How to tether your iPhone to your laptop

30th Dec 2009 | 08:00

How to tether your iPhone to your laptop

Access mobile broadband on a PC or Mac via your iPhone

What it costs and how to configure it

The more you use your iPhone, the more you can get frustrated that your laptop lacks the ability to connect to the internet wherever you go.

Hotspots are all very well, but they don't help when you're on a train, or if you need to file a document when you're out and about.

Happily, the iPhone can get you online anywhere you can get a mobile data signal. It's through a process called tethering – accessing the internet on your Mac or PC through your iPhone.

You can do it by connecting your iPhone to a spare USB port on your computer, or simply by pairing them using Bluetooth.

With this latter method, you can leave your iPhone in your bag or pocket – so long as it's within a few feet of your laptop, then you're good to go – though bear in mind that having Bluetooth active will reduce the battery life of both the laptop and iPhone.

Sadly, you can't just piggyback your iPhone's own unlimited data connection – at least, not without jailbreaking your iPhone and getting on the wrong side of the terms and conditions of your contract.

If you're on O2, you need to add a tethering bolt-on. You'll have to pay either £9.79 a month for a 3GB cap, or £29.36 a month for 10GB. These are costings for personal users, business users pay differently. Full details are available from O2's Internet Tethering page.

Various options are available on Orange tariffs, starting at 500GB for £4.89 a month or 1.5GB for £9.79 a month.

Vodafone is charging £5 for 500GB, £10 for 1.5GB and £15 for 3GB. So roughly the same as Orange, more expensive than O2.

Note that tethering is very much a UK-only deal; AT&T in the US doesn't even support tethering yet.

On all tethering packages international roaming for data isn't included. And, of course, this is over and above your normal line rental and are monthly fees.

If your iPhone is connected to the data cell network with just GPRS or EDGE, any incoming calls will go to voicemail while you're tethering, though if it's connected using 3G or WiFi, you can take and make calls at the same time.

So, how's it done? We set to finding out!

1. Configure tethering

Step 1

On O2? First you have to add O2's Internet Tethering Bolt On. Visit here; O2 aims to add the capability to your account within 24 hours.

Then, on your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Network > Set Up Internet Tethering.

2. Enable tethering

You can turn tethering on by flicking the switch. Apple provides information on how to connect using either USB or Bluetooth, right here on the tethering screen. It's not exhaustive, though; this tutorial will give you better guidance on getting everything set up.

Step 2

Pairing your iPhone with your laptop

3. Set up USB

Step 3

Once you've enabled tethering, simply plug your iPhone into one of your Mac's USB ports. The above message should pop up on your screen, letting you know that a new network port has been added; now click Network Preferences.

4. Connect over USB

Step 4

Assuming the phone itself has a data connection, you'll see the iPhone has already connected your Mac to the internet. Look for a circle and an 'E' or a '3G' icon next to the network name in the status bar. To disconnect, unplug the iPhone, or turn tethering support off.

5. Set up Bluetooth

We're using a Mac here, but you can naturally also use a PC. Click the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar and select Set Up Bluetooth Device. This will start the Bluetooth Setup Assistant, the same thing you'd launch if you opened the Bluetooth pane of System Preferences and clicked the Set up new device button.

Step 5

6. Identify your iPhone

To pair your iPhone with your Mac over Bluetooth, first pick it from the list here. (If your iPhone doesn't show up, make sure Bluetooth is switched on on your iPhone; it's in the General section of Settings.) It may take a moment for its name to be displayed.

Step 6

7. Pair your iPhone

The system generates a passkey to get the two devices connected. A message will pop up on your iPhone, asking you to confirm that the passkeys match. Tap the Pair button then click the Continue button on the Mac before the process times out.

Step 7

8. Configure new interface

Once the Bluetooth pairing is complete – during which time the Mac configures itself for tethering – you'll see an alert on your Mac telling you that a new network port (a Bluetooth Personal Area Network) has been detected. Click the Network Preferences button.

Step 8

9. Connect

To connect over Bluetooth, launch the Network System Preferences pane (it'll be open, since you just clicked the Network Preferences button) then select Bluetooth PAN from the list at the left. Make sure the correct device is selected, then click the Connect button.

Step 9

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First published in MacFormat Issue 214

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