This story is part ofCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Our way of life has become very dependent on having. We , on laptops and entertain ourselves with our favorite shows and to . Strong Wi-Fi is essential every day.
So what happens when you go out and about, away from yours? Or what if your home internet ?
In this guide, we will give you a quick overview of how to get online fast using, and how to get free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world. (You can also read , and our choice .)
What is a hotspot?
A hotspot is a central location or device that provides wireless access to the Internet, and any network device can connect as long as it has the right access. Depending on your mobile provider and plan, you can use your own.
There are two different types of hotspots: public and private.
In the above scenario where you have paid your mobile provider for the ability to create a hotspot with your smartphone, the smartphone is a portable device that creates wireless access to other Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, desktop computers and streaming devices. . This is an example of a private hotspot.
A public hotspot is usually created by a business to provide internet service when visitors, customers and clients are on site. Many free, public Wi-Fi connections are hotspots. But for the sake of accuracy, it is important to note the difference between regular Wi-Fi and a hotspot.
What is the difference between Wi-Fi and hotspot?
While hotspots are a physical location or device, Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that devices can use to send information to each other. If you have Wi-Fi at home, it’s because you have a Wi-Fi router that supports all your wireless gadgets, and an Internet service provider that connects that router to the Internet.
As long as you set a strong password, a private Wi-Fi network like that will be more secure than a public hotspot because you control who and what connects to it. On the other hand, public hotspots are open to anyone within range, which is why it’s a good idea to use them.or if you need to do anything serious, like shopping or sending money.
How to get free Wi-Fi or free public hotspots
While this won’t happen at home (unless you happen to live really close to someone with an unsecured network), there are often plenty of options for finding free Wi-Fi or public hotspots at businesses like coffee shops, libraries, hotels, restaurants, gyms and more.
If you’re about to head out for the day in search of free internet, here are some useful apps to try:
Apps like these will display a map of your area with a list of free public Wi-Fi or hotspots available. Most will let you track login requirements and hotspot updates, too.
Some places, like libraries, often offer free public Wi-Fi, but if you’re not using a Wi-Fi finder app, it’s a good idea to call first to make sure.
How to set up and use free Wi-Fi
Make sure the device you plan to use is Wi-Fi capable. If so, make sure Wi-Fi is turned on.
Once you have arrived at a place where you will use a public Wi-Fi or hotspot, open a browser and open your computer’s network settings or click the Wi-Fi icon on your screen. Next, select the public Wi-Fi connection you intend to use. If the connection is public, you will be connected now, but look for the login site that will appear in your browser. Some businesses require you to agree to their terms of service or provide an email address before they’ll let you use their free Wi-Fi.
Some businesses provide a login and password for their customers and provide a secure network. If the connection you intend to use appears to be secure, check the login and password sent to the business, or ask someone for help. And yes, if you’re somewhere like a coffee shop, it would be polite to buy a cake or a cup of joe while you’re at it.
If you have set your computer to automatically connect to available networks, the next time you visit that business, your computer will automatically join its network.
How to set up and use a private hotspot
They’re not free, but if you need an internet connection at home and have a good mobile signal, a paid hotspot may be one place to turn. For example, maybe you live in the areaor maybe internet plans in your area are beyond your budget.
Depending on your mobile provider and subscription plan, you may already have personal hotspot capabilities. If not, talk to your provider to find out how much they will charge for that option. Be prepared to pay more if you want unlimited data.
After you’ve considered costs, you’ll need to decide between using your smartphone as a hotspot or purchasing a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot device.
Should I use my smartphone, or a different hotspot device?
A hotspot device will be considered a separate device in your mobile plan with its own, separate data limit. The downside is the extra cost, but the upside is that you won’t have to worry about your smartphone using up your hotspot data. Another advantage: If you set ia, using a hotspot device to access the Internet is just as secure as any ISP-provided Wi-Fi connection, and will usually provide greater coverage, too. We are also seeing a growing number of full-featured Wi-Fi routers which are designed to receive their incoming signal through a cellular connection, such as LTE or .
Both smartphone hotspots and dedicated hotspot devices can be used anywhere, or using a smartphone hotspot in public places can be convenient, especially if you’re just trying to get your laptop online for a few minutes.
What Wi-Fi options does my internet provider offer?
In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission created the Keep Americans Connected program to help people maintain their broadband connections during times of violence. Additionally, suppliers likeextend free public Wi-Fi to anyone (customers and non-customers) in 2020. Many providers have extended such benefits until 2022 — if you’re struggling, it’s worth checking with providers in your area to see what your options are.
Whichever approach you take, the bottom line is that you probably have more ways to get online than you might think. I hope this guide helps you find and use them — in the meantime, here’s some reading you might find useful: