Life with no home internet
September 5, 2019 8:36 PM   Subscribe

My home internet is stupid expensive, considering that I live in a major American city that has no weather. I want to cancel, and just use my phone as a hotspot when I use my laptop. I think that would work out fine (Do you?) except for one thing -- my gaming desktop computer can connect to the internet only by Ethernet. Can I install something in my desktop to allow it to use my phone's hotspot? If so, what is that specific thing? Thanks for any advice!
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
A USB wifi adapter would probably do the trick.
posted by mammoth at 8:41 PM on September 5, 2019 [6 favorites]

Yep, a USB wifi adapter will solve that problem pretty cheaply, and the Wirecutter has some recommendations.

Before you take this jump, I'd make sure you're comfortable with your data usage and how that fits in with your cell phone plan, especially if you don't have unlimited data or your provider slows your connection to a crawl after you've used a certain amount. Some streaming video, a big software update, downloading a game: it can add up to a cell phone plan's monthly data allotment pretty fast.

I'd also do some tests to make sure the bandwidth and latency at your home are good enough for the games you like to play.
posted by zachlipton at 9:20 PM on September 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

I use this usb adapter.

I use MintMobile for phone and data. It's the cheapest I've found. You can check if your phone will work here. T-mobile reseller.

Calyx is another choice for data. Basically unlimited data. Includes dedicated hotspot.

It works pretty well for general internet, watching youtube does some buffering.
If you need it superfast you won't be happy because it isn't. If you watch a lot of video you won't be happy because you will be worried about your data cap (unless you get unlimited data).
posted by H21 at 9:52 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Just in case you haven't ruled this out yet - you can usually do USB tethering (instead of setting up a hotspot) directly from an Android phone to a computer.
posted by trig at 10:21 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Came in to say the same thing as trig. Generally all you need to make Ethernet-over-USB work is driver software, and most modern operating systems have that built in. All you should need to do is plug your phone in with a USB cable and switch on USB Tethering in its settings, and the PC should automatically find and load the correct driver.

Best thing about USB tethering compared to wifi hotspotting is that it automatically charges your phone instead of running it flat double quick.
posted by flabdablet at 11:35 PM on September 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

That said: if you think your present connection is stupid expensive, just wait until you feel what mobile carriers charge per transferred gigabyte.
posted by flabdablet at 11:36 PM on September 5, 2019 [16 favorites]

The gakiko household does the same thing as winterhill at about the same price point (18€/month). The latency is noticeable but we're not (online) gamers, so it doesn't bother us. It's been a year since we ditched cable internet and we don't miss it.
posted by gakiko at 3:55 AM on September 6, 2019

Oh, and we had been using our phones as hotspots before we got a dedicated mobile modem, and the only thing that bothered us was that hotspotting drained the battery pretty fast and heated up the phone. YMMV.
posted by gakiko at 3:58 AM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

You probably want the USB WiFi adapter or an internal WiFi card (if your machine has a free slot). This will allow you to use your laptop and pc at the same time. The direct USB connection will make you move your phone. You'll still probably be plugging your phone into a USB port to keep it charged while it's doing all that work (and getting warm).

Or the dedicated hotspot with and ethernet port and WiFi to support both computers at the same time. That's unlikely to use the same plan as the phone that you're thinking of using. Another plan / package. You sorta need a data-only sort of SIM for the dedicated device and maybe a lower data+voice for your phone. Unless you only use WiFi phone calls / data and don't want to leave the house and have it still work.

USB tethering is totally better if you can do it and only want to use one device at a time. Try a USB WiFi dongle / card and see if it works for you. Then maybe the dedicated hotspot.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:13 AM on September 6, 2019

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