I travel for work a few times a month so being able to wirelessly stream Netflix to my hotel room’s nice big HD TV is a great way to unwind after being on the road all day. I started doing this a few years ago with my HTC One S using HTC’s proprietary HD Media Link. When the Google Chromecast was announced last year, I got really excited that could use my Nexus 7, or even my laptop, to stream videos and grabbed one from Best Buy when they launched. Sadly, my first attempt to connect a Chromecast to hotel WiFi was a dismal failure and 45 minutes of Dr. Who time was wasted searching the internet without finding a working solution.
At the time, I didn’t find any answers, but a few months later got into a chat with a hotel IT contractor and asked about how they sort out which devices can connect to the network. Turns out that authorization is MAC (Media Access Control) address based, just like my home cable modem, which led me to the “Charter” solution of spoofing my Chromecast’s MAC address to get things working. The issue is, free hotel WiFi uses a sign on portal so the WiFi is really only free for hotel guests. On an Android device you’ll see a notification or opening a new web page on any device will redirects you to the sign-in page. Once you do sign in, your device’s MAC address is authorized for a period of time, typically 24 hours. Where we get stuck with a Chromecast dongle is there is no way to sign in. The solution is to spoof the dongle’s MAC address on another device that you can sign in with.
To begin, plug-in your Chromecast and go through the set up on the device you will be casting from. In Android or the iOS apps, select your Chromecast from the ones that might be on the network (should just be you) and it will show you all the settings and details of the dongle. We just need the MAC address for the next step; write it down and unplug the USB cable from the dongle to turn it off.
Next, open your laptop’s WiFi card hardware settings. This can be done through the connection manager or hardware manager on Windows XP/Vista/7/8. Apple’s OS X and Linux settings are a bit different, but the values are the same.
On Windows, we’re looking for “Locally Administered MAC Address” under the advanced tab. Enter the MAC address you copied down from the Chromecast dongle setup in the previous step.
Next, connect your laptop to the hotel WiFi network and open your browser. Any attempt to navigate to a website should redirect you to the sign-in page. Sign in, and once authorized, disconnect from the hotel’s WiFi. Once disconnected, remove the Locally Administered MAC Address you just set on your laptop so there are not two devices connected to the network at the same time, with the same MAC address.
We now have the Chromecast’s MAC authorized to use the hotel’s free WiFi. Plug your dongle back in and it will connect to the internet on its own. You will stay connected to the internet, and can stream, for 24 hours or so unless you power off the Chromecast for an extended period which kicks you off their network again (all depending on the hotel’s policy for internet sessions). If you do get kicked off, repeat the previous steps (from the beginning, unless you saved the Chromecast’s MAC address) to authorize the dongle again.
The MAC address spoofing instructions provided are for Windows, but the principle of spoofing a MAC address is the same for any device. Do a search for local MAC address and the specific operating system you are using to find out how. This can also be used for pretty much any public WiFi network that requires a sign-in (a good number of restaurants have HDTV’s and public WiFi).
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