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You must have heard of USB tethering, but do you know how it works? Learn about this technology by reading this guide to the end.

To aid your understanding, I have divided this guide into different sections. So the first section is an overview of USB tethering, and this will be followed by an explanation of how tethering works.

After discussing how tethering works, the next section will teach you about the features of USB tethering. Then, the fourth section will talk about the pros and cons of tethering via a USB connection.

Another important part of this article is the section where I’ll answer questions that people ask about tethering. So, read this article to the end, and you may want to start tethering over a USB connection.

USB Tethering: Overview

USB Tethering: Overview

To begin with, the term “USB tethering” comprises two words – “USB” and “tethering.” A USB (Universal Serial Bus) is an interface that allows a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to communicate with external devices.

Furthermore, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tethering means using a rope to tie an animal against an object so as to restrict its range of movement.

In like manner, USB tethering is the use of a mobile phone connected to the internet as a modem for another device. Specifically, when you tether via USB, you’re connecting the smartphone to a laptop or desktop through their USB ports.

Now, what rope do you use to connect the two devices via USB ports this way? Simply put, it’s a USB cable – a wire with a USB port at one end and a micro-USB port at the other end.

When we do that, we are not just trying to confine one of the devices to a particular location. Instead, we are trying to share an important resource (internet connection).

I’ll tell you how this works in the next section.

How Does USB Tethering Work?

One can share an internet connection between devices wirelessly (WiFi hotspot). Moreover, internet connections can be shared through a USB cable, and the working principle differs from a hotspot.

When you connect your phone to your laptop using a USB cable, your phone serves as a modem for internet access. Then, your laptop can access the phone’s internet through the USB wire (cable).

However, this doesn’t readily start to work once you plug the phone into the laptop. Instead, you will have to go to your phone’s connectivity settings and turn on “USB tethering.”

Furthermore, you also have to check your computer’s network connectivity status. If it’s not connected, then, choose the correct USB your phone is plugged into from the available networks, this will enable the tethering.

The detailed steps to connect your computer to your phone’s internet via USB tethering are different for different operating systems. Find out how to complete this task for your OS.

When you start tethering, only your mobile phone’s identity (IP address) is seen by your telecom service provider. Meanwhile, both your phone and your laptop can use the phone’s internet connection.

On a final note, as a result of tethering, more traffic is placed on the network bandwidth than can come from just a single device. This is why internet service providers don’t like tethering, and they can charge you more.

Features Of USB Tethering Technology

Features Of USB Tethering Technology

So far, we have had a general overview of USB tethering. Moreover, we have also looked at how USB tethering technologies work.

Now, let us discuss some important features of the technologies you use to tether via USB.

USB Tethering Shares Internet Connection

When you connect your smartphone and laptop for tethering, you’ll switch your phone’s USB settings from “Charge only” to “File Transfer”. To switch the USB options, slide down the notification area of your phone and choose “File Transfer”.

While the File Transfer USB option can still charge your phone’s battery, it primarily allows internet connection and file sharing.

Interestingly, USB tethering shares an internet connection in a protected way (I will talk more about that later).

USB Tethering Makes Use Of A Physical Cable

A typical USB cable is a wire with a full-size USB jack on one end and a micro-USB jack on the other end. The micro-USB jack is plugged into a smartphone to share the phone’s internet connection.

Then, the full-size USB jack is plugged into a laptop.

This wired connection creates a secure pathway for the flow of data from the smartphone to the laptop.

Two Devices With USB Ports Are Needed For USB Internet Sharing

All you need for USB internet sharing is a smartphone, a laptop (or a desktop) computer, and a USB cable.

Thankfully, most smartphones come with a micro-USB port of Type-A or even the faster Type-C port. On the other hand, laptops and desktop computers usually have multiple of these port types.

So, you only need to choose the fastest USB port on the laptop for a better browsing experience. Typically, USB Type-C or other USB 3 series is better.

Only One Device Is Known To Your Internet Service Provider

When you tether your phone to your laptop, your telecom service provider sees only your phone’s IP (Internet Protocol) address. Therefore, the IP address of the laptop you are using to browse remains hidden.

This is because when you tether, your phone acts as a modem. The phone also issues an IP address to the laptop, but this IP is not a public IP.

Meanwhile, depending on your activities, your service provider may detect that there’s more than a smartphone using their service. For this reason, you need to use tethering with modesty to avoid incurring additional data charges.

