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Using Your Mac As A Wireless Router

by | Apr 9, 2007 | 35 comments

If you’ve recently purchased an iMac, chances are that it came with Airport wireless built in. If you have cable or DSL service, but have yet to purchase a wireless router, then you’re in luck. You can turn your iMac into a wireless router for your home or small office. Here’s how:

First, here’s a basic diagram of what is needed. 1) A cable or DSL modem, which typically provided by your internet service provider; 2) a Mac (with built-in Airport wireless) which is connected to your modem via an ethernet cable; and 3) any number of laptops which have wireless capability.


Next, you will need to configure the Mac (connected to your modem) to share it’s internet capability to wireless devices. To do this, open your System Preferences and click on Sharing.


In the Sharing Pane, click on the Internet tab to bring up Internet Sharing. In this window, you want to select Share your connection from Built-in Ethernet in the drop down menu. Then, you want to select Airport from the “To computers using:” list.


Then click on the Airport Options… button to configure some wireless security options. You don’t want to be sharing your wireless connection with the whole neighborhood.Here, enter a WEP password which will be required from the laptop wishing to join your new wireless network.


I have found this to be an excellent solution for folks who don’t have a wireless router, but would like occasional wireless access in the home or small office.

NOTE: (5-15-07) Some of you have expressed some difficulty when trying to join a non-Mac device to this wireless setup. Apparently, there are some issues around which encryption scheme you choose. Take a look at this Apple Doc for some possible answers: WireLess Encryption


  1. Lisa C.

    This sounds very cool! From the looks of your blog you are full of good ideas and tips.

  2. Lisa C.

    Love the step by step for those of us that aren’t so techie.

  3. John Tangney

    Nice how-to for novices. Note that you can also establish a point-to-point wireless network.

    One minor, pedantic correction: The end result is not a router, since you are not routing packets from one subnet to another.

  4. john

    Could this be used to share my connection with a Nintendo Wii?

  5. Theresa B

    This is very cool. How can I use my airport extreme and express to boost the signal around the house?

  6. patrick

    I believe the Ninetendo Wii uses 802.11b/g, so yes, theoretically this set up would allow internet connectivity for the Ninetendo. I have not done it, so I don’t know for sure.

  7. patrick

    Theresa, I will create a short tutorial in the near future for folks with Airport Express who want to boost signals.

    Note: I am experimenting with 802.11n routers and the MacBookPro enabler and have found them to be very fast (and with wide coverage). More on this later.

  8. Theresa B

    Thanks, Patrick. I look forward to that. I already own an express and extreme, so I’d like to use them, if possible.

    It also seems that when the desktop is asleep or shut down that the network goes with it. Any thoughts there?

  9. patrick

    Yes, when the computer is shutdown (or asleep), you will lose the wireless connection. You may put the screensaver on without affecting the wireless, but if the computer is put to sleep, it will disrupt wireless.

  10. KaCe

    I thought this article was clear and provided a useful tip. May it be reprinted in our Mac user group newsletter?

  11. patrick

    Yes, KaCe, you may reprint it. Please mention if you would. Thanks.

  12. Dale

    I’d say the only downside to sharing your internet access like this is that there is only WEP encryption, rather than WPA. Be a lot safer if there was WPA encryption available for Internet Sharing.

  13. patrick

    Absolutely correct, Dale. There are a lot of vulnerabilities related to wireless access in general. The sad truth is, a good sniffer can defeat the best of wireless encryption schemes. But, for most folks, doing normal stuff, this is a reasonable solution.

    Everyone should be especially cautious when conducting financial transactions, or other sensitive data transactions, over wireless networks.

  14. Brian

    John, I’ve tried this several times with my own wii and unless I’m missing something, it ain’t working. Sorry, I was hoping for that too.

  15. patrick

    Brian, John, Try doing this on your Wii without encryption. I suspect that the encryption is fouling things up.

    Please let us know your results.

  16. dennis

    I’ve been doing this for a year with a Buffalo pci wireless card in my Quicksilver. I plan to setup an old Lombard laptop with third-party wireless ‘g’ card for internet access, usb print server, and iTunes server. As long as the wireless card works with built-in Apple AirPort drivers then Internet Sharing is simple to do.

  17. Joanna

    I can’t get this to work with 2 ordinary mac laptops. It looks like the DHCP is not working so DNS is failing on the mac not connected to the DSL. Is there another step I’m missing?

  18. Joanna

    I solved my problem — I had to turn on “personal web sharing” under services to get the web, and then turn the firewall off altogether to get gmail / ajax.

  19. Leo

    I’m turn between using this method and buying Airport Extreme. I have just bought my iPod touch and will always have the wifi on in my apartment. Does Airport Extreme have way better security than the above method? Are there other good reasons to buy Airport Extreme?

  20. Sean


    Thanks so much for posting the very intuitive instructions.

    Will this work to “talk” to my iPod touch?

