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The day it occurred to me that I could use my smartphone as a modem was the day I suddenly realised that I was in love with my phone. Years later, tethering is the most natural thing in the world for many people, either with USB, Bluetooth, or via WiFi.

For Android users, these options are simple to setup. Using tethering with your laptop or tablet will give you a massive advantage. The data connection may be faster than the public WiFi in your favourite café, and you’ll certainly be able to get you connected for some light reading in the countryside.

Probably the biggest problem with tethering — other than how it can eat into your data allowance Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage Saving Mobile Data: 5 Clever Ways To Reduce Data Usage If you’re on a limited mobile data plan, you may find opening your bill to be harrowing experience. Is there an overage charge? How much? And why was there so much data used? While the... Read More  — is how it can impact your battery life.

The Answer To Universal Connectivity For WiFi Tablets & Laptops

For those of you who might be unaware (there won’t be many, but bear with me), “tethering” is the term given to connecting your phone via USB, Bluetooth, or WiFi to your computer and using the Internet connectivity from the phone to provide an Internet connection to the computer.

In the pre-iPhone days, this meant using an old-style feature phone to call a number that gave Internet access. If you were fortunate enough to own a Windows Mobile device (the forerunner to Windows Phone DOWNLOAD Understanding Windows Phone 7: Your Complete Guide DOWNLOAD Understanding Windows Phone 7: Your Complete Guide Microsoft isn't messing around when it comes to phones anymore. Windows Phone 7 doesn't just catch up with Android and the iPhone - in many ways it surpassed those platforms. Whether you think that statement... Read More ), then you could use the phone’s Internet connection and get online via the device network’s APN.

Following the release of the iPhone in 2007, cell phone networks began charging for tethering call plans How to Get a Tethered Android Connection On Any Carrier, Anytime How to Get a Tethered Android Connection On Any Carrier, Anytime There are ways to tether on any Android phone, even if your carrier has disabled tethering. The first method we'll be covering here doesn't require root (though rooted users have more options). Read More , although this money-grabbing practice has since been phased out almost completely, and these days, tethering is usually free. It’s also on pretty much every mobile platform, one way or another.

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Android’s Triumvirate Of Tethering Options Explained

Android owners have a triple choice of tethering options to share a connection with their PC, laptop, or tablet. You can either connect via Bluetooth, use your phone as a wireless hotspot, or go old school and hook your phone to your computer via USB.

muo-androidtethering-usb-cable

We’ll run through how to do each of these below, but that’s not all.

Along with the steps to setting up tethering on Android KitKat, we’ve also spent some time checking which of the three methods is likely to drain your battery quickest. To measure this I’ve used a Windows 8.1 tablet connected to a HTC One M7 (rooted How To Root Your First Generation HTC One How To Root Your First Generation HTC One Unusually, there are no special utilities that enable this – instead, you must use HTC's approved rooting method. Read More and running OmniROM 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device 5 Reasons Why You Should Flash OmniROM To Your Android Device With a bunch of custom ROM options out there, it can be hard to settle on just one -- but you should really consider OmniROM. Read More ).

Before proceeding, make sure you have enabled mobile Internet on your phone. Note that signal strength will impact speed, which might result in battery charge decreasing faster as the phone puts effort into downloading less data than it might with a full signal. I’ve provided speed results from www.speedtest.net for comparison.

USB Tethering

For the best results, use the USB cable that shipped with your phone, connecting the wider end to your PC and the smaller plug to the charging port on your phone.

muo-androidtethering-usb

Next, on your Android device, open Settings > Wireless & networks > More and find Tethering & portable hotspot. Here, check the USB tethering option. A notification area symbol should appear to confirm that the phone is now tethered to your computer.

Speed results

6.97 mbps download, 2.02 mbps upload, with an average ping of 66 ms

Battery impact

The effect on your battery depends on whether your laptop is plugged in or not. If it is, battery decrease should be slow-to-non-existent as the phone will be on slow charge. On the other hand, if your computer is running from its battery, the phone is potentially draining this rather than its own cell (it shouldn’t, but be aware that it might), so be aware that both might discharge faster than usual.

