Several network cables connected to a network switch under blue light.
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You can use Ethernet or Wi-Fi to connect to share your PC's internet connection with other devices. You will need to enable sharing for the VPN adapter, too. Traffic from other devices will be tunneled through your Windows PC's internet connection.

If you want to install a VPN on a device that doesn’t allow it, like a smart TV or even a printer, the simplest way to get around that problem is to use a VPN router. If you want to save some money, though, you’ll be happy to know you can turn your Windows machine into one in just a few steps.

What Is a VPN Router?

Chances are that right now, you’re connected to the internet via a Wi-Fi router, a small device either you bought or your internet service provider installed, which beams the internet through your house or office. Even if you’re connected by wire instead, chances are the cable leads back to a router. A VPN router is nothing more than one of these devices with VPN software installed.

The main benefit of using a VPN router is that the entire network enjoys the protection of a virtual private network without having to install the software on each and every device. As a corollary, this also means that devices that normally can’t install VPN software can use it, too. It’s just run through the router, not the device itself.

That’s pretty nifty, but there are also reasons why you shouldn’t connect your whole network to a VPN router, one of the most important of which is that VPN routers don’t come cheap and can require some finicky setup. However, there’s a way to get a VPN router without actually getting one: you can turn your Windows computer into a VPN router pretty easily.

How to Use Your Windows Computer as a VPN Router

Setting up your Windows computer as a virtual router is pretty easy; Mac users have it a lot harder. Essentially, there are two ways to do it: with an Ethernet cable and without one. Using a cable, you’re limited by the fact that all devices involved need an Ethernet port, but you can apply this method to any version from Windows 7 on up.

Going wireless will only work on Windows 10 and 11; doing so on earlier versions requires using specialized software like VirtualRouter Plus. If you don’t fancy using third-party software, either use a cable on an older version of Windows or upgrade to a newer version that has this capability built-in.

Share the VPN Using an Ethernet Cable

The first thing you need to do in this scenario is to take your cable and plug it into your Windows computer and the device you want to connect—it’s a great way to connect your smart TV to a VPN. Also, make sure your VPN is installed but switched off.

Once you’ve connected the laptop to your smart TV, you need to access the network connection settings. Just search for “view network connections” in Windows 10 or 11, and you’ll get it. In Windows 7/8, it’s in the Network and Sharing Center under “change adapter settings.”

Windows 10 network connections

Once in, you need to find the VPN connection. It’s usually labeled either as the name of the VPN (“ExpressVPN,” “FastVPN,” etc.) or as “TAPadapter” of some kind. In this case, we’re on a system with IVPN installed, and the connection is called “IVPN-TAP-Windows Adapter.”

Find the TAP adapter in Windows

Right-click on the connection, choose “Properties,” and a new window will appear. Click on the right-most tab, which is called “Sharing.”

Find the 'Sharing' tab in your LAN connection properties

Here, make sure the top box is ticked, the one that starts with “Allow other users to connect…” Then, beneath that, under “Home Networking Connection,” pick LAN or Local Area Network from the drop-down list.

All you need to do now is save these new settings and then restart both your PC and the device you connected to. That should have done the trick. Once both devices are back on, turn the VPN on, and from now on, the device should route through the VPN.

Using Your Computer as a Wireless VPN Router

To set up a virtual router wirelessly on Windows 10 and Windows 11, your device needs to be able to broadcast Wi-Fi, not just receive it. Almost all modern laptops can do this, but this is less the case for desktop PCs. To check, you need to open the Windows command prompt by typing “cmd” in the search bar. Then, type the following:

netsh wlan show drivers

You’ll get a screen full of output, look for a line that says “hosted network supported.” If that’s followed by a “yes,” then you’re good to go—just make sure to switch off your VPN before continuing. If it says “no,” you need to go hunting for an Ethernet cable and go back to the previous section.

Setting Up the Mobile Hotspot

We’re going to create the virtual VPN router through the mobile hotspot functionality in Windows. This didn’t exist before Windows 10, which is why it won’t work on older versions. To find it, go to “Settings” and then to  “Network & Internet.” The entry for the mobile hotspot is fairly low on the list to the left, select it, and turn it on.

Switch on Windows hotspot

If this is your first time using the hotspot, make sure to set the “Share My Internet Connection Over” toggle to Wi-Fi and to create a good username and secure password for the hotspot (for obvious reasons, the password was blanked out in this picture).

Changing Adapter Settings

With that done, scroll down till you see a heading called “Related settings.” There, click on “Change adapter options.”

Windows 10 hotspot settings

From here on, the steps are the same as in the previous section: you need to find the VPN connection, which is usually named after your VPN’s name and will have the words “TAP adapter” in it. In this case, we have IVPN installed, and the connection is called “IVPN-TAP-Windows Adapter.”

Find the TAP adapter in Windows

Right-click on the connection, choose “Properties,” and a new window will appear. Click on the right-most tab, which is called “Sharing.”

Find the 'Sharing' tab in your LAN connection properties

Here, make sure the top box is ticked, the one that starts with “Allow Other Users to Connect…” Then, beneath that, under “Home Networking Connection,” pick LAN or Local Area Network from the drop-down list.

When you’re done, hit OK, and that should be it. Now try to access the new hotspot network—with the name you gave it earlier—from another device. If you did everything right, it should pop up now. Connect to it like you would any other network, and that’s it, your PC is now a virtual router, and you’re free to unblock Netflix or anything else you’d like to do with it.

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Profile Photo for Fergus O'Sullivan Fergus O'Sullivan
Fergus is a freelance writer for How-To Geek. He has seven years of tech reporting and reviewing under his belt for a number of publications, including GameCrate and Cloudwards. He's written more articles and reviews about cybersecurity and cloud-based software than he can keep track of---and knows his way around Linux and hardware, too.
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