Windows 8 and 10 both allow you to set certain types of connections as metered so that you can limit the amount of data Windows (and certain apps) can use without asking. You can use the regular Settings interface to set mobile and Wi-Fi connections as metered, but for some reason Windows assumes you won’t need to do this with wired Ethernet connections. If you use an ISP that has monthly data caps, you know better. The good news is that a quick Registry edit will fix you right up.

RELATED: How, When, and Why to Set a Connection as Metered on Windows 10

Note that this hack is no longer necessary if you have upgraded your PC to the Windows 10 Creators Update. The Creators Update now lets you set an Ethernet connection as metered right in the interface.

Set an Ethernet Connection as Metered by Editing the Registry

To set your Ethernet connection to metered, you’ll have to dive into the Windows Registry to make a quick edit.

RELATED: Learning to Use the Registry Editor Like a Pro

Standard warning: Registry Editor is a powerful tool and misusing it can render your system unstable or even inoperable. This is a pretty simple hack and as long as you stick to the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems. That said, if you’ve never worked with it before, consider reading about how to use the Registry Editor before you get started. And definitely back up the Registry (and your computer!) before making changes.

To get started, open the Registry Editor by hitting Start and typing “regedit.” Press Enter to open Registry Editor and give it permission to make changes to your PC.

In the Registry Editor, use the left sidebar to navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\NetworkList\DefaultMediaCost

RELATED: How to Gain Full Permissions to Edit Protected Registry Keys

Before you go any further with the edit, you’re going to have to take an additional step. The DefaultMediaCost key you just navigated to is protected, meaning that you don’t by default have the permissions necessary to edit it. You’re going to have to take ownership of and set some permissions on the key before you can edit it for the first time. It’s quick and you’ll only have to do it once. After you set the permissions, you’ll be able to edit the key freely in the future.

Once you’ve set those permissions on the DefaultMediaCost key, you’re going to edit one of the values inside it. Click the DefaultMediaCost key to select it and then in the right pane, double-click the Ethernet value to edit it.

On the Ethernet value’s properties window, change the number in the “Value data” box from 1 to 2 and then click OK.

RELATED: How to Stop Windows 10 From Using So Much Data

You can now close Registry Editor. Your Ethernet connection is now set to metered, meaning that data-intensive Windows services like Windows Update and automatic app downloads won’t happen without asking your permission first. You might also find that some apps behave differently, as certain apps from the Windows store might be designed to respect this setting.

Unfortunately, the Settings interface in Windows won’t update to show you that the connection is metered, as it does when you enabled metered connections for mobile and Wi-Fi connections. To verify, you’ll need to return to Registry Editor and check the settings. Just remember that a setting of 2 means metered, and 1 means unmetered.

If you need to reverse the setting and change your Ethernet connection back to unmetered, just return to the DefaultMediaCost key and set the Ethernet value from 2 back to 1.

Download Our One-Click Registry Hacks

If you don’t feel like diving into the Registry each time to set your connection as metered or unmetered, we’ve created two downloadable registry hacks you can use. One hack enables a metered connection for Ethernet and the other hack changes it back to an unmetered connection, restoring the default setting. Both are included in the following ZIP file. Before you can use these hacks, though, you will have to fire up Registry Editor once to take ownership of and set permissions for the DefaultMediaCost key, as we discussed in the previous section. After you’ve done that, you can then use our Registry hacks whenever you want. Double-click the one you want to use and click through the prompts to give it permission to make changes.

Metered Ethernet Hacks

RELATED: How to Make Your Own Windows Registry Hacks

These hacks are really just the DefaultMediaCost key, stripped down to the Ethernet value we described above, and then exported to a .REG file. Running the “Enable Metered Ethernet Connection” hack sets the Ethernet value to 2. Running the “Restore Unmetered Ethernet Connection (Default)” hack sets the value back to 1.  And if you enjoy fiddling with the Registry, it’s worth taking the time to learn how to make your own Registry hacks.

And that’s it. If you’re using an Ethernet connection, but still have an ISP that limits data, setting the Ethernet connection to metered can prevent Windows and some apps from using that data up when you’re not paying attention.

Thanks to reader David for sending this tip in!

Profile Photo for Walter Glenn Walter Glenn
Walter Glenn is a former Editorial Director for How-To Geek and its sister sites. He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry and over 20 years as a technical writer and editor. He's written hundreds of articles for How-To Geek and edited thousands. He's authored or co-authored over 30 computer-related books in more than a dozen languages for publishers like Microsoft Press, O'Reilly, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill. He's also written hundreds of white papers, articles, user manuals, and courseware over the years.
Read Full Bio »