Bluetooth Tethering

For Bluetooth tethering to work, you must have first paired your device with your computer.

muo-androidtethering-bt

In the Settings > Wireless & networks > More > Tethering & portable hotspot screen, tap Bluetooth tethering. On your computer, open Control Panel > Hardware and sound > Devices and printers, right-click your phone’s icon and select connect Connect using > Access point.

Your phone should then display a notification that Bluetooth tethering is active.

Speed results

0.35 mbps download, 0.78 mbps upload, with an average ping of 289 ms

Battery impact

Heavy use really puts pressure on your battery with Bluetooth, with ten minutes of use eating 5% of the charge on my phone.

WiFi Hotspot

Easily the most convenient option, this uses both your mobile Internet and WiFi connections.

muo-androidtethering-wifi

Open Settings > Wireless & networks > More > Tethering & portable and check Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. (Your device may read Portable WLAN Hotspot.)

Meanwhile on your computer, ensure wireless networking is enabled and scan for your Android device, which is usually listed as AndroidAP. Input the passcode as displayed in the Set up Wi-Fi hotspot screen on your phone (making any other changes that are required) and the connection should be established.

Speed results

16.01 mbps download, 4.45 mbps upload, with an average ping of 55 ms

Battery impact

As with Bluetooth tethering, heavy use reduced battery by around 5% in 10 minutes. Standard use seems to be better with WiFi tethering, however, potentially lasting around 5-6 hours.

Using Tethering? Use USB For Best Battery Life

So, three methods of tethering, each with a different impact on your phone’s battery life.

There will be differences between how your laptop or tablet uses the Internet, what background tasks you have running and so forth, but for the best results on your Android smartphone’s battery life, USB tethering would seem to be the option that drains your phone the slowest, certainly based on the hardware used.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the fastest, making WiFi the best all-round option.

Do you tether often, or do you prefer to just connect to public WiFi? Let us know how you get your computer connected to the Internet.

Featured Image Credit: PlaceIt.net Image Credit: Micro USB cable via Shutterstock

  1. Jemma
    December 2, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I use USB tethering to get around the fact that my laptop and my dorm's wifi network are like... allergic to each other! :/ I have an old crappy phone I bought when I first moved to the country, which nonetheless has the secret superpower of maintaining near-constant connection to weird/overcrowded networks that other devices will only connect to intermittently, if at all. Doesn't even have any credit on the SIM card so this is definitely wifi. Whatever.

    My computer thinks it is an Ethernet connection and seems happy, internet speed is good enough for studying, etc. Actually, in general the dorm network is pretty good - they have two routers/networks on each floor, so there are only at most 5-6 people on each network (tall, narrow dorm building) and even at peak use times, voice and video VOIP calls work fine, although there is often an interruption every 10-20 minutes or so as the wifi goes down momentarily. I am a little far from the router and only get 3 bars of wifi reception (though at times, especially when fewer people are connected, it shows all four). I'm not sure why my computer refuses to even connect to it!

  2. Hemanth
    October 4, 2016 at 4:08 am

    After doing as instructed above, I see the option on my PC as connected but when I open any internet browser it says to connect to the internet. Please help me.

  3. Amitesh Srivastava
    August 12, 2016 at 6:15 am

    Is there any way to have laptop's wifi on my phone? I mean making laptop a hotspot instead of device.

  4. cyndi
    July 27, 2016 at 12:27 am

    Thank You Mr. Cawley,
    My sister has financial problems with phone paid by son in different city. She can not afford internet on computer, I have written her instructions you gave to see if this will work for her, since she lives in a very small Texas town where internet is sky high. I knew you could do this and you explained it very well. I can say, now with unlimited data these days this can help with anyone having financial issues or if someone like me that goes camping and can take laptop to watch movie or do facebook!

    • Christian Cawley
      July 27, 2016 at 7:04 am

      happy to have helped!

  5. Daniel
    November 22, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    hehehehe thank, you see my router nor the house phone in the house are notworking right now so my only choice out was turn on my data plan and look this up, use usb tethering and get internet on my desktop.

  6. Dhanush Naidu
    July 28, 2015 at 11:42 am

    upto how much distance can we use this hotspot...????????

  7. Randy Andaya
    June 7, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    me too, i can't see any "Access Point / Connect using" .. doesn't appear when i check the Devices and Printers.

