Share your mobile data connection/Internet with PC or Mac on the go!
Using your Android smartphone as a hotspot to enable the sharing of mobile data can be extremely beneficial. We’ve also rounded up some of the best tethering apps that are available on the Google Play Store.
Smartphones are used in so many more ways than we ever could have imagined a few years ago, and one of these uses can be really beneficial and convenient. Using an Android smartphone as a hotspot can enable your PC or tablet device to access the Internet, even when other methods such as cable, DSL or a dedicated hotspot device are not available for any reason. There are various ways of tethering and sharing mobile data with a PC, via Bluetooth, over Wi-Fi hotspot, or by using a USB cable.
It’s worth noting that while some carriers and service plans include tethering and hotspot services, some will charge extra and some don’t allow you to use your paid data for tethering purposes. Therefore, it’s worth finding this out before you begin as it may mean you need to pay a little more each month for tethering or upgrade your plan to included tethering. One more thing to point out is that while virtually all smartphones are cable of tethering and therefore sharing data connection, this is not always the case as some carrier branded devices are sold with the hotspot capabilities disabled.
3 ways to share mobile data with a PC
Using the wireless Bluetooth radio of a device to pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth is one way of enabling access to the Internet and sharing a mobile data connection. This personal area network (aka PAN) method has advantages and disadvantages when compared to just using a Wi-Fi network. Connecting via Bluetooth can be a slightly more complicated process and is slower than simply connecting via Wi-Fi. However, a benefit of hooking up via Bluetooth is that it will consume less of your battery life compared to using a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Alternatively, the method that most people will automatically think of is using the smartphone as a personal Wi-Fi network, with the phone acting as an Internet connection. Other devices then connect through it in the same way as they would a normal network, simply by selecting a device from the available Wi-Fi networks list and entering a password. This enables users to simultaneously connect multiple devices and provides higher Wi-Fi speeds than the Bluetooth method.
Finally, we get to the USB cable method of tethering. With this process, the smartphone is connected to a PC (either laptop or desktop) using a USB cable, which then provides Internet connection to the PC. This wired method can be a useful alternative as it can provide faster speeds and also means the phone can receive power from the PC. There are some drawbacks with this method though, as the device in question must have a USB port and only one device can be tethered via USB at the same time.
How to enable Bluetooth, HotSpot or USB Tethering
If you have an Android smartphone and want to tether you’re likely to find the tethering or portable hotspot feature within the Connections option under Settings menu. However, this can vary by device as well as the Android version that your phone is running, and this option may not appear at all if your carrier chooses to block this feature.
Alternatively, there are plenty of third-party tethering apps on the Google Play Store though, and now we’ve covered ways to share mobile data with a PC, it’s time to turn our attention to the best tethering apps.
5 Best Android Tethering Apps
1. PDANET+ (FREE)
PdaNet+ is a largely reliable app including both PdaNet and FoxFi and enables you to connect your Windows or Mac PC to your mobile network without rooting your phone or needing an extra tethering plan from your carrier. This well-known app tethers over Bluetooth or USB (but not Wi-Fi mode on devices running Android 7.0 Nougat or later) and if you have a 4G phone your PC can access the web with the same speeds.
This app is free to download but has a timed usage limit, or alternatively, you might want the full version instead. Do read the Google Play app description carefully, as some carriers don’t allow installation of this app and you’ll need to directly install the PdanNet apk file instead. To get PdaNet working you need to install the app on your android device and the client app on your PC or Mac to interact with the mobile app. There are further restrictions among the small print including more about Wi-Fi mode, so do check out the full details first.
2. DATA SHARING – TETHERING (FREE)
From Awake Idea this Wi-Fi hotspot and tethering management and control app allow you to share your smartphone’s Internet connection with a PC, tablet, or another smartphone. Features include time and data usage management for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB tethering, being able to set the amount of data usage along with time limits, and a show of connected devices, both now or previously. The app also includes a daily data usage chart, a tethering interface control widget, and backup/restore for database statistics.
It’s free to download although in-app purchases are required for some Pro features. These include the automatic cessation of a shared data connection with a limit is reached or after a configurable inactivity time, a device connects tone, or exporting statistics to CSV. The app description contains full instructions for how to share via Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth, or USB.
3. EASY TETHER
This Mobile Stream app offers carrier-independent tethering and shares some similarities to PDANet+ in that no special tethering plans are required and there is no need to root your device. It supports both Bluetooth tethering and USB tethering, and you can choose from the Easy Tether (Lite) version or the full paid version. If you pay for the full version of the app with a one-time fee this provides more options including https access to secure sites including online banking, Facebook and Gmail for example. A further advantage with the full version is game console tethering for PS4, Xbox, and Wii consoles using a Windows or Mac Internet connection sharing feature.
4. CLOCKWORKMOD TETHER – NO ROOT
ClockworkMod is a popular name associated with Android, and this app has plenty to offer. As the name of the app tells us, there’s no need to root your device, although a PC side install is necessary to install a virtual network adapter on your computer. The download and installation is easy and convenient, and this tethering app offers Internet access to your Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop or laptop using your phone’s data connection.
The ClockworkMod Tether app should work with any carrier or Android smartphone, again full details are shown on the Google Play Store app description. The app is free to download with full usage available for 14 days but following this period the download is limited to 20MB a day. To get around this you’ll need to upgrade to Tether Premium for the full version via in-app purchases.
5. BARNACLE WIFI TETHER
This offers another option but this one does require your smartphone to be rooted. If you’re prepared for this, the app enables your Android smartphone to be used as a portable wireless hotspot for tablets, Xbox, and PCs. The open source app is completely free to use with no ads and no limits, but a paid Barnacle widget app is also available for £1.23 if you want to show support for the developers. Do remember that you still need to use the free Barnacle WiFi Tether, the widget is just an extra.
Using your smartphone in one of 3 ways to share mobile data with a PC can be extremely beneficial, and our choice of 5 best tethering apps should help you on your way. Do bear in mind though, that if you plan to use the Wi-Fi method of tethering you must consider the effect of battery life drain on your phone and be prepared. Of course, you could always connect it to a power source or use a portable battery pack to ensure you don’t drain the handset completely and can still use your smartphone when it’s needed for other purposes. Another handy tip is to disable the portable hotspot feature when not being used.
Another thing to take into account is that many Android tethering apps on the Google Play Store mention limitations and disclaimers, and the majority are not officially supported by either manufacturers or network operators. For example, mobile companies don’t support device rooting and some don’t allow tethering, so a certain amount of caution is sensible and you use tethering apps at your own risk. We always advise carefully reading the developer’s guidance notes on the app description to avoid any issues.
We’re interested to hear from readers and would like to know your preferred approach to sharing mobile data with a PC via tethering with your smartphone? Our selection includes our favorite choices of tethering apps but you may use another one that you think should have been included, in which case why not tell us by sending us a comment in the box provided.