How to Connect a Desktop to Wi-Fi Without an Adapter

All you need is a smartphone and USB cable

What to Know

  • Plug your phone into your PC using a USB cable and set up USB tethering.
  • On Android: Settings > Network and Internet > Hotspot & Tethering and toggle on Tethering.
  • On iPhone: Settings > Cellular > Personal Hotspot and toggle on Personal Hotspot.

This guide will walk you through connecting your desktop to your local Wi-Fi network without the need for a wireless adapter or dongle.

How Do You Connect a Desktop Computer to Wi-Fi?

Most desktop computers come with a built-in Ethernet port for connecting to your local network and the internet via an Ethernet cable, but not all with Wi-Fi connectivity pre-installed. You can use a Wi-Fi adapter, of course, but you can also connect a desktop to Wi-Fi without an adapter.

The easiest way to do it is using your smartphone's built-in USB Tethering.

For our screenshots below, we'll use Android, but we'll include the steps needed for an iPhone.

  1. Make sure your PC and smartphone are running the latest versions of their respective operating systems.

  2. Ensure your smartphone is connected to your chosen Wi-Fi network.

  3. Connect your smartphone to your PC via a USB cable. It may be Micro-USB or USB-C if you're using an Android device or a lightning cable if it's an iPhone. If your smartphone asks, give the PC permission to access it.

  4. Open your phone's Settings menu.

    Accessing the Settings screen on Android.
  5. On Android, navigate to Network and Internet > Hotspot & Tethering and toggle on Tethering. On iPhone, navigate to Cellular > Personal Hotspot and toggle on Personal Hotspot.

    Enabling Hotspot & Tethering on Android.

Your PC should have connected to your local Wi-Fi network via your smartphone. You can confirm its active network connection by selecting the Taskbar Icon arrow in the bottom right of your screen, then select the network icon. It will appear as a rectangular screen—not a Wi-Fi symbol, as the computer is technically connected to Wi-Fi over a wire).

Taskbar icons showing tethering.
Network menu on Windows 10
Network 5 Connected in Network and sharing menu

Select the Network you're connected to (in our screenshot, Network 5) to go to the Network and Sharing Center. There you'll see your newly connected network as being Connected. If it says No Internet, confirm that your smartphone is on the Wi-Fi network. If it is, but you still don't have internet, follow router troubleshooting steps to get yourself back online.

How do I Connect My Old Desktop to Wi-Fi Using Internet Sharing?

If you have an older laptop with an Ethernet connection, there is another method you can use for connecting your desktop PC to Wi-Fi: Internet Sharing. You'll need to connect your laptop to your chosen Wi-Fi connection, then connect it to your desktop PC using an Ethernet cable.

When ready, follow these steps on how to share your internet connection.

Can a PC Connect to Wi-Fi Without Ethernet?

Ethernet is a wired connection, so if you want to connect to a wireless Wi-Fi network, you don't need Ethernet at all.

The best way to connect to your Wi-Fi network is by using a Wi-Fi adapter. Some desktop PCs and most laptops have them built-in, but there are add-in ones you can buy. They are relatively affordable and offer the best speeds without being limited by battery life. Alternatively, you can use a smartphone and USB tether it as in the instructions above, but you'll need the correct USB cable, and you won't be able to unplug your smartphone if you want to retain that Wi-Fi connection on your PC.

How Can you Connect a Desktop PC Without Internal WLAN to a Wireless Network?

If your desktop PC doesn't have a built-in Wi-Fi adapter, then your best bet is to add one yourself. They are affordable and easy to install and offer the best wireless performance. Alternatively, you can use USB tethering to connect your smartphone to get you on the Wi-Fi network relatively quickly. The only downside is that you must leave your smartphone plugged in to take advantage of it.

  • How do I connect to Wi-Fi on a Windows 7 desktop?

    To connect a wireless network in Windows 7, go to Start > Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center. Select Connect to a network, choose your wireless network from the list, and select Connect Automatically > Connect. If prompted, enter the network password.

  • How do I connect a Dell desktop to Wi-Fi?

    To access Wi-Fi on your Dell desktop, your computer must have a wireless network adapter built-in, or you'll need to connect an external Wi-Fi adapter. To connect to your wireless network, go to the Windows taskbar and select the wireless network icon. Next, choose your Wi-Fi network > Connect > enter your network password, and follow any additional prompts.

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