The Internet Speed Is Average

During tethering, your laptop’s internet surfing speed will be average. It won’t be as fast as your office or home network since it now uses the internet connection on your phone.

Not only that, but the connection still passes through a cable (USB). The quality of the USB cable affects the browsing speed.

Pros And Cons Of USB Tethering

In the preceding section, I highlighted the features of USB tethering technologies. Now, it’s time for you to learn the advantages and disadvantages of USB tethering.

Below are the pros and cons of tethering your mobile phone to your laptop or desktop computer.

Pros Of USB Tethering

  1. Tethering gives you access to the internet when you’re away from the office or work network. Your mobile phone may be your only gateway to the internet in remote areas, at home, or away from your office network. In such a situation, you can access the internet on your laptop through USB tethering.
  2. USB tethering can help to overcome file/task-sharing compatibility problems on phones. At times, you may need to upload some files or complete a task that is not good or not possible on the phone. So, all you need to do is link up your laptop to your phone and use internet access to perform the task on your laptop.
  3. The USB cable keeps your phone charging. Your phone remains plugged into your laptop all through the duration of USB tethering. As a result of that, your phone’s battery continues to charge all along (especially if you’re using USB Type-C).

    On the contrary, wireless tethering does not charge your phone’s battery at all. So, tethering over WiFi or Bluetooth connection will drain your phone’s battery quicker.

  4. It provides a more stable internet connection. The connection between the laptop in use and the phone is stable. More precisely, the strength of a wired connection does not fluctuate like a WiFi connection.
  5. USB tethering also guarantees more secure communication between the two devices in use. Regarding security, the wire connecting your phone and laptop during tethering suffers no interruption or interference from any external source. Hence, there can be no issues such as hacking into a USB wire by a nearby device, as we see in WiFi tethering.

Cons Of USB Tethering

  1. You can connect only one device at a time. USB internet tethering allows you to connect your phone to only one laptop at a time. For this reason, USB internet tethering is a good option only when you don’t want to share your mobile internet connection with multiple devices.

    On the contrary, WiFi tethering allows sharing of internet connectivity to multiple devices. Normally, you can set the number of permitted users to three, eight, or even more.

  2. USB internet tethering will drain the battery on your laptop quickly. Yes, when tethering over a USB cable, your laptop’s battery will drain faster. This is so because, while your laptop is running on its battery, it is also charging the phone you’re using to tether.

    In fact, when you spend more time tethering over a USB connection, your laptop’s battery life can reduce to half. Nevertheless, your laptop’s battery will run down this way if it’s not plugged into a power source while tethering.

  3. Tethering can attract extra payment. As I mentioned earlier, sharing your phone’s internet connection places more traffic on your service provider’s network than can come from a single device. So, post-paid subscribers may be charged more than the usual amount for tethering.

    On the other hand, prepaid internet subscribers may notice their data being sipped faster than normal during tethering. Nevertheless, this only happens when your ISP detects the unusual traffic (if you’re downloading too large files with the laptop).

  4. The internet connection is much slower while tethering. Your browsing speed becomes slower given that you’re using a mobile phone connection, and it has to go through a USB cable.
  5. The quality of the USB cable can affect your laptop’s browsing speed. Different manufacturers use different materials to produce USB cables. This results in cables with varying qualities and costs.

    Consequently, poor quality of cable reduces the speed at which data is transmitted from phone to computer during USB tethering. Thus, you have to be wise when choosing a USB cable for tethering.

Featured Smartphones That Support USB Tethering

Tablets and smartphones have USB ports and thus, can be used in USB internet tethering. This section lists our featured smartphones you can use for USB internet tethering.

I have selected 5 of our featured smartphones that you can use to share an internet connection to a laptop. Check out these smartphones…

Frequently Asked Questions About USB Tethering

1. What Is The Difference Between USB Tethering And Mobile Hotspot?

When you share an internet connection from your smartphone to your laptop through a USB cable, it’s called “USB tethering.” However, one can wirelessly share an internet connection between a smartphone and another device which we call a “mobile hotspot.”

Therefore, the major difference between USB Tethering And Mobile Hotspot is the communication medium linking the phone and the second device.

Note also that wireless tethering can be done using a WiFi hotspot or Bluetooth hotspot.

2. Which Is Better, WiFi Hotspot Or USB Tethering?

The short answer is that the better option depends on what you value more.

