Need an internet connection for your PC or laptop, but don’t have access to public Wi-Fi? The solution is simple: connect your smartphone’s mobile internet connection to your PC. This process is known as tethering.
While tethering with your laptop or tablet may be faster than the public network in your favorite cafe, it can have its own problems. Here’s what you need to know about tethering with Android and how to connect your mobile internet to your PC.
What Is Tethering?
Tethering is the term for connecting your mobile device to your computer, so your PC can get online via your phone’s mobile data connection. It works via USB, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
In the pre-iPhone days, that meant using an old-style feature phone to call a number that gave internet access anywhere. Some cell phones could share their internet connection, enabling you to get online via the device network’s APN.
Following the release of the iPhone in 2007, many cell phone networks began charging extra for tethering plans. Fortunately, this money-grabbing practice has since been phased out almost completely—these days, tethering is usually free aside from using your data allowance.
Android Mobile Tethering Options Explained
Android owners have three tethering options to share a mobile internet connection with their laptop, tablet, or even desktop PC:
- Connect via Bluetooth
- Use your phone as a wireless hotspot
- Connect your phone to your computer via USB
So, you have options for wired and wireless connections, across a wide rage of devices. If you know how to connect your phone to your PC for internet, you know how to connect and share mobile data to a laptop, cabled or wireless.
Below is a look at each of option, designed to help you discover two key factors:
- Which method drains your battery quickest
- Which transfers data fastest
Before proceeding, make sure you have enabled mobile internet on your phone. It’s important to note that mobile signal strength will impact your connection speed. Using tethering can also result in your phone’s battery level decreasing quickly; wireless tethering is particularly power-intensive.
Included are speed results from speedtest.net for comparison. The actual speeds you receive will depend on various factors, including what phone you’re using and the speed of the mobile network you’re connected to.
1. How to Connect Mobile Internet to a PC With a USB Cable
Mobile phones have long had a modem feature, allowing you to hook up the device to your computer using USB tethering. This lets you share the mobile internet connection over a wired connection with your laptop or other devices.
- Enable Mobile Data on your Android phone
- Connect the phone to your PC with the USB cable
- In the Use USB for pop-up menu, select USB tethering
- Your tethered internet connection should now be active
In the event that this doesn’t automatically activate on connection, you can manually enable tethering over USB:
- Open Settings > Connection & sharing > Personal hotspot
- Tap USB tethering slider to enable it. If this appears grayed out, make sure the USB cable is properly connected at both ends.
- A Hotspot and tethering warning may appear, informing you that continuing will interrupt any existing data transfers between your phone and PC.
- Tap OK to proceed.
Some of the menus may be slightly different depending on the device and Android version you’re using, but the general instructions are the same on all models.
A notification icon should appear to confirm that tethering is active.
How Fast Is USB Tethering?
In testing, we found the following results:
- 5G Speed: 239.59Mbps download, 18.26Mbps upload, an average ping of 26ms.
- 4G Speed: 28.36Mbps download, 22.10Mbps upload, with an average ping of 61ms.
- Battery Impact: The effect on your phone’s 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 slowly charge through the USB connection.
If your computer is running on its battery, your phone will potentially drain the computer’s battery, rather than its own.
2. Use Bluetooth Tethering With Mobile Internet
Want to know how to connect mobile internet to a PC without a USB cable? The answer is to use Bluetooth. The short-range wireless technology has enough bandwidth to route data to and from your phone and a paired device.
Start by pairing your phone with your computer:
- Long-press the Bluetooth icon in Quick Settings, or use Settings > Bluetooth
- Tap the Bluetooth slider to enable then go to Menu > More Settings
- Enable Visible to other devices
- Now, on your Windows computer, press Win + I to open the Settings app.
- Here, select Devices > Bluetooth & other devices.
- Switch Bluetooth to On if it’s not already. Click Add Bluetooth or other device followed by Bluetooth.
- Select your phone when it appears and complete the pairing steps. If you run into problems, see our guides to setting up Bluetooth in Windows 10 and connecting to Bluetooth in Windows 11.
