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How to use Android tethering and share your mobile internet connection

One of the good things of having an Android smartphone (or other devices running on Google’s mobile operating system) is the ability to share its mobile data connection with your computer. This guide will show you how to use this technique, also known as Android tethering.

So, what’s so great about Android tethering? For one, you will no longer have to bring with you a wireless internet USB dongle/modem just so you can have Internet access while you’re out and about (assuming no Wi-Fi hotspots are nearby). All you need is your phone or mobile device. It also means you can do away the hassle of switching the Internet-enabled SIM module back and forth between your phone and the dongle.

Before you proceed with Android tethering, get acquainted first with your mobile device’s contract or plan. If it uses a prepaid SIM card, local telcos usually charge expensive hourly rates for mobile data if you don’t avail of Internet surfing subscriptions. Postpaid users should check how much bandwidth they are entitled to use without having to pay additional fees. Also check if you device’s mobile connectivity is capable of reaching the promised speeds of your Internet connection. Naturally, you’d want a LTE-capable device if you’re subscribed to an LTE plan. Last but not least, you can opt to prohibit certain apps from consuming your cellular data, so they won’t be slowing the connection.

There are three common types of tethering available on Android devices: Bluetooth, USB, and Wi-Fi tethering. In most devices, all three types can be found in Settings > More settings (under Wireless and networks) > Tethering and portable hotspot.

Android tethering and mobile hotspot

USB Tethering

For Android tethering via this method, first link your mobile device and computer using a USB data cable and then tick the USB tethering checkbox. Newer versions of Windows should automatically install the necessary drivers to get the tethered Internet access up and running. If your computer still runs on the older Windows XP, you will need to download a configuration file (tetherxp.inf) that you will load as a driver in XP’s New Hardware Wizard. Mac OS X systems can make use of the HoRNDIS driver.

The good thing about USB tethering is that it charges your mobile device while sharing its Internet access. On the other hand, you won’t be able to position the device-turned-modem to get a better signal or coverage beyond the length of the data cable. USB tethering is also only a 1:1 connection.

Bluetooth Tethering

To tether using Bluetooth, make sure that the device is visible for your computer to detect and connect to. Afterwards, confirm that the passcodes are a match to finish the pairing process. Configure the Bluetooth settings on your computer with the right connection type.

Android tethering pair PC with mobile device thru Bluetooth

Like the USB method, Bluetooth tethering only allows sharing the Internet access with just one computer. On the plus side, a Bluetooth gives you more freedom in positioning your mobile device for better reception. In most cases, 3G Internet speeds aren’t affected by the slower transmission rate of Bluetooth. 4G connections, however, are better off with Wi-Fi tethering.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Perhaps the most convenient way to share your mobile device’s connection is by setting up a portable Wi-Fi hotspot for your computer to connect to. Simply enable the hotspot and configure if whether all other devices are allowed to connect or just certain ones as specified by the MAC address list. You can also modify the network SSID/name, as well as disable its broadcast. A password can also be set up for security purposes.

Android Wi-Fi tethering

Unlike on USB and Bluetooth tethering, multiple computers can join the Wi-Fi network and simultaneously gain Internet access. The data transmission is theoretically faster than Bluetooth, too. On the other hand, turning the device as a Wi-Fi router also drains the battery faster than the previous two options.

If your smartphone/tablet doesn’t have tethering features by default (likely due to having older hardware or an outdated Android version), there are apps available on the Google Play Store to help you set up tethering.

Choosing which Android tethering method you should use depends on personal choice and the situation. Wi-Fi provides better customization, whereas Bluetooth and USB are more battery-friendly.

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