Ever been stuck in a situation where you need to get a computer or tablet online with no Wi-Fi nearby? If you've got an iPhone with a 3G or 4G data connection, that problem can be easily solved thanks to Personal Hotspot.
Personal Hotspot is a feature of iOS that lets iPhones running iOS 4.3 and higher share their cellular data connection with other nearby devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB. This feature is generically known as tethering. When using Personal Hotspot, your iPhone acts like a wireless router for the other devices, transmitting and receiving data for them.
Personal Hotspot Requirements
In order to use Personal Hotspot on an iPhone, you need:
- An iPhone 4 or newer
- iOS 4.3 or higher
- A data plan that supports tethering/Personal Hotspot
- A USB cable, if you want to connect devices that way.
How to create an iPhone hotspot
A Wi-Fi hotspot turns the iPhone into a Wi-Fi router, much like the one in your home. The iPhone connects to the internet using its 3G/4G cellular data connection, and then broadcasts this via a Wi-Fi connection that your Mac, or other device, can connect to - or you can create a wired connection to your computer's USB port.
Here's how to set up an iPhone Wi-Fi hotspot:
- Open the Settings app, then select Mobile Data. (In iOS 10 or later. In some older versions of iOS you just select Mobile.)
- Tap Personal Hotspot, and set Personal Hotspot to On. (Tap the slide so it turns green.)
- If Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth are off, iOS will ask if you want to turn them back on. We'd recommend doing so - without them, the hotspot will be limited to USB. This is more secure, however.
- Tap 'Wi-Fi Password' and enter a suitable password. (This isn't related to your Apple ID or usual Wi-Fi connection.)
- Now check the name of the hotspot listed under To Connect Using Wi-Fi (we get "David's iPhone").
- Click the Wi-Fi icon in your Mac's Menu bar, or open the Settings app and tap Wi-Fi on an iPad, and choose the Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Enter the password from Step 4.
That should be it. You should now be able to browse the internet on your MacBook or Wi-Fi-only iPad using the connection provided by your iPhone.
If you haven't got the Wi-Fi icon in the Menu bar of your Mac, open System Preferences and click Network. Select Wi-Fi in the list on the left. Choose the iPhone hotspot from the Network Name dropdown menu.
While you're here, you should place a tick next to 'Show Wi-Fi status in menu bar'.
You can now browse the internet on your Mac or iPad using the data connection from the iPhone. Your mileage may vary, however, depending on how good the iPhone's network connection is. You might find the internet runs a little slower than you're used to.
When you've finished, tap Settings > Mobile > Personal Hotspot on your iPhone and set it to Off
Next, it’s time to connect to your hotspot on your laptop using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB.
Connect to Your Hotspot Over Wi-Fi
The most familiar (and common) way to connect to your iPhone is over Wi-Fi. To do so, you just connect to it like you do any Wi-Fi access point, whether you’re using a Windows PC, Mac, iPad, or any other device. Just select your iPhone from the list of Wi-Fi networks.
- If you’re connecting for the first time, you’ll need to enter the password you assigned earlier.
- If all goes well, you should have internet on your laptop or other device.
- When you or anyone else is connected to you iPhone’s Personal Hotspot, a blue bar will appear along the top and show you how many connections there are.
Connect to Your Hotspot via Bluetooth
Wi-Fi and USB are faster than Bluetooth, but you’d prefer to use Bluetooth to connect to your hotspot, you can do that too.
- To connect via Bluetooth from a Windows computer, first click on the Bluetooth icon in the system tray and select “Join a Personal Area Network”.
- Next, click “Add a Device” in the upper-left corner.
- Choose your iPhone from the resulting screen and click “Next” to continue.
- Like any other Bluetooth connection, you’ll be shown a pair code on your computer and your iPhone. Compare the two passcodes, and if they are the same, tap “Pair” on your iPhone’s screen and “Yes” on the Windows pair screen.
- Allow your Windows machine to install the necessary files on your system.
- Once finished, you can right-click on your iPhone to connect it as an access point. You’re ready to surf the Internet, check e-mail, chat, and so on.
On a Mac
- On a Mac, open head to System Preferences > Bluetooth, find your iPhone in the list, and click “Pair” next to your iPhone.
- You’ll be shown a pair code on your Mac’s screen and on your iPhone.
- If the codes match, tap the “Pair” button to confirm the connection.
- Now, from your Mac’s menu bar, click the Bluetooth symbol, highlight your iPhone in the list, and click “Connect to Network”.
- You’ll now be able to access the Internet through your iPhone’s Bluetooth connection. When you want to disconnect, click the Bluetooth symbol once more, choose your iPhone, and then “Disconnect from Network”.
Connect to Your Hotspot with a USB Cable
Connecting via USB is by far the easiest method to tether your phone. As long as you have your Personal Hotspot turned on, all you need to do is plug your phone in with a USB cable and you should be good to go.
