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How to Use Your Android Phone as a Modem; No Rooting Required, Redux

2012-01-03_155009

Last year we showed you how to tether your Android phone to your computer, no rooting required. The only catch was that it cost $16—now we’re back with a just as simple but free-as-in-beer solution.

Our original guide was inspired by a reader email, asking us to help configure their Android phone and laptop for tethered browsing, and detailed how to use the robust PDAnet to tether. This guide is inspired by the recent release of Tether, a free application from Koushik Dutta, the brains behind the awesome ClockworkMod package for Android. Read on as we show you how to use ClockwordMod Tether.

One word of warning before we continue; although we found Tether to be a perfectly acceptable alternative to PDAnet, it is still an Alpha release. If you’re worried about hiccups or downtime (and your job depends on you having face and reliable internet access) we’d highly suggest reading our original guide focused on PDAnet as PDAnet is a mature and well tested tethering tool.

What You’ll Need

Accept for a quick download, you should have everything you need on hand already. For this tutorial you’ll need the following items:

  • Your Android Phone
  • Your laptop, netbook, or desktop computer
  • A USB sync cable for your Android phone
  • A copy of Clockwork Mod Tether Alpha (Available for Windows/Mac/Linux)

Once you’ve downloaded the appropriate copy for your OS, you’re ready to rock. Let’s get started!

Installing Tether

 2012-01-03_151021

After downloading the installation app, launch it. Although you won’t have to do anything too fancy to install tether you will need to approve a variety of system changes—the warnings look serious but that’s just because Windows Vista/7 is particularly aggressive about warning users.

Click through the installation process, about halfway through a command prompt window will pop up and the installation process will prompt you to approve the installation of an unsigned driver. Approve it.

2012-01-03_151631

At the end of the installation process Tether will launch your default web browser and direct it to Tether Drivers sub-page of the ClockworkMod site. If you already have the most up-to-date USB drivers for your particular Android phone, you can skip this step. For everyone else, take a moment to grab drivers for your phone. Don’t see your phone listed? You can always check out the driver list provided by Google here. At any rate, you’ll need to make sure your drivers are up to date before continuing.

If you’ve previously used PDAnet on your computer (whether the trial or the full package) you’ll need to uninstall it before continuing. Tether will not work if PDAnet is installed. Once your drivers are up to date and you’ve confirmed PDAnet is uninstalled, it’s time to fire up Tether.

2012-01-03_152305

When you first run it there isn’t much going on, it simply sits by idle waiting for you to start the process. Now is the time to plug in your Android phone’s sync cable and tether the phone to your computer. You’ll need to have Debug mode enabled. Take a moment to navigate, on your Android phone, to Settings > Applications > Development and check USB Debugging. Once you’ve confirmed debugging is on and your phone is connected, click Start in the Tether interface on your computer.

Tether should spring to life; don’t worry too much about the output whirling by in the Tether Log window. Tether will automatically install the Tether application on your Android phone (if it doesn’t you can find it in the \ClockworkMod\Tether\Common\ folder and install it manually).

At this point the USB logo on both the Tether desktop app and the Tether Android app should be green like so: 

2012-01-03_155242

And that’s it! You’re connected to the internet via your Android phone. No more hunting for Wi-Fi nodes, you’ve got a easy to use tether right in your pocket.

Troubleshooting Your Tether Installation

Although we had a painless Tether installation, it’s still an Alpha release app. We’ve rounded up some solutions to common problems here.

First, when in doubt, restart both your computer and phone. Second, use the task manager to kill all instances of tether.exe and node.exe before restarting the tether.exe—some users report that the first time they run Tether it doesn’t work but after killing the process and starting it again everything is fine.

Getting a DUN Null error? Make sure you’ve uninstalled PDAnet—double check even if you think it’s not installed, maybe you tested it out years ago and forgot.

Connection hangs between phone and computer? Make sure your USB drivers are up to date. It’s possible to have just-good-enough older drivers that get the phone and computer talking but fail to completely connect the two together.

Installation failed? Run it again as administrator and make sure to approve the driver requests it makes.

If you need additional help or have run into a quirky installation issue, make sure to check out the discussion thread about ClockworkMod Tether here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/3/12

Comments (30)

  1. dima

    Is there a way to tether to my iPad?

  2. Johnathan

    Thank you for the simple solution! Wish I had this over my Christmas break!

    Simple Typo: “Accept” should be “Except” under What You’ll Need.

  3. Johann

    How does this differ from the stock USB tethering option (other than needing a Windows prog install)?

  4. K@RiS

    What happened to the wireless versions to this? My old HTC HD2 did this out the box, why is it a lot of these smarts phones are now not doing this?

