• May 24, 2024, 4:28 am

How to use your phone as a hotspot SoftAIT

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Update : Sunday, November 12, 2023

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You only realize WiFi is not as ubiquitous as you thought it was when your boss wants to hop on a last-minute video call and the coffee shop you’re at has no guest network. That’s when you’d better know how to use your phone as a hotspot.

That type of urgent scenario is not the best moment to figure out how to connect your laptop or tablet to your mobile network, so you might as well learn now. That way, the next time you find yourself in a tricky situation, you’ll be ready to hop online. 

A quick note: some mobile plans do not support hotspotting, so even though your phone has the ability to share data, nothing will happen unless your mobile service provider allows it. So before you start trying to tether your device, confirm that your plan has a dedicated hotspot quota or that you are allowed to use your phone’s data on another device. 

How to use an iPhone as a hotspot

On iOS, you’ll find the hotspot menu by opening the Settings app, and tapping Personal Hotspot. If you’re using an older version of iOS, you may need to go to Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot. Enabling it is as easy as toggling on the switch next to Allow others to join, but don’t do that yet unless you know you’re alone.

[Related: The best mobile hotspots of 2023]

You don’t want just anybody to piggyback on your data plan, so make sure you set up a secure password before you create a hotspot. From the Personal Hotspot menu, tap Wi-Fi password and type in a safe one—think a semi-long combination of letters (upper- and lowercase), numbers, and special characters. 

Now that your hotspot is ready to go, choose how you want to connect. Apple’s mobile devices provide some options.

Connect to your iPhone hotspot using WiFi

This is the easiest way to use your personal hotspot, as it turns your iPhone into a router. Doing so allows you to connect your tablet or laptop to it as you would to any other WiFi network. You can also connect via USB or Bluetooth (those sections are below), but those methods are a little more complicated.

1. Make sure you’re ready to use your phone as a hotspot by toggling on the switch next to Allow others to join.

2. On your laptop or tablet (or whatever other device you want to use your mobile data), open the WiFi settings and search for a signal. 

You can do this on a Mac by clicking the WiFi icon in the top right corner of your screen. Your system will automatically detect nearby networks and list them for you. If you don’t see the name of your iPhone (that’s the name of your hotspot), click Other networks

On a PC, open the System Tray by clicking the three icons to the left of the clock in the bottom right corner of your screen. Make sure the WiFi icon is blue (that means it’s on), then click the arrow next to it to open your computer’s WiFi settings—you’ll see a list of the available networks containing your iPhone’s name. 

3. Regardless of the make of your device, once you find your iPhone on the list of WiFi networks, select it, type in the hotspot password, and you’ll be all set.

How to use your Android as a hotspot

Before you turn on your WiFi mobile hotspot make sure to protect it with a safe password. Android

Before you hook any device up to your Android phone’s mobile data, you’ll need to set up your personal hotspot. Swipe down with two fingers from the top of your screen to open the Quick Settings menu, then tap the cog icon in the bottom right corner of the screen to open Settings. Go to Network & internet, then Hotspot & tethering

Here you’ll find a toggle switch for every way to connect a device to your hotspot: Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth tethering, USB tethering, and Ethernet tethering. The last two options will be blurred out unless your phone is already connected to a device via a USB or Ethernet cable. WiFi will likely be the easiest, but if you’re interested in trying something else, you can skip to the sections on USB tethering and Bluetooth tethering below.

Connect to your Android hotspot using WiFi

1. Tap Wi-Fi hotspot to set it up. Start by giving your hotspot a name—by default, it’ll be the name of your device, but you can change it to anything you want. 

Next, set up a Hotspot password to secure your connection and prevent strangers from draining your data plan. Make sure to choose a good one—a semi-long series of letters (upper- and lowercase), numbers, and special characters. 

You have two other options you can set up. Toggle on the switch next to Turn off hotspot automatically, and your Android phone will disable the feature whenever there are no devices connected to it. You can also tap the switch next to Extend compatibility, so your phone makes more of an effort to be discoverable to other devices. This will use up more battery power, so make sure to turn it off if you’re running out of juice. 

Once you’re done setting up your personal hotspot, hit the toggle switch next to Use Wi-Fi hotspot to turn it on. 

Screen showing macOS WiFi quick settings with a connection to a mobile hotspot.
Using your phone as a WiFi hotspot is the easiest way to share your mobile data. Apple

2. On your laptop or tablet (or whatever device you want to connect to your hotspot), open 

the WiFi settings. 

On a Mac, click the WiFi icon in the top right corner of your screen. Your system will find nearby networks automatically and list them for you. If you don’t see the name you gave your hotspot, click Other networks

If you’re using a PC, click the three icons to the left of the clock in the bottom right corner of your screen to open the System Tray panel. Make sure the WiFi icon is on (it should be blue), and open your computer’s WiFi settings by clicking the arrow next to it. There, you’ll see a list of available networks containing your hotspot’s name. 

Use your phone as a hotspot over a USB cable

You can connect your tablet or laptop to your phone’s hotspot via a USB cable, but it’s a lot easier with an Android. When it works, though, the connection between your phone and hotspot-using device is smooth as silk. 

Connect to your iPhone hotspot through a USB cable

There’s a catch here: You may only be able to easily do this between Apple products, so you might not be able to share your iPhone’s data with your PC or Chromebook, for example. 

1. On your iPhone, make sure your hotspot is active (from the Personal Hotspot menu, toggle on the switch next to Allow others to join) and connect your phone to your Mac using a USB cable. 

2. An alert will appear on your Mac—click Trust this device. You should see your iPhone appear as a drive on your computer’s Finder and you should be able to go online. 