  8. neha
    May 15, 2015 at 7:46 am

    i want to knw how to connect mobile internet with laptop the information given by thz site was not appropriate. u shud make changes.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 11, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      No changes necessary, other than to say that apparently this isn't the case for all devices. Since I've switched to a Nexus 5 I can't create an access point. Frustrating.

    • Brijesh Singh
      June 15, 2015 at 6:55 am

      You can try connecting mobile internet with laptop using USB tethering which work for me and it is best option.

  9. Shubham Tiwari
    May 8, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    My computer show no data access but in my mobile there is 500. Hiw can I solve it

  10. Hamid ali
    May 1, 2015 at 5:30 am

    I am not able to use tethering . plz tell another way to shere android's internet on pc having windows xp.Thanx.

    • Christian Cawley
      May 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Why are you unable to use tethering? Has your mobile provider blocked it?

  11. leti,from ethiopia
    April 26, 2015 at 12:39 am

    wow,iam highly interested to use my phone is network on my pcs,before today,iam searching for the solution of what pinpointed in my mind.
    but today,ifollow the steps found on ur guidelines and my pc is running without limitation.
    thank u

  12. abhishek
    April 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    not showing "
    connect using"

  13. Debbie Trimble
    March 29, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I am using the htc desire 510 on cricketwireless. I cannot seem to get the hotspot on my phone to open. It's set up and paired to my laptop Dell Intel core laptop. But I cannot get internet sharing to connect/work. I have done everything/troubleshooting and all. CAN YOU HELP PLEASE. Tell me what I'm doing wrong. HELP HELP PLEASE. Disabled 57 yr old women with computer knowledge frazzled.

    • Christian Cawley
      April 1, 2015 at 7:57 am

      Hi Debbie, does mobile Internet work on the phone when you're not attempting to share the connection? If so, it could be that your provider is blocking the hotspot.

  14. saurav
    March 14, 2015 at 8:30 am

    windows 7 plz xplain how to access internet in my computer when i m having data pack on my mobile by usb tethering in mobile gionne p4 model

    • cassandra
      March 22, 2015 at 12:16 am

      i am using an AT&T 3gs Iphone Apple
      to a Ipad thinker laptop and Ipad (Ipad) Apple

    • Brijesh Singh
      June 15, 2015 at 7:07 am

      Set your mobile internet connection then connect your mobile phone using usb cable after that
      select SETTING->MORE-> TETHERING AND MOBILE HOTSPOT->USBTETHERING.

      this setting helps to connect internet on windows 7 .

  15. SAURAV
    March 2, 2015 at 9:42 am

    In USB tethering mode do I have to do some settings in my computer because it's not working at all

    • Christian Cawley
      March 2, 2015 at 7:39 pm

      That rather depends on what operating system you're using :)

  16. Swerve
    November 7, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Really helpful article. I do have a question though. Lately I've been reading a lot about rooting and jailbreaking . Often writers give 'tether your phone's internet connection using wifi ' as one of the most significant reasons to why one should root or jailbreak one's mobile device. Often (in fact always) the "unrooted" mobile devices provide that feature anyway. So what extra can rooting possibly do as far as using mobile's net connection is concerned ?

    • ronL2k
      April 22, 2015 at 8:42 pm

      Rooting allows one to change the carrier's APN settings to allow tethering with specific options or with different carriers.

  17. likefunbutnot
    November 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    A quick survey of the four nearest Android phones suggests that hotspot capability is still very much arbitrate by carrier policy. My phone is rooted, but all the other phones I checked prompted me to subscribe to a sharing plan.

    • MGIII
      November 26, 2014 at 2:02 am

      I think you're right. My phone is not rooted, and when I went to all the options described, my I wasn't allowed to continue until I added hotspots to my plan.

  18. Kris
    November 6, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    A LONG time ago in a state far, far away, I had a Sprint PCS (remember that?) phone rigged to tether to my GIANT laptop. My wife and I went storm chasing in Oklahoma. (For my international friends, Oklahoma is in about the center of the US and is a massive hotspot for tornadic activity.)

    I was able to dribble enough signal through to get real time doppler updates to use for storm chasing. I thought I was THE MAN for being able to do that. It took all kinds of "duct tape engineering" to get the signal to work. Now, all it takes is a couple of clicks. Glad we've come so far so fast!

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