- Once paired, on your phone, open Settings > Connection & sharing > Personal hotspot enable on Bluetooth tethering.
Once the phone is paired with your computer, you can share the mobile internet connection:
- Expand the Windows System Tray to find the Bluetooth icon, right-click this, and select Join a Personal Area Network.
- In the resulting menu, find your phone’s icon and right-click it.
- Choose Connect using > Access point.
Your phone should then display a notification that Bluetooth tethering is active.
How Fast Is Bluetooth Tethering?
Our testing found:
- 5G Speed: 0.61Mbps download, 0.42Mbps upload, average ping of 68ms.
- 4G Speed: 0.46Mbps download, 0.58Mbps upload, with an average ping of 101ms.
- Battery Impact: Heavy Bluetooth use really puts pressure on your battery. Ten minutes of usage ate up about 5% of the charge on my phone.
While slightly faster, 5G has little impact on Bluetooth speed because the bandwidth of the wireless protocol is far narrower than Wi-Fi.
3. How to Connect Your Mobile Internet to a PC Wirelessly
Combining the wireless benefits of Bluetooth with the speed of USB, connecting your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot is perhaps the most popular tethering option.
Using your mobile internet and Wi-Fi connection, your phone creates a private network to connect your devices with a secure password. It’s definitely the most convenient choice.
To set up Wi-Fi tethering:
- Go to Settings > Connection & sharing > Personal hotspot.
- Tap Personal hotspot
- Tap Hotspot settings and set a name and password
- You can set advanced options such as Security type, AP band (2.4GHz or 5GHz), Hide hotspot, and enable Wi-Fi 6 connections.
- On some devices, you’ll need to open the Configure hotspot menu to change these options.
- You can also set the hotspot to turn off after 10 minutes with the Automatically turn off personal hotspot toggle
With everything set up on Android, here’s how to connect your PC to the hotspot:
- Press Win + I to open Settings.
- Go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi.
- Click Show available networks and browse to find the network your phone created. (You can also do this by clicking the wireless internet icon in the System Tray).
- Select the network and click Connect.
- Input the password as displayed on your phone (making any other changes as required) to establish the connection.
You now know how to connect your mobile internet to your PC without a cable.
How Fast Is Wireless Tethering?
Here are the results we found from this option:
- 5G Speed: 32.68Mbps download, 1.52Mbps upload, an average ping of 39ms.
- 4G Speed: 28.26Mbps download, 22.10Mbps upload, with an average ping of 61ms.
- Battery Impact: As with Bluetooth tethering, heavy use reduced battery by around 5% in 10 minutes. Standard usage seems better with Wi-Fi tethering, however, and could potentially last around 5-6 hours.
Once you’ve set up wireless tethering for the first time, it’s easy to activate again.
- Swipe down from the top of the display to open Quick Settings
- Tap Personal Hotspot
- Wait for your computer to connect.
The big advantage to using Wi-Fi for tethering is that it works with any device. Once you’ve set up the wireless hotspot on your Android phone, you can connect any PC (Windows, Mac, or Linux), a Chromebook, an iPad, a game console, even another phone.
Just connect to it in the same way you’d connect to any other wireless network.
Mobile Tethering? Use USB for Best Battery Life
Now you know how to connect mobile internet to your computer, using Wi-Fi, USB, or Bluetooth. But which is best?
Our tests show that USB tethering is the option that drains your phone’s battery the slowest. Meanwhile, Bluetooth offers the worst speeds. Thanks to improvements in Bluetooth technology, though, its impact on battery is acceptable.
It’s Easy to Link Your Mobile Internet Connection to a Computer
Stuck choosing between a Wi-Fi hotspot and USB tethering? Well, USB isn’t the fastest at everything, making Wi-Fi the best all-around option. But if Wi-Fi isn’t available, relying on USB tethering is your best alternative.
If you’re not using Android, don’t worry. iPhones have a hotspot mode too.