Sunday, 12 August 2012

Internet Sharing WiFi with WEP encryption from OSX to non-Apple devices

I almost entitled this post as "How To Use Your Mac As A WiFi Hot-Spot", but hopefully the title I used will help more people find the article and get the simple answer on how to connect to Airport via Internet Sharing when using WEP as security.

There are a lot of simple articles about how to use your Mac as a WiFi Hot-Spot by sharing your Ethernet connection. If you don't know how to do that yet, then I recommend reading "How to Use Your Mac as a Wireless Router" which covers the general setup process nicely, although it does not address the problems you can face when using WEP and trying to connect from non-Apple devices (e.g Android phone/tablet, Windows PC, PS3, Wii, etc.)

The Mac Mini that I was using to share WiFi was running OS X 10.6.8, so the setup screens are slightly different from those in the article above. Here's a screenshot if you want to compare:



Mac OS X 10.6.8 only supports WEP security on Internet Sharing so you either have to use WEP or no security. Nobody wants uninvited users on their network, so using WEP is recommended. Unfortunately using WEP is what usually causes non-Apple devices to fail to connect to the network.

There is a "trick" to get it to work that I will clearly outline for you here, so you don't have to cobble together the solution from a half-dozen sources that all point in the direction but never actually have all the required steps (as I had to do).

This is the process that worked for me:

  • Set a Network Name that does not include spaces or special characters, you may need to reduce the name length (my actual Network Name is 9 characters long)
  • Leave the Channel as automatic unless you need to use something specific
  • Check the box for "Enable encryption (using WEP)"
  • Set the WEP Key Length to "40-bit (more compatible)"

Now comes the arcane step that will allow your non-Apple devices to connect
  • You must use a Password containing five HEXADECIMAL values prefixed with a dollar sign ($). The $ prefix tells your Mac you are entering a hexadecimal value. You do not need to use the $ prefix when connecting to the your Mac
  • Hexadecimal values contain of a pair of characters which are limited to 0-9 and A-F, so you need to enter a password which starts with $ and then has ten characters which must be numbers or the letters A, B, C, D, E or F. (examples $A1B2C3D4E5, $1234567890, $2FACEDBABE )
  • As soon as you enter the $ in the Password field, the WEP Key Length and the OK button will be disabled. When you have entered the same value in Confirm Password (including the $ prefix) then the OK button will be enabled for you to click.
  • If you want to use 128-bit encryption, you must enter 13 hexadecimal values, which equates to 26 characters plus the $ prefix. As soon as you type a password longer than described for 40-bit, then the disabled WEP Key Length field will change to 128-bit. (Note: I have not tested that 128-bit actually works)
  • Click OK and then check the Internet Sharing box, and then click Start.

You should now be able to connect your non-Apple device (and your Apple devices) to your HotSpot using the new password. Remember, you do not need to use the $ prefix when connecting to your Mac.

If you are still unable to connect to your Mac, it may be because your device is failing to receive an IP Address. This is a common problem with Playstation3 consoles, and there is a fix for that which I will detail in my next post How To: Connect Your PS3 To Mac Internet Sharing WiFi.


Note: This is a follow-up post to Dealing With WiFi Dead Zones.


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