Windows 10 is designed for PCs with unlimited Internet connections, and it normally uses as much of your download and upload bandwidth as it wants without asking. Setting a connection as metered puts you back in control, and it’s essential on some types of connections.
You’ll always want to do this on connections with data caps, mobile hotspots, satellite Internet connections, dial-up connections, and anything else. It gives you more control over your connection and prevents Windows from gobbling bandwidth. On the Creators Update, Microsoft now easily allows you to set a wired Ethernet connection as metered, too.
What Setting a Connection as Metered Does
Setting a connection as metered prevents Windows from automatically using bandwidth in many ways. Here’s exactly what it does:
- Disables automatic downloading of most Windows updates: Windows won’t automatically download most updates from Windows Update on metered Internet connections. You’ll get a “Download” button you can click whenever you want to install updates. On the Creators Update, Microsoft has now given Windows Update permission to download critical security updates even if your connection is marked as metered. Microsoft has promised not to abuse this.
- Disables automatic downloading of app updates: The Windows Store won’t automatically download updates for your installed “Store apps” on metered connections, either. Desktop apps like Chrome, Firefox, and others will continue updating themselves normally.
- Disables peer-to-peer uploading of updates: On a metered connection, Windows 10 won’t use your upload bandwidth to share updates with PCs over the Internet. Windows 10 does this by default, consuming your potentially limited upload allowance to reduce Microsoft’s bandwidth bills.
- Tiles may not update: Microsoft says that the live tiles on your Start menu or Start screen “may” stop updating on a metered connection.
- Other apps may behave differently: Apps—particularly apps from the Windows Store—could potentially read this setting and behave differently. For example, a “universal app” BitTorrent client could potentially stop downloading automatically when connected to a metered connection.
Windows 10’s OneDrive client appears to no longer respect the “metered connection” setting and will sync over metered connections, ignoring your preference. Windows 8.1’s OneDrive integration worked differently and wouldn’t sync offline files on a metered Internet connection. This is just one of the many ways OneDrive in Windows 10 is a step back from Windows 8.1, and Microsoft may change this in the future. You can, however, limit OneDrive’s allowed transfer speed within the app.
When You Should Set a Connection as Metered
Microsoft says you should set a connection as metered if your Internet service provider limits the data you can use. However, you may also want to do this to prevent Windows from using your bandwidth except when you choose, especially on slower connections:
- Mobile data connections: If you have a Windows 10 laptop or tablet with an integrated mobile data connection, Windows 10 will automatically set that connection as metered for you.
- Smartphone and mobile data hotspots: If you’re connecting to a mobile data network by tethering with your smartphone over Wi-Fi—or using a dedicated mobile hotspot device—you’ll need to set it as metered after you connect. Windows 10 can’t automatically recognize these.
- Home Internet connections with bandwidth caps: If your Internet service provider implements bandwidth caps—even if they just limit data between certain hours of the day—you’ll want to set the connection as metered in Windows.
- Slow Internet connections: If you’re using a satellite or dial-up Internet connection, you may want to set the connection as metered to prevent Windows from hogging your connection by downloading updates while you’re using it.
- Any scenario where you want to control updates and downloads: You may want to have Windows download and install updates on your own schedule, giving you complete control over when those updates are downloaded and installed on your own schedule.
How to Set a Wi-Fi Connection as Metered
To set a Wi-Fi connection as metered, head to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Click the name of the Wi-Fi connection you’re connected to.
Activate the “Set as metered connection” option here.
Note that this just affects the Wi-Fi network you’re currently connected to. Windows will remember this setting, however, and that particular Wi-Fi network will always be treated as a metered network whenever you connect.
As soon as you leave the Wi-Fi network and connect to another Wi-Fi network that isn’t considered metered, Windows 10 will resume automatically downloading updates and using the other restricted features. You’ll need to set that Wi-Fi connection as metered after you connect to stop this from happening.
How to Set an Ethernet Connection as Metered
To set a wired Ethernet connection as metered, head to Settings > Network & Internet > Ethernet. Click the name of your Ethernet connection here.
Activate the “Set as metered connection” option for the network you’re connected to.
Note that this just effects that specific Ethernet connection. If you connect to another network later—for example, if you connect to a Wi-Fi network that isn’t marked as metered—Windows 10 will begin automatically downloading updates normally.
This option was added in Windows 10’s Creators Update. In earlier versions of Windows 10, you can only set an Ethernet connection as metered with a registry hack.
Metered connections are a partial solution to Windows 10’s bandwidth-hungry nature. For people with limited Internet connections, it would likely be better to see more options here. For example, an option that told Windows to automatically download updates only between certain hours of the day would be ideal for ISPs that lift the data cap at off-hours. While Active Hours allow you to control the time of day when Windows 10 installs updates, this feature doesn’t allow you to control when Windows actually downloads them.