How to Connect Roku to Your Dorm Wi-Fi (for Free)
By Phil Autelitano
At least once a day I get an email or phone call from someone in their dowm trying to get their Roku device to work with their dorm’s router and Internet connection. Problem is, you can’t connect Roku directly if the dorm’s Internet requires a login and password.
Why they call me, I don’t know! Sure, I develop TV channels and applications for Roku (and it clearly says so on my website) and I do write and post a lot of stuff about Roku, but no where among any of it does it say I offer Roku Technical Support. (That can be found here: http://support.roku.com/home) Oh well. Regardless, I’m always happy to help if I can, but lately I’ve been so busy and I hate to leave anyone hanging, so I thought I’d write out a few simple instructions, post them here and on my website, and then let Google do the rest. Hopefully, next time someone searches, “Connecting Roku to Dorm Wifi” or “Roku Dorm Setup” or whatever, they find this first.
TIME-SAVING TIP#1. Before we go on, it’s my duty to point out there is a great *paid* solution to all of this, it’s called Hotspot Max and it’s a virtual hotspot. It takes your hotel wifi and turns it into a separate hotspot to which you CAN connect your Roku. It typically sells for $50, but right now you can get it for $12.50 and save yourself a bundle, and the trouble of the coming steps. You simply download it and you’re up and running on the dorm’s WiFi in seconds. You can get it via our website: http://mediarazzi.com/hotelwifi
Next, some people will tell you the best way is to go out and buy a Travel Router. Granted, this IS a great solution. However, if you’re sitting in your dorm room RIGHT NOW and have no idea WHERE to buy a travel router, and/or no TIME to go and get one, or to order one and wait for it to arrive, or if you’d simply rather not waste the hundred bucks or so (and you don’t feel like spending the $12.50 on Hotspot Max) then a Virtual Router is probably your BEST — and only — bet at this point, and it’s FREE!
Here’s how to make it work:
- First, you will need a laptop running WINDOWS. I can’t speak for Mac, so you’ll have to find another solution or simply get yourself a Windows laptop specifically for this purpose. If you’re reading THIS, however, there’s a good chance you’re already connected to the dorm’s Internet via a laptop (hopefully a Windows one). If you’re reading on a smartphone though, hopefully, you brought a laptop, too. If not, you’re probably gonna be S.O.L. but there is a super-sneaky way around it that might work for you and I’ll explain later, so read on.*
- Next, you’ll need to connect your laptop to the dorm’s Internet. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already connected. This should be the easy part for you, provided you have the correct login and password.
- Once connected, open your favorite browser (I prefer Chrome) and navigate your way to: http://virtualrouter.codeplex.com then click on the big purple Download button to download Virtual Router Wifi Hotspot for Windows 8, 7, and 2008 R2. After you download it, INSTALL it and RUN it. (It should automatically run after you install it, if not, find it on your Desktop or Start page and run it.
4. Before you can do anything with the Virtual Router, though, you’ll need to find and open your Command Prompt first. In Windows 8 or better, from your Start screen you can simply curse to the right, click Search and then Search Apps for Command Prompt or simply, “cmd”. In other Windows programs, you’ll probably find it in Accessories under System Tools. Wherever you find it, you’ll need to Right+Click the actual Command Prompt icon and select Open As Administrator in order to run it properly for this exercise.
5. In your Command Prompt, type the following EXACTLY as you see it then hit ENTER: netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow
6. Your system is now setup to use the Virtual Router. Close Command Prompt and go to this screen: (The Virtual Router program should be running already, if not, find it and run it.)
7. You will now create your own Wi-Fi Hotspot using your laptop. Give your “Network” a name in the SSID box, then create a password. Select Wi-Fi in the drop-down menu, then click “Start Virtual Router.” If you did everything right up to this point, you should see the words, “Virtual Router Started…” at the bottom of the window.
8. Hook up Roku to your TV, wait for it to turn on, then go to Settings > Network > Wireless (Wi-Fi) and setup as you normally would any wireless network, this time selecting your virtual “network” and entering the password you created for it.
Voila! Your Roku is now connected!
Don’t count on it working 100%. Since you’re using the dorm’s connection along with a bunch of other students and staff, it’s probably going to run much slower than home. Don’t count on getting your other devices to run optimally while you’re connected to Roku and/or using it either.
You should be good enough to watch your favorite channels, catch up on the news and maybe even watch some movies with minimal buffering. Be considerate though and turn off the Virtual Router when you’re done using your Roku, that way you can free up the Internet for other people to use. You don’t want to hog it all!
Hopefully that helps. If not and you’re still having trouble getting it to work, you’ll find some troubleshooting info on the CodePlex website where you downloaded it. If that doesn’t help, my support guys might be available to help, shoot them an email at email@example.com
TIME-SAVING TIP#2. Once again, as a reminder, if you don’t feel like taking the above steps or you find yourself pulling your hair out, it may be worth it to just spend the $12.50 for Hotspot Max — you’ll be up and running in seconds. You can get it for the discount via our website: http://mediarazzi.com/hotelwifi
Once you DO get connected, be sure to check out some of our awesome channels, including Vegas Sports Advisors (sports analysis and free picks for sports bettors), Whisky a Go Go (hard rock and metal, old and new) and Where’s the 80's? (retro-80s music and fun content).
*Oh, I almost forgot… If you did NOT bring a Windows laptop with you or you don’t have one, there IS a simple workaround that might work for you. If your dorm has a student lounge or student center—many schools have one now with at least one community computer for all to use — simply download the Virtual Router to THEIR computer. Set it up and run it just as you would your own computer, following the instructions above. Go back to your dorm room and see if you’re in range to connect. If not, you may want to connect your Roku to the TV in the student lounge instead.
Phil Autelitano is founder and CEO of Mediarazzi. We build branded TV channels and applications for Roku and Connected TV, including Paula Deen Channel, Ring TV with Oscar de la Hoya, Raw Country, and more.