What Is A Captive Portal

What Is A Captive Portal

October 19, 2020 Travel WiFi Blog 0

What Is A Captive Portal?

If you are unfamiliar with captive portals, they are the popups you get that prompt you to login or provide additional information prior to using the Hotel, AirBnb or other locations WiFi. Captive portals are rarely used at most AirBnb’s. However, at most hotels they are common place. Very few hotels allow you to use their WiFi without accepting terms and conditions, entering a room name, an additional password screen or other consideration.

Why Do They Exist

Captive Portals allow for more advanced security with WiFi. Unlike simple password like you might find with your home WIFi, or no password where there are no restrictions at all, a captive allows businesses the opportunity top secure their WiFi using things like names, room numbers, account numbers or other custom information. In addition, captive portals can present terms and conditions or other legal disclaimers they need users to accept prior to using their internet.

Why Do Some Devices Not Work With Them

There are a wide variety of devices that do not work with Captive Portals – these range from streaming sticks such as the older Google Chromecasts to gaming devices such as the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. In addition, some devices may struggle with captive portals. Older laptops or those running an uncommon operating system may have trouble. Even mainstream devices such as Roku’s need or work better when combined with a mobile app that can more easily handle captive portals.

Captive Portals generally require a web browser to work, generally a modern one that supports advanced features. Devices that don’t work with captive portals often share something in common: they don’t have or have a very limited web browser. Therefore they cannot display the more advanced page needed to gain full access to the WIFi network.

While many users who primarily only use them home and work WIFi networks won’t have trouble, regular travelers will run across them regularly. They are common in hotels, coffee shops, airports and conference centers.

What To Do About It

There are a few options to handle captive portals for multiple devices or for devices that don’t work with them:

Laptop Internet Connection Sharing

If you have a Windows 10 laptop you can share your internet connection. This creates a small WiFi network using using your Laptops internet connection that devices that don’t work captive portals can connect to.

  1. Connect your laptop to the hotels internet
  2. Complete any login/captive portal information screens
  3. Find the WiFi connection in the lower right hand corner of your laptop screen
  4. Right click and select “Share Internet Connection”
  5. Connect the devices wirelessly to your laptop

If you have a Mac you may also be able to share your internet connection by going into System Preference -> Sharing. However, many Mac laptops do not have the hardware to share the WiFi connection to another wireless device.

Phone Hotspot

If your data plan allows it you can by pass the hotel WiFi and simply use your phone’s hotspot. A few select models can actually even share the hotels WiFi, but that is becoming increasingly rare.

Do note that unless your phone can share the hotel’s WiFi network you will be using data. While many people are on unlimited plans, those generally will throttle the hotspot data after a certain amount of use. Many other plans charge by the GB or don’t allow hotspots at all.

Travel Router

The best option is to use a travel router. A travel router will create a new WiFi network for your devices but will utilize the hotel’s internet connection. It can do this either by plugging into the hotel’s provided wired internet connection or by connecting to the hotel’s WiFi network.

This is by far the easiest and best solution available. The downside is its an additional device you need to buy and take with you. However, for regular travels this is a small burden for the ease of use.