How to tether your mobile phone and restrict background data

Rick Sturch article on Hotspot settings

If you're planning on taking your phone and computer with you on vacation this summer (or any season for that matter), this article is for you.

Have you ever tethered your computer to your mobile hotspot, browsed a few data-light websites (such as news sites for example), then all of a sudden you've used a gigabyte of data?

The reason this sometimes happens is that background apps and updaters can run while you think you're being careful not to consume too much data. Thankfully, there are some solutions to this.

If you're using a Windows operating system, you have a couple easy and free options to curtail this unwanted updating.

The first is to specify the network connection that your mobile device is creating as a 'metered connection' in your computer's wifi settings. This is a pretty easy way to turn off automatic Windows updates - your computer will wait until you are on a network that isn't a metered connection before downloading any updates.

To do this, you'll need to adjust a wifi property on your computer. There are a number of ways to get to the wifi settings, but the easiest is if you right-click on the name of the wifi connection your phone is creating (on your taskbar for example), then click on properties. There will be a toggle switch that you can enable to make this connection a metered connection, and everytime you connect to that network in the future, your computer will refrain from updating Windows. Some detailed instructions can be found here.

Alternatively, if you really want to restrict everything (except your browser), you can do that in your computer's firewall settings. If you're using the default Windows Firewall, you can manually select and de-select all the apps that can access the internet. The only problem with doing this is that once you return to a regular unlimited internet connection, you will have to re-select all the apps in order to use the internet regularly.

If you are using a Mac computer, there is not a default setting like there is in Windows. There are apps available such as TripMode 2, which claim to basically do what Windows Firewall does (except way easier). The app costs CA$9.99 at the time of writing this. I haven't tried it, but it looks like a good option. You can also buy a bundle that includes one for mac and pc.

Have a fun (overage free) vacation!

by Rick Sturch


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