The Mac|Life 101 series is where you can come to learn new and simple ways to do things with Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems. Whether you’re new to the platform, or just want to learn a new technique, then MacLife 101 is for you.
Whether you’re traveling, or in a situation where you need to use your iPad or iPhone where there is little or no Wi-Fi, there’s a solution, and it involves your Mac. With almost all Macs shipping in the past 10 years, you can instantly create a Wi-Fi or ethernet network by simply turning on a few switches in System Preferences. This is great for those times when you need a Wi-Fi or ethernet connection and don't have access to a router.
Creating an Ad-hoc Wireless Network
Creating your very own wireless network using your Mac is easy. To do this, you’ll need a wired ethernet connection (or if you’re still using dial-up, you can use that as well). Simply connection using your wired option, and then open System Preferences > Sharing > Internet Sharing.
Once here, select the “Ethernet” (or another) option from the “Share your connection from” drop-down menu, and then check the “Wi-Fi” option from the “To computers using” section.
You can optionally set up your SSID (Network Name), Channel, and Security options by selecting the “Wi-Fi Options...” button that appears when selecting “Wi-Fi” as the share to option.
Once you’re ready to share, check the “Internet Sharing” option from the Services list in the Sharing Preference Pane. Your Mac will begin taking the ethernet Internet connection, and begin sharing it wirelessly over Wi-Fi using the Network Name selected in the Wi-Fi Options. You can connect to the wireless network with your iPad, iPhone, or other Wi-Fi-enabled devices just as you would with any wireless router.
Creating an Ad-hoc Ethernet Network
Let’s say we need to do the opposite: Create an ethernet network from a wireless network. Well, your Mac can oblige in this case as well.
Navigate back to the System Preferences > Sharing preference pane, and select Internet Sharing from the list of available services. From the “Share your connection from” drop-down menu, select “Wi-Fi,” and then select “Ethernet” from the “To computers using” section.
Connect an ethernet cable from your Mac’s ethernet port, to another machine (Mac or PC), and then enable the Internet Sharing option by checking the box labeled “Internet Sharing” in the services list in the Sharing preference pane. Your Mac will begin sharing your Wi-Fi Internet connection over the ethernet cable that is plugged into another machine, giving the secondary machine an Internet connection in a pinch.
Cory Bohon is a freelance technology writer, indie Mac and iOS developer, and amateur photographer. Follow this article's author on Twitter.