[HOWTO] Create a WiFi Hotspot

Category: Mobile , Wireless

A reader asks, “How do I set up my cell phone as a hotspot to connect my pc to? We do not have wired internet, but have mobile data on our phone.” Here's the scoop on using your smartphone as a wifi hotspot to provide Internet access to a laptop or other device...

Let's Make a Hotspot!

This reader did not specify what type of phone he or she has. I’m going to assume it’s running Android, by far the most popular smartphone operating system in terms of number of phone makes and models that use it. (It might seem like everyone has an iPhone, but Android actually has 85% market share.) The ability to use a phone as a WiFi hotspot is built into Android.

But before getting into the step-by-step, I want to caution every reader. Most phone data plans have a cap of several gigabytes per month. If you exceed that number, you may be billed an exorbitant amount for each additional gigabyte or fraction thereof.

On so-called “unlimited” plans, you may face drastic throttling of bandwidth speeds once you exceed a certain usage. The fun part is, carriers may not declare a specific cap, but just say they reserve the right to restrict “excessive” users. I've used the hotspot feature to get my laptop online for brief periods in an airport or hotel room, but never as a substitute for a high-speed Internet connection at home.

Create a Wifi Hotspot on your Smartphone

Carriers may have separate and more draconian limits on data consumption via hotspots. The assumption behind such restrictions is that multiple people will use the hotspot simultaneously, consuming a lot of bandwidth and degrading service to other users of the same cellular tower.

This reader asked about connecting one PC, not sharing the mobile hotspot with other devices. Nonetheless, any restrictions on hotspot usage will be in force. You might want to check with your mobile provider to see if your phone is capable of acting as a hotspot, and if there are any data usage concerns.

Creating a Wifi Hotspot on Android

With all that said, here are the steps to enable the hotspot feature of a smartphone running a recent version of the Android operating system.

  • Plug the phone into its charger and the charger into an electrical outlet. Hotspot mode consumes a lot of power!
  • Open the phone’s Settings app, identifiable by the gear icon.
  • In the "Wireless & Networks" section, touch the More item, then touch "Tethering & Portable Hotspot".
  • Touch the box next to the “Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot” or “Mobile Hotspot” item to move the slider control to the right, “on” position. This enables hotspot mode. (If that doesn't work, the hotspot feature may not be available. Check with your carrier for details of your plan.)
  • Touch “Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot” to change the hotspot’s name (SSID) and password; the latter must be at least 8 characters long and cannot contain spaces. I do recommend that you change the default password, because lists of many phone models’ default passwords are readily available to hackers. Leave the Security setting at “WPA2 PSK.”
  • Touch “Save” or “OK” to set your changes.

On one of my older Android phones, after turning on the Mobile Hotspot option, there is no “Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot" option. I see a screen that tells me the hotspot SSID and password, but there doesn't seem to be a way to change either.

Now go to the computer that you want to connect to the hotspot. On Windows, click on the Network icon in the system tray and choose the hotspot’s name. On a Mac, click Network in the System Preferences window, and select the hotspot. Enter the wifi password (the one you just created on your phone) when prompted.

It's a good idea to turn off the mobile hotspot when you no longer need it. See my notes above concerning data charges. To turn off the hotspot, return to step 4 and touch the “Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot” or “Mobile Hotspot” item to move the slider control to left, “off” position.

The Google Play store contains lots of free apps that offer one-touch on/off switching of hotspot mode, so you don’t have to wade through all the menus above to get to step 4. Just go to the store and enter “hotspot app” in the search box. Some apps include ads and in-app purchases to remove ads.

Have you used your phone as a hotspot? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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This article was posted by on 19 Jul 2017


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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Create a WiFi Hotspot"

Posted by:

Ron
19 Jul 2017

Some Android phones don't have that functionality, or the provider hid it in their custom 'version' of Android installed on that phone.


Posted by:

Bill Riley
19 Jul 2017

Good article, Bob. What about iPhones ???


