USB tethering /hotspotting from iPhone to Windows no longer works. Help?
May 11, 2020 1:31 AM   Subscribe

It appears that using my iPhone as a hotspot on my Windows 10 PC (which only has Ethernet, no Wi-Fi card or Bluetooth) stopped working sometime between March and now. Can I fix this, or do I have to wait for an Apple update?

If I required it (my FTTC broadband goes down a lot in fine weather, it’s a long story) I would plug in my iPhone via USB, turn on the Personal Hotspot, and switch to the appropriate network adapter – voila, back on the internet!

But now every step works except the last – the computer recognises the phone no problem, but there’s no network adapter. As if the phone just stopped communicating that part to Windows. The difference between now and the last time it worked (which was only a few weeks ago) is an iOS update, all the troubleshooting I’ve done indicates it’s an iOS issue, the Windows drivers are all present and correct.

I’ve verified tethering still works on my Mac (although that’s changed, too; the USB hotspot option no longer appears in the Airport menu bar dropdown) but I need this as an emergency backup for work on my Windows machine. Has anyone else run into the same problem and have a solution? Or am I SOL until Apple sorts it out?
posted by macdara to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Is it still turned on? In Settings, go to General->Personal Hotspot and make sure Allow Others to Join is turned on. If it isn't, only machines that are linked into the same iCloud account can use the hotspot feature. (Macs and other Apple devices will use the phone via WiFi or Bluetooth in this scenario.) If it is turned on, toggle it and/or maybe reboot the phone.

As a data point, works fine on my XR connected to a Win10 PC also lacking in WiFi and iCloud via USB. (It does have Bluetooth.) Turning off Allow Others to Join kills its network connection to the phone - the network adapter for the phone goes away.
posted by mrg at 6:44 AM on May 11

Not abusing the edit window to say: toggling Allow Other Users to Join also popped up the "Trust This Computer?" prompt. I hit Trust but can't remember if hitting Don't Trust will also lock you out of using the wired hotspot feature on the phone.
posted by mrg at 6:48 AM on May 11

‘Allow others to join’ is turned on, ‘Trust this computer’ accepts. Literally the only difference between how it always worked before and now is that the network adapter just doesn’t show up in Windows.
posted by macdara at 7:29 AM on May 11

You might want to restart the phone if you haven't done so in the last 24-48 hours. My Game Center just stopped responding last night (iPad was fine, phone was not) and restarting it fixed the issue.
posted by soelo at 9:22 AM on May 11

USB WiFi adapters are very cheap, USD$14-20, and a good way to do wireless tethering to your iPhone, as well as serving as a backup to your wifi network should your computer's NIC fail and break ethernet connectivity. (There're USB gadgets for when that breaks, when your soundcard fails, when your optical drive breaks... it's a USB world, and USB gadgets are cheap.)

Small, low-profile adapters will work great for you since you'll presumably have the iPhone in the neighborhood of your desktop. When you search google for USB wifi adapters, you'll see alot of antennas, but I don't think you'll need that in common practice. Windows 7 or 10 will install any of these devices with aplomb, and get you going ASAP.

I don't have experience with the model I linked, but my company uses the Buffalo Airstation N150 and has for 10 years; if you can find one, it's a very good product.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:49 AM on May 11

I’m not going to threadsit here but just for clarity, since I was asked:

- I’ve restarted my iPhone (SE from 2018, updated to latest iOS) multiple times, no dice. I’ve also restarted the PC, no dice. I’ve reset the networking settings, no dice. I will be migrating to a new 2020 model SE later this week and will obviously test that phone if it isn’t otherwise fixed by then.

- With my phone plugged in, hotspot with ‘allow others to join’ active, there is no sign of the network adapter, but I do get this under network properties, so the PC is reading something:
Name: Ethernet 2
Description: Apple Mobile Device Ethernet
Physical address (MAC): [REDACTED]
Status: Not Present
Maximum transmission unit: 0
Connectivity (IPv4/IPv6): Disconnected

- I’m not interested in anything other than what I asked for, in fairness. Spending money on this issue is the absolute last resort so please don’t recommend Wi-Fi cards, etc.
posted by macdara at 2:08 PM on May 11

Might not help, but something to try is Settings - General - Reset - Reset Network Settings. This will blow out your carrier and wifi settings and let them reload. Might be something that needs to kick it just right. Wasn't sure if "reset the network settings" mentioned above was in your iPhone or in the PC.
posted by msbutah at 3:45 PM on May 11 suggests you have to "update to the latest version of iTunes"

Perhaps there's an iOS / iTunes version mismatch since you recently updated iOS?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 3:47 PM on May 11

I've had recent iPhone Hotspot issues as well and looking online others have too . My iPad would connect to my iPhone Hotspot great but my Chromebook would have a hard time connecting to the Hotspot and frequently drop connections. I tried restarting all devices and resetting Network Settings. That didn't work. All my devices had the most recent updates. I reinstalled Chrome OS on my Chromebook and that seemed to magically improve everything. I have no idea why or how.
posted by mundo at 10:11 PM on May 11


My SO seems to have solved it, as the same problem was happening on her PC as well: I installed iTunes, which I never had on this machine (because I sync my iPhone with my Mac), and suddenly the hotspot works? Absolutely ridiculous.

At least this might serve to help anyone else who’s run into the same problem. Thanks for trying to help, everyone.
posted by macdara at 7:57 AM on May 12

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