- On our Windows’ network adapters, we can see we’re connected via “Apple Mobile Device Ethernet”.
- On our Mac, we can see in the Network settings that our iPhone is connected through our USB connection.
Which Method Is Best?
- Of all the methods, USB is the fastest but most inconvenient, requiring your iPhone to be physically connected to the computer. Still, it’s super simple to set up, requiring zero configuration.
- Using Speedtest.net and conducting some basic tests, we saw speeds on our own personal mobile data connection 3.7mbps down, 4.3 up, with around a 60ms ping time.
- Bluetooth is more secure than Wi-Fi, but the slowest of the three, also requiring the most configuration, though once it’s done, you don’t have to worry about it again.
- We saw speeds around .8mbps down, .8 up, and again, 60mg ping times.
- Wi-Fi will be the most popular way of connecting, but is insecure if you don’t use a strong password–so make sure you set one. It’s also very easy to connect to, needing only to enter said password once, and almost as fast as USB.
How to Fix Missing Personal Hotspot on iPhone & iOS 10
But some users often after upgrading the OS on their devices or after unlocking or jailbreaking their phones – have found that their Personal Hotspot has disappeared.
Personal Hotspot not working on your iPhone? Here's what to do
Step 1: Restart Your iPhone
- This is the best first step in almost every troubleshooting situation. A restart often clears simple problems and gets you back on track. I'd guess that a restart won't work for most people in this situation, but it's simple and quick, so it's worth a try.
- To restart your iPhone, hold down the home and sleep/wake buttons at the same time until the Apple logo appears on the screen and then let go.
Step 2: Try Cellular Settings
Sometimes when the Personal Hotspot menu disappears from the main screen in the Settings app it's still present in another place. This option uses that to get it back.
- Open Settings.
- Tap Cellular.
- Tap Personal Hotspot.
- Move Personal Hotspot slider to on/green
- Go back to the main Settings screen and you may see Personal Hotspot listed right under Cellular and above Notifications. If so, the problem is solved. If not, try the next step.
You can also try turning your cellular connection on and off. To do that, open Control Center and put your phone into Airplane Mode, then turn Airplane Mode off.
Step 3: Reset Network Settings
In some situations, Personal Hotspot may have disappeared due to a problem with the settings that control your phone's access to cellular and Wi-Fi networks (they may have accidentally been changed during the OS upgrade or jailbreak). Resetting those settings and starting fresh should help:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap General.
- Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap Reset.
- Tap Reset Network Settings.
- In the pop-up warning, tap Reset Network Settings.
Your iPhone will restart. When it's done booting up, check the main Settings screen for the Personal Hotspot option. If it's not there, continue on to the next step.
Step 4: Check Phone Name
Every iPhone has a name. Usually, it's something along the line of "Sam's iPhone" or "Sam Costello's iPhone" (if you're me, that is). That name doesn't get used for much, but believe it or not, sometimes it can affect whether or not Personal Hotspot is visible. If you've changed the name of your phone or have unlocked your phone:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap General.
- Tap About.
- Look at the Name menu. If the name is different than what you were expecting, tap Name.
- On the Name screen, tap the x to delete the current name and type in the old one.
If Personal Hotspot doesn't appear on the main Settings screen, move on to the next step.
Step 5: Update Carrier Settings, If Available
To update to the latest settings could be the cause of the missing Personal Hotspot. To check for new carrier settings:
- Tap Settings.
- Tap General.
- Tap About.
- If updated settings are available, a prompt will appear on screen. Follow the instructions.
Step 6: Update APN Settings
Your phone's APN, or Access Point Name, helps it understand how to connect to cellular networks. Tweaking the APN settings can sometimes resolve the problem.
- Tap Settings.
- Tap Cellular (or Cellular Data Network, depending on which version of the iOS you're running).
- Look at the Cellular Data menu. lf there's any text in the APN field, make note of it. If there's nothing there, skip to step 5.
- Scroll to the Personal Hotspot menu. In the APN field, type in the text from the last step.
- If there was nothing in the Cellular Data menu, just scroll down to the Personal Hotspot section and enter any text you like in the APN, Username, and Password fields.
- Go back to the main Settings screen and Personal Hotspot should appear shortly.
Step 7: Restore From Backup
If nothing has worked, it's time for a more radical step: restoring from backup. This wipes all the data and settings currently on your iPhone and replaces them with an older version (make sure to pick one that you know works). Keep in mind: anything that you don't have backed up will be lost during this process, so make sure you've got everything you need to be saved before starting.
Step 8: Contact Apple
- If you've gotten this far and still don't have Personal Hotspot, you've got a more complicated problem than you can solve on your own.
- Your best at this point is to get help directly from Apple. Try going to your nearest Apple Store for expert help.