  21. Sean

    Quick follow up to iPod touch question:

    The reason I ask is because every step seems to work. My iPod sees my Home network. The icon on the iPod says it’s reading a WiFi network.

    But no pages load in the iPod Safari browser – nor do any other Web-driven apps like YouTube or iTunes.

  22. patrick

    Sean, Yes this should work fine with the iPod Touch. However, I don’t have one, so I cannot test it. You may need to look at security settings.

  23. [Blocked by CFC] larry y

    Odd, reading this and seeing all the problems with connecting a iPod Touch to the Inet.
    I was here in hopes of finding a way to sync my iTouch with my Cellphone and use it to get on the internet while not near WiFi.
    No such luck in this forum, but I read it anyway. Here is my two cents…

    I have a 20″, Core 2 Duo 2.16 iMac, with 3 GB of Ram, in our bedroom of a nice little 1600′ contemporary ranch style home.
    I have a PS3 in the living room along with a Wii, all of which run through either my TV or 2 Channel Stereo, for sound, and the Samsung LCD is the HDTV.
    Before purchasing my first iTouch, (this past May, as a gift for my son), I had downloaded a great product from Nullsoft, called ‘Medialink’. It lets me stream, to my PS3, nearly everything, iTunes, Photos, Movies and iMovies and even some documents and Keynotes as a bonus. The sound quality for the music is first rate (relatively speaking, as it is not my Yamaha CD player and it is compressed(Apples AAC)). Nullsoft makes a bunch of cool software, including PSP, Xbox 360, CallWall(blocks telemarketers if you have a callwaiting modem), Tuner(internet radio for iPhone(touch?), etc.. is where you head. Their products are reasonably( ok, they are bargains, IMO) at 10-15 U.S $ for most computer Apps and Tuner is 6 bucks on the App store, I think. They are a mostly Mac software company, which is great, but they also make some PC programs( do you still call them that, or has MS moved on to use Application, finally???). I think they have some freeware as well.
    Anyhow, just thought I would throw that in there as I read someone’s comment about the Wii on the boards and remembered back when I first hooked mine up.
    I recall just clicking on ‘Auto’ this and ‘Auto’ that and, boom, connected to Mac(via Internet Sharing, as I didn’t have a wireless modem yet.) When I did get one, about a year ago, the Wii figured things out on its own again.
    Also, my son”s 2nd Gen Touch connected right up as did my 3rd Gen, which I just got 2 days ago.
    My only tip/help would be to recommend the Dlink wireless router that I have and have had only great experiences with it, (unlike the shiny, beautiful, white Netgear top of the line that I bought first and took it back two days later. It didn’t like Macs, said the “customer service” rep. on the phone after more than an hour of troubleshooting.) The Dlink is model WBR-2310 and I highly recommend it for Mac users, especially if going for the PS3 and Wii linkups and the iTouch ease with which they connect. It is a >wireless< product, though, so expect the occasional drop, but honestly, maybe 2 in the year that I have owned it. Which reminds me, it could be discontinued by now, but if so, just look for an 'upgrade' model number, ie. WBR-3310 or 2320, maybe 2410. It was around 50 U.S $, so keep that in mind while looking.
    So, has anyone had any luck using their cellphone to get their Touch online???
    I have seen it done, by a Manager at an Electronics store, he told me what it took, but I didn't write it down, so it is gone now.

    Sorry for the babble, I guess I was in the mood to run on,
    I hope someone enjoyed or got something useful out of it, I know I was appreciative when the Circuit City fellow recommended the Dlink after l told him 'iMac and PS3' he replied, "me too, check this out…". I miss Circuit City.


  24. Cacasoft

    Very nice!!! Thanks! It worked completely (with a few adjustments on the steps because I have Leopard).

  25. HDTV Calibration

    ehternet cables are still the ones that i use for my home networking applications *:,

  26. Peter

    Some one please help. Built-in Ethernet is not an option on my drop down and I don’t know what to do

  27. William

    I see this was started in 2007–Does it still work in 2012? I do not get the same dialogue boxes or options now.

  28. Dylan

    When I have internet sharing on, I can’t connect to other WiFi. It works well when I have an ethernet cord plug into my computer but when I went to class and I tried to connect to my school’s WiFi it didnt connect nor pop up on my WiFi list. It just shows my internet sharing username and when I tried to turn internet sharing off it doesn’t turn off. aIt saids its off in system preferences but it still shows up in my WiFi and it still stays on.

  29. james

    it helps somewhat

  30. james

    it helpsme alot thanks

  31. Joser

    i’ve been using this method for years and have never had a problem connecting our iDevices to it. However, I can’t seem to connect a wi-fi enabled bluray player or an xbox to it. Any insights? Both bluray & xbox see connection, but can’t connect to internet thru it.

  32. Pam

    I’m not too techie. Can I use this way of connection to set up a desktop Mac with a DSL line to connect the SMart TV features of my new TV? I don’t have a laptop.

    • patrick

      Yes, you probably can do this. However, check first to see if your DSL already has a wireless modem/router.


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