How to Get Internet With a Bluetooth-Enabled Cell Phone

No Wi-Fi? No problem—use Bluetooth instead

Using your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone as a modem for internet access on your laptop is great in a pinch when there's no Wi-Fi service available or your regular internet service goes down. The main benefit of using Bluetooth instead of a USB cable for tethering is that you can keep your cell phone in your bag or pocket and still make the connection.

With your phone used as your laptop's access to the internet, all the data downloaded to and uploaded from your laptop is using your phone's data plan. Keep an eye on data usage to avoid unexpected overage surcharges or data caps.

What You Need

Only a few things are needed to get your laptop up and running with internet from your phone:

  • Bluetooth-enabled cell phone
  • Bluetooth adapter (built-in or external dongle) for your laptop
  • Data plan from your mobile provider

There are two alternatives to this method, including using Bluetooth Dial-Up Networking and your wireless provider's login information to tether your phone to your computer. The easiest route, however, may be to use tethering software like PdaNet for smartphones or Synccell for regular phones, because these apps don't require you to make many settings changes or know specifics about your wireless provider's technology. 

The method below pairs your phone with your computer, connecting them over a Personal Area Network (PAN).

How to Get Internet With a Bluetooth-Enabled Cell Phone

Screenshot of a phone paired to a Windows 10 computer
Pairing an iPhone to a Windows 10 Computer.

To use your phone's internet on your computer, you'll pair the two together and then tell your laptop to connect to your phone using a special network.

  1. Activate Bluetooth on your phone (usually found under the Settings menu) and set your phone to be discoverable or visible to other Bluetooth devices.

    If you're on an iPhone, turn on Bluetooth from Settings > Bluetooth.

    Android devices enable Bluetooth through the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Pull down the menu and tap the Bluetooth icon.

  2. Turn on the hotspot feature on your phone so that the laptop will be able to use the internet once it's connected to your phone.

    On iPhone, turn on Personal Hotspot in the Settings app.

    The Wi-Fi hotspot option on Android devices is in the Wireless & networks settings. If you can't find it, search the settings for hotspot or tether.

  3. On the computer, open the Bluetooth manager program.

    In Windows, open the Run dialog box with the Win+R keyboard shortcut, and then enter control bthprops.cpl to open the Bluetooth settings.

    On a Mac, click the Bluetooth icon at the top of the screen and choose Turn Bluetooth On. If you don't see that option, go into System Preferences > Bluetooth and enable the Show Bluetooth in menu bar option.

  4. In the Bluetooth manager program, select the option to add a new connection or device, which will make the computer search for available Bluetooth devices and find your phone.

    In Windows 10, for example, the option is called Add Bluetooth or other device.

    On a Mac, go to System Preferences and then Bluetooth.

  5. When your phone appears in the next screen, select it to pair it to your laptop. You might need to select it and then click a Pair or Connect button.

    If you're prompted for a PIN code, type whatever is shown on your laptop, or try some standard PINs like 0000 or 1234 or check your device's manual.

  6. On some operating systems, like in Windows, right-click the device and connect to it as an access point. Open Devices and Printers in Control Panel, right-click the phone and choose Connect using > Access point. You might also be asked to choose which service to use for the connection. If so, pick PAN (Personal Area Connection).

If you can't find the Bluetooth program manager, try using your computer's search utility to find a program with the word Bluetooth anywhere in it, since you might be unknowingly using special Bluetooth software.

If you aren't prompted on your laptop for the type of service to use with your Bluetooth phone, try going into the options menu of your Bluetooth application to find that setting.