If you’re not connected, go to your Mac’s System Settings and Network. You should see iPhone USB on the list of services—open it, click Make inactive, then Make active, and you should be good to go.

If you don’t see iPhone USB on the list, you’ll need to set it up as a new network. Scroll down all the way, click the three-dots dropdown menu, and choose Add service. Then follow Apple’s instructions to finish the setup.

Connect to your Android hotspot using a USB cable

Screen showing the connectivity icons on a Windows computer home screen.
When your computer is running on your phone’s data, you’ll see this icon change on the Windows task bar. Windows

Tethering your Mac or PC to your Android phone is surprisingly easy, and the connection is seamless. 

1. Connect your Android phone to your Mac or PC with a USB cable.

2. Go to the Hotspot & tethering menu (Settings > Network & internet > Hotspot & tethering) and toggle the switch next to USB tethering. The option will only be available if there’s a cable connecting your phone to another device. 

3. On a PC, Windows will offer to set up the connection between your phone and laptop, but you’ll realize you don’t have to do anything—as soon as you turn on the USB hotspot, your computer will connect to the internet. 

Screen showing macOS's network settings and a connection to a USB hotspot.
As soon as you turn on your phone’s USB hotspot, your Mac computer should be able to use your mobile data. Apple

Something similar happens on a Mac—when you connect your phone, macOS will ask if you trust it. Click Trust this device and you should automatically have an internet connection. If you don’t, go to Settings and Network, and under Other services find your phone’s name. Open the item and click the button Make Inactive, which will change to Make active. Click it again and you should be good to go. 

How to create a phone hotspot with Bluetooth

You can share your phone’s cellular data with another device over Bluetooth, but connectivity tends to be slower and more finicky than WiFi- or USB-driven hotspots. In fact, we had so much trouble getting this to work that it might only be useful as a last resort.

Connect to your iPhone hotspot using Bluetooth

For this, you’ll need to pair your phone to whatever device you want to connect to the internet—how you do that will depend on your device. 

1. On your iPhone, make sure your hotspot is on (from the Personal Hotspot menu, toggle on the switch next to Allow others to join).

2. If you’re connecting your Mac to your hotspot, go to System Settings and on the left sidebar go to Bluetooth. If you’ve ever connected your iPhone to your Mac via Bluetooth, you’ll see your phone’s name under My devices—just hover the mouse over its name and click on the Connect button that appears. If you’ve never connected your gadgets, you should find your phone’s name under Nearby devices—you may have to scroll down a bit to see it. Hover the mouse over your phone’s name, click Connect, and follow the instructions on screen. 

If you’re trying to tether your iPhone to a PC, open the System Tray by clicking on the three icons to the left of the clock in the bottom right corner of your screen. Make sure the Bluetooth icon is blue (that means it’s on) and click the arrow next to it to open your computer’s Bluetooth settings. If you’ve connected your iPhone to your PC in the past, you should find your phone’s name under Your devices, but if you haven’t, you’ll find it under New devices. Either way, just click on it and follow the instructions on screen to establish a connection. 

Once the devices are paired, you’ll need to connect to the internet on your laptop. It’s very different depending on the make of your computer, and it’s definitely not as intuitive as hopping on a WiFi network.  

On a Mac, click the Control Center icon (two toggle switches) in the upper right corner of your screen. From the emerging menu, click Bluetooth to see a list of connected devices. Find your phone and hover the mouse over it—click Connect to Network when the option appears. 

On a PC, open Settings and go to Network & Internet. Scroll all the way down and under Related settings, pick More network adapter options. On the emerging window, you should see an item called Bluetooth Network Connection—open it, find your phone, and right-click on it. On the menu, hover over Connect using and choose Access point to connect to the web.

Connect to your Android hotspot using Bluetooth

If your devices play nice with each other over Bluetooth, you can use your mobile data plan with your laptop. Just keep in mind that some Android phones, like the Pixel 7, may have trouble connecting to a Mac computer. If that’s the case for you, we suggest you save yourself some grief by choosing the easier WiFi approach. 

Screen showing Windows network settings.
Choosing your Bluetooth-paired device as your internet connection on your PC is anything but intuitive. Windows

1. Make sure your laptop is discoverable through Bluetooth. On a Mac, open the Control Center and ensure the Bluetooth icon is blue—if it’s not, click it to turn it on. On a PC, open the System Tray by clicking the icons to the left of the clock (bottom right corner of your screen) and make sure the Bluetooth icon is blue. If it’s not, click it to enable it.

2. On your phone, swipe down with one finger from the top of your phone screen to open the notification drawer, and on the tiles at the top of your screen, long-press on Bluetooth.

3. If you’ve tethered your phone and laptop before, find your laptop’s name under Saved devices, tap the cog icon next to it, and choose Connect on the next screen. If you’ve never paired your gadgets, choose Pair new device. Wait until your laptop appears in the list of discoverable nearby devices, and select it to start the pairing process. You’ll see prompts with five-digit codes on both screens—make sure they match and confirm the pairing. 

[Related: How to find free WiFi when you really need it]

Once the devices are paired, you’ll need to connect to the internet on your laptop. This will work differently depending on the make of your computer, and it won’t be as intuitive as hopping on a WiFi network.  

On a Mac, open the Control Center by clicking its icon (two sliders) in the upper right corner of your computer screen. On the emerging menu, click Bluetooth to see a list of connected devices. Find your phone and hover the mouse over it—click Connect to Network when the option appears. 

On a PC, open Settings and go to Network & Internet. Scroll all the way down and under Related settings, pick More network adapter options. On the emerging window, you should see an item called Bluetooth Network Connection—double-click to open it, find your phone, and right-click on it. On the menu, hover over Connect using and choose Access point.



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