How To Share Internet Between Your Devices When You're Away From Home

Photo: William Iven, Unsplash

In an ideal world, you’ll connect all of your devices up to fast, free-flowing wifi wherever you happen to be, but away from home you’ll often run into restrictions: Maybe only a certain number of devices can be connected per user, or maybe wired Ethernet access is free but wifi comes at a premium.

If you’re in a hotel or a coffee shop or wherever, you might also find that your phone connects to the provided wifi but your laptop doesn’t, or vice versa. Networks that aren’t your own can be tricky to access, and you won’t always have time to launch into a full-blown troubleshooting session.

If one of your devices can connect to the internet but your others can’t for whatever reason, these are the options open to you. Windows has the best solutions for this, but you can make do with different kinds of tethering on macOS and Android. Unfortunately, you can’t share a non-cellular internet connection from iPhones and iPads, even if you’re tethering via Bluetooth or over USB.

This is really a hardware limitation: most devices, especially phones, aren’t geared up to both receive wifi and transmit wifi at the same time (that’s why when you typically create a mobile hotspot on an iPhone or Android device, the wifi automatically turns off and you’re put back on your cellular connection).

If you do a lot of travelling, you might consider investing in a travel router that hooks up to a cell network and then provides wifi for as many devices as need it. Alternatively, find yourself a phone or a tablet with a good data plan that can be used for tethering, so you don’t need to rely on the wifi networks you come across on your wanderings (this is better from a security perspective, too).

Windows

Open up the Settings pane (click the cog on the Start menu), then go to Network & Internet and choose Mobile hotspot. You can use this feature to share a cellular connection or an internet connection, but it’s the latter we’re interested in here, so make sure WiFi or Ethernet is selected under Share my Internet connection from.

You also need to pick WiFi as the Share my Internet connection over option (unless you’d rather use Bluetooth for some reason), and then you can turn on the Share my Internet connection with other devices toggle switch.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Further down the dialog you’ll see a network name and network password that Windows has automatically generated for you—you’ll need this information to get your other devices online. If you want to change these options (to make the password easier to remember, for example), click Edit.

That’s it—your Windows machine is ready to connect to, until you disable the wifi hotspot again. It’s a shame that internet sharing that’s this straightforward (whether from Ethernet or wifi) isn’t available on other platforms or older versions of Windows (you’ll need the latest version of Windows 10 for it to work so update before you travel).

macOS

On macOS, you can only create a wifi network if your Mac is connected via Ethernet, so you’ll need to hook up to the web directly in your hotel room or wherever you are. You can’t connect via wifi and then share via wifi at the same time.

If you’ve got a Mac connected to a wired internet connection and want to share that wifi with other devices, open the Apple menu, choose System Preferences, and go into the Sharing screen. Make sure Ethernet is selected next to Share your connection from, then tick Wi-Fi on the right, then click Wi-Fi Options underneath—here you can configure your new wifi hotspot, and give it a name and access password.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Tick Internet Sharing on the left, then Start, and your hotspot is up and running. Other devices can then connect to the new wifi network using the details that you just entered in the Wi-Fi Options dialog.

If you don’t have access to an Ethernet connection, you can share a Mac’s wifi connection via Bluetooth—pick Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet as the shared connection, and Bluetooth PAN as the sharing option instead of Wi-Fi. Bluetooth will be slower for your other devices, but it might do the job if nothing else is available.

Android

Samsung Galaxy phones (from the S7 and later) do this best: They actually enable wifi to wifi sharing via the imaginatively named Wifi Sharing feature. If you go to Connections, Mobile Hotspot and Tethering, then Mobile Hotspot from Settings, you’ll see a Wi-Fi sharing toggle switch—this will share the current wifi network under a new name for your other devices to connect to, rather than relying on a mobile data connection.

For the rest of you on Android, no such luck—all you can do is share a wifi connection via Bluetooth so that other devices can get connected (albeit at a slower speed), or share a wifi connection via USB (and then only if your computer runs Windows). From Settings, tap Network and Internet, Hotspot and tethering, and turn Bluetooth tethering on. Nearby laptops will then be able to get online using the new Bluetooth connection.

Screenshot: Gizmodo

If you’ve got a USB cable handy, then you can plug your phone or tablet into your laptop, then activate the USB tethering option. As we’ve said though, this only works on Windows and not macOS. Android being Android, you might find some variations in the process and support for tethering based on the make and model of your mobile device.

While some third-party Android apps promise to create a wifi network from a wifi network, we haven’t found any that are stable and simple enough for us to recommend—the closest is Netshare, which you might want to try, but it requires some reconfiguring of the internet settings on your other devices, rather than letting you connect straight to a wifi network.

Trending Stories Right Now