  5. M@rk

    Why use a USB tether, when you can just set you smart phone as a wifi hotspot, then set you laptops wifi to find said phone, that way you piggyback off of your phones HSDPA/GPRS/WAP

  6. Naviathan

    Now carriers are locking down phones so that you have to pay them to tether your smart phone to your computer. This way circumvents their tether charge and gives you much better service, at least with Verizon. I used the VZW Connect and paid for tethering for a while and their apps are so slow and bog everything down. Now I use PDANet and save some cash while getting better service.

  7. ericssonfan

    I really cannot see the point of this. Android 2.2+ has built in wireless/wired tethering. So what’s the fuss about?

  8. Xantes

    Exactly what I was wanting to point out: why use third party apps when all Android 2.2 phones have an in-built tethering feature on either wireless or data USB cable, which tethering feature is much easier to use than the one described above?!

  9. Solution Needed

    Is there a way to make this same process work with an iPad2? I am looking for a solution so my family can access wifi via their iPad on long trips without having to purchase a 3g iPad and plan. I have unlimited data plan and would like to capitalize on that.

  10. Richard

    Does this work for a Blackberry?

  11. Roy Russell

    Does this tethering keep you from using the data plan that I have for my smartphone?

  12. Luis

    Hey!, what about dailing to analog lines?, how can I use my Android phone as an analogue modem?, if someone has any idea please send me an email with the instructions.

  13. manmohan

    What do u mean by analog modem plz clear

  14. manmohan

    Some old android phoons doesn suppt wifitethering or hotspot so they need to thether their phon via usb

  15. Bill

    Some awesome comments and questions above… esp on how to ‘tether’ the iPadONE. Now let’s keep an eye out for the super answers!

  16. manmohan

    For iphons pdanet is alws a good choice and if u want it free mail me

  17. RickMay57

    Does this product obfuscate your browsing so that the wireless provider cannot tell that you are tethering?

  18. Pablo

    Roy, this tethering uses your Data Plan, that is the point of it. This way if you need to use your laptop but you cannot find a WiFi you can use your Android to tether your laptop so it can surf the internet via your phone.

  19. Brian

    How can I make this work with an Android Honeycomb ACER A 500 tablet

  20. Justin N

    Lets use some caution here. I received an email, text, and letter from ATT b/c I was tethering via Hotspot. I was not using a great amount of data, but I was caught and asked to stop, otherwise they will switch me to a tethered plan. Since they no longer offer “unlimited” I would of lost that. I no longer tether. Now, will this method help go UN-detected from the carriers? If so, then I will use it!

  21. Gary

    Careful here, folks … ATT, if not other providers, will eventually detect your tethering and impose their HUGE monthly tethering charge and data limits. No matter how sneaky you get, they eventually consider you a plunker and up your monthly bill.

  22. BassBastard

    T-Mobile charges an extra $15 a month for mobile hotspot. This just allowed me to USB tether (which is counted as mobile hotspot) without rooting.

    I am satisfied with the performance vs the cost (Nothing) and will be keeping an eye on this.

    Samsung Galaxy 2S

  23. TStank

    I tried this with my HTC Evo 3D, and it works very well. What concerns me is that when I tried using the phone’s USB tether feature I got a warning saying that my Sprint plan did not include tethering. I imagine the purpose of this is to get around that, but is it something designed for phones with no pre-existing USB tether feature which will get me charged the extra $30 a month without first warning me?

  24. K Town

    What about a pay as you go Virgin Mobile phone with unlimited data? I’m going to try it and see if it works first and also see if they say anything about it. Virgin Mobile uses the Sprint network.

  25. yesh

    Is there a program which has the ability to do reverse tethering?

    I want to use broadband from my comp to connect to my mobile using USB. Is this possible

  26. MrCaringi

    I need to do exactly the inverse process: share internet access to my phone! how I can do that?

  27. Stan

    I’d thire a way to connect my iphone3g to pc and used internet

  28. Tim Schofield
  29. Valangaiman Narayanan VS

    Hallow Friends,

    I am using regularly My LG P500 Smart Phone, by Using Tethering my Computer and
    connecting to the Net. It works well in GPRS connection.
    The Speed of the Net is subjected to the Providers.

    Thanks once again to the “How to the Geek” developers.
    Expecting News about “Blue stack” using windows XP SP2 Users.

    VS Narayanan
    T. Nagar,
    Chennai 17
    Tamil Nadu.
    South India

  30. moggyman

    Luis, any answer on how to use Droid as dial-up modem? I want to fax via Droid and have no dataplan!

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