same as Mobile Hotspot, so if you want to provide internet access for another device, use it.


Mobile Hotspot. This feature provides an internet connection to other devices via Wi-Fi or USB, making it ideal for when your Surface doesn't have a data connection or isn't around. It's perfect for all of your roaming needs - just connect your laptop and boom! Instant internet on your mobile data from your Surface to do this, so only use it when your phone/tablet/another laptop, etc. Just remember that it uses your data allowance!
What You Need to Know About Wi-Fi Sharing PROS and CONS

 

The pros of Wi-Fi sharing are that it's fast and easy, as all you need to do is decide who should be allowed on the connection. The downside – and particularly if you don't have a data plan – is that this feature doesn't provide security. This means anyone nearby can connect without any form of protection and potentially use your data connection for nefarious purposes, so you'll need to weigh up the convenience against this possibility.


Pros: Allows your Surface to share its internet connection with other devices over Wi-Fi. Easier than using a mobile hotspot. A good choice if you don't have a data allowance on your phone/tablet/other PC etc. Creates a secure network (if you use encryption).


Allows other devices to connect through USB. Allows other devices to share their internet connection via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable Cons: Doesn't provide security – anyone can access your shared network, even if they're not supposed to! Connection is slower than using Mobile Hotspot as it uses Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi, which can be unreliable at times.


Conclusion


So, should you use this feature? Well, it depends on how you're going to be using it. If you want a fast and secure connection for your Surface device, don't have a data allowance on your phone/tablet, etc then Wi-Fi sharing is pretty much essential. It's also great for being able to get internet access from other devices when the Surface isn't around – just remember that sharing will drain your battery! On the downside though, it doesn't provide security so anyone nearby can connect. Mobile Hotspot provides a private network while using your data plan instead of Bluetooth, which lets you charge your device by connecting via USB rather than draining its battery.