How to Tether Your Android Phone for Free

Turn your Android into a personal Wi-Fi hotspot

This article explains how to tether your Android phone so that you can share its internet connection with your laptop, tablet, or another mobile device for free when you're away from your home or office. The directions below generally apply regardless of the device manufacturer.

Before setting up tethering, check your carrier's terms. Some carriers have no restrictions regarding tethering, whereas others offer it at low speeds, require a supplemental plan, or block it altogether.

Types of Tethering

Three types of tethering are common to most phones:

  • Wi-Fi sharing is easy and quick, supports sharing with multiple devices, and tends to drain the phone's battery.
  • Bluetooth is the slowest and allows sharing with one device at a time.
  • A USB connection is faster, and the laptop simultaneously charges the smartphone.

How to Tether Your Phone

Connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot is the easiest, most convenient, and most commonly used option of the three types. Essentially, the phone creates a Wi-Fi network to which you connect your laptop in the usual way. Here's how to set it up.

  1. On your phone, go to Settings > Connections > Mobile Hotspot and Tethering.

    Depending on the Android version and manufacturer, you might see something like Tethering, Mobile Hotspot, or Tethering & portable hotspot instead.

  2. Turn on Mobile Hotspot.

    Android Mobile Hotspot and Tethering
  3. Choose a network name and password.

  4. Tap Save.

    Choosing a hotspot network name and password
  5. Connect your second device to the network you just created, just as you would to any other Wi-Fi network.

  6. Alternatively, to share your connection via Bluetooth, pair the devices and toggle Bluetooth to On in Mobile Hotspot and Tethering.

  7. Likewise, to use USB, toggle on USB tethering and connect your phone to your other device with a USB cable.

Using an App

If your carrier blocks tethering, try a third-party app. For example, PdaNet+ is a free mobile app with a companion desktop app that shares a smartphone connection over your choice of Bluetooth, USB, or Wi-Fi.

Depending on your carrier, you might not be able to download the app directly, but the app maker offers a way around that. See the app's Google Play listing for other possible restrictions.

Rooting Your Smartphone

Another method involves rooting your smartphone; free, unrestricted tethering is one of its many benefits. Rooting a phone could void the warranty or, if done incorrectly, render the phone unusable. In most cases, though, the good outweighs the bad. Once your smartphone is rooted, you'll have no restrictions on apps (such as the Wi-Fi Tethering app from OpenGarden) that you can download.

Extra: Tethering Tips

Tethering is best in scenarios where an alternative secure connection is not available. When you're finished tethering, be sure to turn it off in Settings. Turn off any connection you're not actively using, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which will save battery life. Also, tethering uses data, so it's best used for short periods if your plan doesn't include unlimited data.

If you need to tether your phone to your laptop's data connection, check out our article on setting up a reverse tether.

  • How do I use an AT&T hotspot for free?

    Check for local Wi-Fi networks and select attwifi and sign in using your AT&T primary user name and password. Open the Make a Selection drop-down and select your AT&T network, then select Get Connected. Note that access to free AT&T Wi-Fi hotspots is only available through qualifying wireless data plans.

  • How do I set up a free hotspot on my Cricket phone?

    Cricket Wireless hotspot availability is limited to eligible phones with either the $55 per month Cricket Core plan (with Mobile Hotspot added) or the $60 per month Cricket More plan. The process of setting up the hotspot will depend on what phone you use.

  • How can I get unlimited hotspot for free?

    Setting up your phone as a hotspot without cutting into your data plan is not advised as it can create problems with your carrier (i.e. extra fees or a cancelled contract). However, there are acceptable ways to reduce the amount of data used when tethering.

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