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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Networking
Computers

How to Share Your Mac's Internet Connection

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

It seems that you need the Internet to do anything productive these days. Sadly, many modern desktop computers don’t come with WiFi. Manufacturers expect you to either buy a wireless card after you find this out or share your wireless connection from another computer.

The second method works well the other way, too: take a wired Internet connection and broadcast it with your integrated WiFi card. So how do you set up all these fancy features? In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to share an Internet connection from your Mac to any wired or wireless device, whether it be an Xbox or PC.


Internet Sharing Explained

Suppose that you have an old notebook PC sitting on your desk, unable to connect to WiFi due to its lack of modern hardware. It does, of course, have an ethernet port. Using that, you can connect your Mac to the wired notebook and connect it to the Internet quickly. This can also be handy if you need to get WiFi drivers for the USB adapter you just bought for it.

An Apple AirPort Extreme that's full of ethernet devices.
An Apple AirPort Extreme that's full of ethernet devices.

Another way of using Internet sharing is as a replacement for a router. Usually, a router would broadcast a signal to computers in its radius and allow them to connect to the Internet.

Now, if you don’t want to spend money on a nice one, you can just use an old Mac mini (not that everyone has one of those lying around) or iMac to act as one. It simply receives the Internet connection from the modem through ethernet and distributes it properly using the built-in WiFi card. I used this at my parents’ house when they didn’t want to invest in a router.


Option 1. Turning Your Mac Into a Router

To broadcast your Internet connection wirelessly, you’ll need a WiFi card that’s either built in to your Mac or connected via USB. I do not recommend leaving the computer on constantly because it will drain the life of the components.

Step 1. Open the Sharing Pane in System Preferences

The Sharing pane of System Preferences.
The Sharing pane of System Preferences.

First, launch the System Preferences app and open the Sharing pane. In the left pane, you’ll find options to share anything from your screen to your printer. Select Internet Sharing to begin configuring the connection.

Step 2. Adjust Sharing Options

Adding security settings to my wireless network.
Adding security settings to my wireless network.

To start sharing an ethernet connection wirelessly, click the drop-down menu beside Share your connection from and select Ethernet, or Thunderbolt Ethernet if you’re using an adapter. Optionally, if you’re running the connection through a VPN, select the appropriate one in the drop-down menu instead of using ethernet. This will allow all traffic from other devices to also run through the VPN.

With the wired portion set up, check the box beside Wi-Fi. To add security to and change the name of your wireless network, click Wi-Fi Options in the bottom right corner of the window. The default channel is 11, but you can change it to whatever you’d like.

As for security, the only option available is WPA2 Personal. Unfortunately, OS X will not generate a password for you. The only requirements, though, are that it be at least eight characters in length — it doesn’t matter whether you have capital letters or numbers combined. When you’re finished configuring the network settings, click OK.

Step 3. Begin Broadcasting

A warning that things may get criss-crossed.
A warning that things may get criss-crossed.

After checking all those boxes and such, you’d think everything should be working properly. However, you have to actually enable Internet sharing first. To do this, check the box beside Internet Sharing in the menu to the left. You’ll be warned that Internet sharing may cause problems on your network if other computers are connected to it, but if you are sure everything will be okay, click the Start button to begin broadcasting. I don’t recommend connecting your computer to a router or port switch and broadcasting wirelessly because the signals can get mixed up.


Option 2. Sharing Internet to a Wired Device

Sharing of a wireless signal to a wired device.
Sharing of a wireless signal to a wired device.

Sharing your wireless connection to a wired device is much more simple than doing things the other way around. Once you’ve connected the host computer to the one that needs Internet, it’s a quick seven-step process.

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Select the Sharing pane.
  3. Click Internet Sharing in the left pane.
  4. Click the drop-down menu beside Share your Internet connection from and select Wi-Fi.
  5. In the To computers using list, check the box beside Ethernet, or Thunderbolt Ethernet if you’re using an adapter.
  6. Check the box beside Internet Sharing in the left pane.
  7. Check the connection on your other computer.

Sharing Internet to an Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 didn’t have wireless capability when it first released, and most people bought the early models. Since $80 is too much to spend on a wireless adapter from Microsoft, why not use your Mac as a way to connect to the Internet on your Xbox? Doing so only takes five minutes, but is a bit more complicated than sharing to any old computer.

  1. Connect the two devices via ethernet.
  2. Follow the steps for WiFi to ethernet sharing in the section above.
  3. Click the Show All button in the top left of System Preferences and navigate to the Network pane.
  4. If necessary, unlock the pane by clicking the padlock in the bottom left.
  5. Select Wi-Fi in the left pane.
  6. Click Advanced in the bottom right corner.
  7. Click the DNS tab and note the numbers under DNS Servers (you should only have one set).
  8. Click OK, select Ethernet or Thunderbolt Ethernet and click Advanced.
  9. In the TCP/IP tab, set Configure IPv4 to Off using the drop-down menu.
  10. Click OK, then click Apply and quit System Preferences.
  11. On your Xbox, head to Network Settings, select Wired Network, and then select Configure Network
  12. Set the IP address in the Basic Settings tab to Manual and enter 192.168.2.2 into the field.
  13. In the Subnet Mask field, enter 255.255.255.0; also, set the Gateway to 192.168.2.1 and press Done.
  14. Select DNS Settings and insert the numbers you wrote down earlier into the applicable fields.
  15. Test the connection.

Begin Connecting

Finally, that old rusty computer can be brought out of the closet. You can install Linux (I suggest Ubuntu) on it and bring the little thing back to life without buying a WiFi card or anything.

Likewise, you can make your home completely wireless using your Mac as the router — they’re good and they save you quite a bit of money. In the comments below, let us know if you have any questions, and tell us what you’re using Internet sharing for.

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