How to Share Your Laptop's Internet With Your Phone

A laptop can provide Wi-Fi for your other devices

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There are many different situations where you might want to connect your laptop and mobile device to share internet access. Most traditional tethering cases involve using a cell phone as a modem to get a laptop or tablet online, but there might be times where you need to do the reverse.

You can use your laptop's data connection for internet access on your phone or tablet by "reverse tethering" from your Mac or Windows PC.

Why Reverse Tether?

You might be thinking: What's the point, since mobile phones have data built in and should be able to go online on their own?

Data access sometimes isn't available, or maybe you need to conserve your mobile data usage to avoid data roaming charges when traveling, or overage fees on tiered or prepaid data plans.

Sharing your laptop's internet connection may make sense when:

  • You want a more secure internet connection than unsecure public Wi-Fi, but you don't have access to mobile data.
  • You're working in an office where only laptop Wi-Fi connections or Ethernet connections are allowed, and mobile phone usage is blocked.
  • You want faster internet access than what you're getting on your mobile connection.
  • You're traveling and the hotel only provides a single wired Ethernet connection.

How to Share Your Laptop's Internet Connection

You can share the laptop's data connection over Wi-Fi or over a wire, depending on your setup.

When sharing your laptop's connection over ​Wi-Fi, you're essentially turning your laptop into a Wi-Fi hotspot for all who know the security code to use. It's important to make sure the hotspot is secure so that nobody can access your network.

Windows

Windows Internet Connection Sharing options

Windows lets you share your internet connection over ICS. ICS, or Internet Connection Sharing, is a feature built-in to Windows, so you don't have to download anything to use it.

If the laptop is connected via a wire to a router or modem, you can share that connection to a phone or tablet over the Wi-Fi adapter or through another Ethernet port.

Another option for sharing your Windows laptop's internet connection that doesn't create a bridge like the method above is to to use the same Wi-Fi adapter to share internet. You can do this with free third-party programs such as Connectify.

Connectify Hotspot in Windows 10

When you make a hotspot with Connectify, it delivers data using a single Wi-Fi connection, so there's no need for a second adapter or for your laptop to be wired to the internet.

One of the main advantages of Connectify over the ICS method is that the connection is more secure, using WPA2 encryption in Access Point Mode versus the very insecure WEP, which is what the ICS ad hoc networking mode does.

Yet another method for Windows users is to use an app to share the laptop's connection with the phone/tablet. Reverse Tether is one example of an app dedicated solely to this reverse tethering purpose, but it's a very limited-time trial and hasn't been updated since 2014, so it might not work for your phone or tablet.

We have yet to see anything like this for iPhone, but there may be a few apps available if you have a jailbroken iPhone.

Mac

Mac Internet Sharing options

You can share your Mac's internet connection with Internet Sharing. Similar to the Windows method above, this one is built-in to macOS and is accomplished through the Sharing window in System Preferences.

This internet sharing tool works by sharing your wired or mobile connection with other computers, smartphones, or tablets, which connect to the laptop over Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Alternative: Wireless Travel Routers

If none of the above internet sharing options are working, or you want another option, a travel router might be what you're after.

With a wireless travel router, you can share a single wired, wireless, or mobile data connection with multiple devices. As the name implies, these devices are pocketable and often affordable.