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How to use your phone to connect your laptop to the internet when you have spotty Wi-Fi

  • Wireless hotspots can be slow and insecure.
  • If you have the right data plan, your phone can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, too.
  • The settings are different for iOS and Android, so we'll walk you through both.
Millennial working on computer
Aly Song | Reuters

You can create your own Wi-Fi hotspot using your smartphone in just a few seconds.

If you find yourself trying to jump on Wi-Fi at a cafe, airport or hotel, chances are you already know how slow those networks can be. Worse, they can be insecure and vulnerable to hackers who might be trying to snoop your data.

If you're using a smartphone, you're surfing on wireless data networks that are faster than ever and can be much faster than a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing you to finish downloading that movie just before you jump on a plane, or stream Netflix in the doctor's office.

If you have a data plan — we recommend having an unlimited data plan for Wi-Fi hotspotting — setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot is a breeze. If you don't have an unlimited plan, you may face additional charges. If you aren't sure, a quick call to your carrier to make sure you have the function should be all you need.

We'll break this guide down into Android and iOS, so you can get started no matter the smartphone you're using.

How to turn an iPhone into a mobile hotspot...

CNBC: iPhone hotspot
Todd Haselton | CNBC

On iOS, open Settings > Personal Hotspot and tap the toggle button to turn it on. You can also set your Wi-Fi password, which you'll want to make unique. Then, look for that Wi-Fi hotspot name on your computer and connect using the password you just set up.

...and how to do that with an Android phone

CNBC: Android hotspot
Todd Haselton | CNBC

On Android (in this case a Galaxy S8), open Settings > Connections > Mobile Hotspot and Tethering and toggle "Mobile Hotspot" on. You'll be able to set your network name and choose security. Make sure you choose to enable security and set a password. Leaving the network open makes you more vulnerable to attack. Then, on your laptop, search for the hotspot and connect using the password you created.

That's it! Now you're surfing on your own secure Wi-Fi network and, so long as you have good data coverage, you're probably cruising at faster speeds than a coffee shop's free hotspot.