Posted by:

Perry
19 Jul 2017

I am with AT&T, and I am not positive, but I think you have to have AT&T turn on the capability for using your phone as a Hotspot as part of your plan. The last time I checked was a while back, so do you know if things have changed and everyone has that ability? (iPhone user here)


Posted by:

Steve
19 Jul 2017

Bob, Android may have 85% market share but a hell of a lot of us have iPhones. In fact, I know losta people who have iPhones!


Posted by:

MARV
19 Jul 2017

I have used my iPHONE as a way to get email and bank info when no Internet is available. I only have it on while transacting business. It has been very useful.


Posted by:

John Silberman
19 Jul 2017

Creating a hotspot from your laptop is very useful as well. I do it primarily for using my Google Chromecast Stick. I make the hotspot name the same as my home so that when I am traveling I can still cast videos, even in hotel wifi scenarios. Chromecast works perfectly without any modifications.


Posted by:

Dee
19 Jul 2017

I use my iPhone as a hotspot.


Posted by:

Linda
19 Jul 2017

I use Cricket, which operates on At&T network. A while ago, Cricket allowed you to set up the phone as a hotspot. Now, no. AT&T imposed its rules and now you have to buy the ability to let the phone turn into a hotspot. I have not found a way around this yet.


Posted by:

Mike
19 Jul 2017

It is pretty easy to use a phone as a wifi hotspot. It is even easier to get a fool to part with his money.

According to Fortune.com, the average iPhone price for the past 5 years has remained around $700 as Apple maximizes profits from "loyal" users, while the average price of an Android phone has dropped from $441 to $215.

Maybe in this case "loyal" should be re-defined as "foolish".

With 85% of the market, Android is providing users with what users clearly desire without being considered loyal, but foolish consumers.


Posted by:

Cho
19 Jul 2017

@Steve....Your point being??


Posted by:

Cho
19 Jul 2017

@Steve...Yes, you are correct...These are "...losta people who have iPhones!..."


Posted by:

Doclocke
19 Jul 2017

If you do use a cellular hotspot, be very careful if your computer has the Win 10 OS. I made the mistake of bringing my Win 10 laptop, instead of the Win 7 laptop, along with us on a recent vacation. All I ever do is check e-mail when on vacation, but unknown to me the Win 10 OS was downloading a huge "upgrade" behind my back. Imagine my surprise when I received the bill. Grrr!


Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
19 Jul 2017

Big downside with using your phone as a hotspot; it consumes your phone battery even faster than it eats up your data plan.

You'll probably need to pay an extra $10/month (on my T-Mobile plan) for hotspot functionality. I get 6GB of hotspot usage, even though my cell phone plan is "unlimited data".


Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
19 Jul 2017

Doclocke: On your Win10 laptop, be sure to indicate that your WiFi to your phone is a "metered" connection. There will be more enormous Win10 "Fall Creator's Update" patches yet to come.


Posted by:

Anne Hassell
19 Jul 2017

I do tech support for ATT, and a capped data plan (one that has a limit such as 6 gb or 10 gb of data) can be used as a hotspot. There currently is only one unlimited data plan that can be used as a hotspot, and that is the unlimited plus plan.


Posted by:

Pauline McCann
20 Jul 2017

I've used my iPhone wifi hotspot as my only source of internet connection ever since I got my iPhone, over 6 years ago now. I use it to connect my laptop, iPad and wireless printer. I have never had any problems with it in contrast to many people here in Australia, who have paid an exorbitant amount to be connected to our new national broadband network, only to be left with no connectivity, such is its unreliability!
I have a 12Gb monthly data plan, which is enough for my use.
As for the battery, I replaced my battery this year, so it lasted 5 years - not bad!
I also got rid of my landline as I considered it redundant.


Posted by:

Cynthia Neale
20 Jul 2017

Thanks very much for this how-to Bob.

I also have an iPhone and I am a bit of a dummi8e, but may be able to work it out by comparing your steps with whatever it has in my iPhone settings...Cynthia



Posted by:

Stuart Berg
20 Jul 2017

Bob,
I learned of the FreedomPop WiFi hotspot device from your article published in May of this year (http://askbobrankin.com/free_wireless_internet_heres_how.html). It's FREE (except for the initial $20 "shipping charge") and works great within the 500MB data limit each month. In other words, it's great for occasional use.
Thanks,
Stu


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