With our new Connectify Hotspot 2015 MAX tier, we’ve added some powerful features like WiFi Repeater and Bridging Mode. In fact, Connectify Hotspot is now the only virtual router software on the market that can act as a real WiFi repeater. Not only does Hotspot MAX extend the range of your home or office WiFi, but devices on your hotspot actually appear on your source network so that game consoles and streaming media work perfectly. A few of you have reached out, wondering how we’ve finally managed to enable network bridging in our hotspot software, so I figured I’d write a post to shed some light (without revealing our secret sauce, of course).
First, a Little History…
When we created the first Windows hotspot application, back in October 2009, we did so by putting a user interface in front of Windows‘ Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) and Hosted Network. ICS is a simple set of routing software that’s built into Windows. It includes basic versions of the software that goes on a router: DHCP server, DNS server, and Network Address Translation (NAT).
A NAT is piece of networking software that changes the IP addresses on messages that flow through it. That way, computers behind the NAT have all their messages changed so that they seem to come from the router running the NAT or hotspot. It’s an important bit of software that’s in every WiFi router, and Connectify is no exception.
That first iteration of Connectify Hotspot obviously worked well enough, racking up millions of users in just a couple months. The NAT did some good things, too, ensuring that all Hotspot client devices would have the same IP address as the computer running the Hotspot. This is usually what people want.
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Problems with ICS
But, we quickly hit the limits of ICS. It couldn’t understand the possibility of PCs being on more than one network. In that case, the built-in Windows ICS would end up giving out an IP address that was already in use. Sometimes it even stopped running without reporting back to our app.
One of the worst limitations of ICS was that it was impossible to bridge between the Hotspot WiFi and the other networks on the computer. Gaming consoles complained that voice chats didn’t work. Macs couldn’t see Apple TVs on the main network. Smartphones couldn’t control Google Chromecast streaming media devices.
Custom Code and Bridging Mode
The solution, which we started implementing in Connectify 2.0 and finally completed here with Connectify Hotspot 2015, was to build our own routing software. We had to develop a network driver, NAT, DHCP, and DNS server from the ground up. That way we could offer all the features we wanted, and prevent users from experiencing problems that were inherent to Windows ICS. Ultimately, moving away from ICS has fixed all those awful bugs that still plague users of every other PC hotspot application.
A really cool benefit from all of this is that we can stop NATing altogether, and just let the packets through if we want to. In other words, we can now offer network bridging where no other Hotspot software on the market can. Connected devices appear directly on your source network, and suddenly everything works: Playstations, Apple TVs, Chromecasts, and much more. With Bridging Enabled, your Hotspot and the network you’re connected to are just one network.
Once we had Bridging Mode working, the next step was natural: adding an easy-to-use Repeater Mode that automatically copies the settings from your existing WiFi network and bridges your new Hotspot right back to the source network with zero configuration. Effectively, Hotspot 2015 MAX’s WiFi Repeater Mode extends the range of your home or office WiFi network, devices connected to your Hotspot showing right on the original network. That’s something no other PC hotspot software can do.
The World’s Best Hotspot Software
In the end, it’s our custom networking code that makes the difference. Not only do we avoid the bugs and issues that other virtual router apps that use ICS can’t avoid, but our router code allows us to bring you more of the features you really want, too. It’s one of the many reasons why Connectify Hotspot is the best hotspot software in the world.
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