How to Set up and Use iPhone Tethering

Get Wi-Fi on the go courtesy of your cellular data provider

Tethering allows you to use your iPhone or cellular-enabled iPad as a wireless modem for a computer when it is not in range of a Wi-Fi signal. When you use tethering to set up a Personal Hotspot, anywhere your iPhone or iPad can access a cellular signal, your computer can get online too.

Personal Hotspot requires an iPhone 3GS or later or a 3rd-generation Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad or later and a compatible cellular service provider.

Before you can set up a Personal Hotspot, contact your cellular provider to add this service to your account. There is usually a fee for the service. Some cellular providers do not support tethering, but AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Cricket, US Cellular, and T-Mobile support it.

Turn on Personal Hotspot

After you set up the service with your cellular provider, following that company's instructions, it is time to turn on the Personal Hotspot service on your iPhone or Wi-Fi compatible iPad.

Phone and computer
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To set up Personal Hotspot on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Tap Settings on the Home screen.

  2. Select Cellular. (Some iOS versions skip this step.)

  3. Tap Personal Hotspot. (In iOS 13, you must also tap Allow Others to Join).

  4. Tap the slider next to Personal Hotspot to the On/green position to turn on the feature.

    If Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is turned off on your iPhone, you are prompted to turn them on.

    Screenshots of an iPhone with the Cellular, Personal Hotspot, and toggle switch highlighted
  5. Tap the Wi-Fi Password field. Your password is set up as your mobile phone number by default, but change it to something appropriate that is at least eight characters long.

    The Wi-Fi password, in this setting, isn't related to your Apple ID or your usual Wi-Fi password. It is for use only with Personal Hotspot.

Deactivate the Personal Hotspot when you aren't using it by moving the slider to the Off/white position to reduce your security risk and battery drain.

Making Connections

You can connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer (or another iOS device) to provide it with access to your cellular connection in three ways.

  • Wi-Fi: Both devices must have access to the same Wi-Fi network. On your computer, select the name of the iPhone or iPad from the Wi-Fi settings.
  • Bluetooth: To connect by Bluetooth, the computer (or another iOS device) must be discoverable. On your iOS device, go to Settings and turn on Bluetooth. Select the device you want to tether to the iOS device from the list of discoverable devices.
  • USB: Plug in your iOS device to your computer using the cable that came with it.

To disconnect, turn off Personal Hotspot, unplug the USB cable or turn off Bluetooth, depending on the method you use.

In iOS 13, you can use Control Center to turn Personal Hotspot on or off quickly. Hard press the airplane icon to expand the options and then tap Personal Hotspot.

Using Instant Hotspot

If your mobile device is running iOS 8.1 or later and your Mac is running OS X Yosemite or later, you can use Instant Hotspot to reach your Personal Hotspot without entering a password. It works when the two devices are near each other. 

  • The iOS device must have Personal Hotspot turned on at Settings > Personal Hotspot.
  • You must have a cellular plan for Personal Hotspot.
  • Both devices must be signed in to iCloud with the same Apple ID.
  • Both devices must have Bluetooth turned on.
  • Both devices must have Wi-Fi turned on.

To connect to your Personal Hotspot:

  • On a Mac, choose the name of the iOS device that is providing the Personal Hotspot from the Wi-Fi status menu at the top of the screen.
  • On another iOS device, go to Settings > Wi-Fi and select the name of the iOS device providing the Personal Hotspot.

The devices disconnect automatically when you are not using the connection.

Instant Hotspot requires iPhone 5 or newer, iPad Pro, iPad 5th generation, iPad Air or newer, or iPad mini or newer. They can connect with Macs dated 2012 or newer, with the exception of the Mac Pro, which must be late 2013 or newer.

Personal Hotspot can go missing from your iPhone in some circumstances. Learn how to get it back in how to fix iPhone personal hotspot on iPhone & iOS.