For instance, WiFi hotspots can be faster, especially on smartphones with the latest WiFi technology. Moreover, a WiFi hotspot allows multiple users to access it at a time.

On a good note, you can set the number of permitted users of a hotspot by yourself.

However, USB internet tethering can be pretty fast through a USB Type-C port. In addition to that, it is more secure than a WiFi hotspot.

Speaking of security, no nearby or remote device can hack into such a wired connection as opposed to a WiFi network.

3. Is USB Tethering Safe?

Yes, tethering your smartphone does not harm the phone. After all, your smartphone is designed to support tethering.

However, too frequent or prolonged tethering can cause overheating of phones, thereby reducing the lifespan of the phone.

4. Does USB Tethering Affect Battery Life?

Yes, it affects battery life differently for the smartphone and for the computer.

The USB cable ensures continuous charging of your smartphone’s battery as you tether from your smartphone. For the laptop, it continues to discharge your laptop’s battery for as long as you are tethering.

Nevertheless, this effect of discharging your laptop’s battery may not be felt if the laptop is plugged into a power source.

5. What Are The Disadvantages Of USB Tethering?

The following are the disadvantages of tethering internet connectivity over a USB connection.

i. You can connect only one device at a time.
ii. USB internet tethering will drain your laptop’s battery quickly if the laptop is not connected to a power source.
iii. Tethering can attract extra payment.
iv. The internet browsing speed is much slower when you are tethering.
v. The quality of the USB cable can reduce your laptop’s browsing speed.

6. Is Tethering Free?

If you have an unlimited data offer, tethering is free. However, it may not be free when your data usage is being metered or measured by your service provider.

Nevertheless, you will be charged more only if your network provider is able to detect that you are tethering. If you don’t download too many files with your laptop, your provider may not suspect or find out.

7. What Is Meant By Tethering?

According to the Meriam Webster Dictionary of English, tethering means to use a rope to tie something in order to keep it in a particular area.

Similarly, tethering refers to the act of linking a computer to a smartphone with a USB cable or wireless connection. This way, one can share an internet connection from the smartphone to the laptop computer.

8. Is USB Tethering Slow?

Yes, especially when your computer has only the old and slow USB ports like USB 2.0. Otherwise, tethering can be pretty fast when you have a USB Type-C port on your laptop and smartphone.

9. Can I Tether My Phone To My PC?

Yes, you can tether your phone to your PC. Below are several ways of tethering your phone to your PC from which you can choose.

To begin with, you can tether your phone to your PC over a USB connection (USB tethering).

In addition to that, you can tether your phone to your PC through a WiFi connection (WiFi hotspot).

Furthermore, you can still tether your phone to your PC using a Bluetooth connection (Bluetooth hotspot).

10. What Are The Advantages Of Tethering?

Tethering has several advantages, especially when you tether over a USB connection. Following are some of its benefits.

i. Tethering gives access to the internet when you’re away from the office or work network.
ii. USB tethering can help overcome phone file/task-sharing compatibility challenges.
iii. The USB cable keeps your phone charging.
iv. It provides a stable connection.
v. USB cable also guarantees more secure communication between the two devices in use while tethering.

USB Tethering: My Final Thoughts

USB Tethering: My Final Thoughts

Tethering a smartphone is a growing option that many people find useful. However, while the majority are conversant with wireless tethering, they do not know the benefits of wired tethering.

This article has shown the benefits of tethering via a USB connection. One known benefit is that the connection doesn’t fluctuate.

In addition to that, it is also secure and protected from external interference, unlike a WiFi hotspot.

Also, you must have learned from this guide how to tether your smartphone. Nevertheless, if you choose to tether, you need to be cautious to avoid incurring more charges from your service provider.

Thanks for reading this guide, and I hope to have you in our next guide.

I hope I was able to explain USB tethering and how it works. I also hope that you found the article easy to understand?

If you found the article helpful and easy to understand, kindly vote Yes to “Was this post helpful?” below.

You may also share detailed feedback or contribution with the “LEAVE A REPLY” form at the end of this page.

Finally, you may find other helpful articles on our Computer Technologies Explained page.

References And Further Reading

  1. Difference between Tethering over USB and Mobile Hotspot
  2. What is USB Internet Tethering?
  3. What is tethering or mobile hotspot? Here’s what you need to know.
  4. What is Tethering in Samsung Smartphones?
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