Sharing your Windows internet connection via software has traditionally been a tricky business.
There are programs that can help you do it, but they're often awkward to set up, and prone to complicated security and reliability issues, so most people don't even try.
But that could all be about to change, thanks to a new Windows 7 feature called Virtual Wi-Fi.
The idea is a simple one: the operating system can virtualise any compatible wireless adapter, to make it appear as though you've as many additional adapters as you need.
The effect is dramatic. Once it's set up, then any Wi-Fi compatible device that can connect to you - another desktop, laptop, or an iPod Touch, say - will immediately be able to get online, by sharing your internet connection through a duplicate of your wireless adapter.
Getting this working isn't too difficult, either, as long as you can get over the first hurdle: finding a virtual Wi-Fi-compatible driver for your wireless adapter.
Intel's latest 32-bit and 64-bit drivers now include support, as do various others for Atheros, Broadcom, Realtek and other big players, but these don't apply to every chipset. Check the support site for your wireless adapter to see what's available.
If you're in luck and manage to find and install an up-to-date Windows 7 driver for your adapter, then the next step is to set it up, and for that you'll need an elevated command prompt. Click Start, type CMD, right-click the Cmd.exe link and select "Run as Administrator".
Now type the following command:
and press [Enter]. Replace "MyNet" with the name you'd like to use for your custom network, and "MyPassword" with a password that's a little harder to guess.
Still at the command line, type
and press [Enter] to fire up the virtual adapter.
Now click Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Centre > Change Adapter Settings, right-click your internet connection and select Properties. Click the Sharing tab, check "Allow other network users to connect...", choose your virtual Wi-Fi adaptor - and that's it.
Any nearby Wi-Fi enabled device should see a new network appear with the SSID you defined above. They'll be able to connect to it using your password, and can then immediately share your internet connection.
While it's worth knowing how to do this manually, if it's something you do often then you'll probably prefer a simpler solution.
You could speed things up a little by creating a batch file to run the netsh commands, perhaps, but for a really easy life we'd recommend you install Virtual Router. It's compact, free, and will automate the whole process for you with the minimum of hassle.