Home / Windows 10

Limiting Data Usage when Tethering

If you are out and about with your Windows 10 laptop and need access to the Internet, you have the option of connecting through your smartphone, using a tethered connection. Tethering means connecting your phone to the mobile data network and then connecting a second device via Wi-Fi to the phone to make use of that connection. Windows 10 can be data-heavy; a problem if your phone has limited mobile data allowance.

Set Your Tethered Connection to Metered

Windows 10 can be quite data-heavy, as mentioned, especially if an update happens to become available when tethered. Luckily, you can tell Windows to automatically limit data use.

  1. Cellular data connections are set as metered by default. Wi-Fi and Ethernet network connections can be set to metered but aren't by default. Some apps might work differently on a metered connection to help reduce your data usage. Some updates for Windows won't be installed automatically either.
  2. To set a Wi-Fi network connection as metered, click Start → Settings → Network & Internet → Wi-Fi → Manage known networks. Select the Wi-Fi network → Properties → turn on Set as metered connection. Unfortunately, many Windows apps completely ignore the metered connection setting.

Check network usage details

You can also view a log of how much data applications on your PC have used in the last 30 days. This can help you identify applications that might be using data in the background. To check this, head to Settings → Network & Internet → Data usage and click the graph to see more details.

Manage Browsing Data

You should now have reduced background data use, including updates and cloud syncing, so data use will be in the apps you use; for example, Google Chrome. You can install a handy extension for Chrome which limits data. Go to www.chrome.google.com/webstore/ and search for Data Saver.

Pause or Disable OneDrive

If you use OneDrive to backup images etc., pausing it while you are tethering can help to reduce data use. If you never use OneDrive, you can even completely disable it.

  1. Stopping OneDrive just for the duration of your tethering is easy. Click the Hidden Icons arrow in the taskbar, bottom right of the screen, and right-click on the OneDrive icon (the cloud). From the Action menu, either click on Pause Syncing" (you can choose a duration) or click Exit.
  2. OneDrive in Windows 10 can be disabled through your computer's Local Group Policy Editor. This doesn't remove OneDrive from your PC but it stops it from syncing with the cloud or connecting with other apps, and removes it from the navigation pane in File Explorer.
  3. Press the Windows key + R to open the Run box. Type gpedit. msc and click OK. In the Local Group Policy Editor, in the folder list under Local Computer Policy, navigate the folders to Local Computer Policy → Computer Configuration → Administrative Templates → Windows Components → OneDrive.
  4. On the OneDrive screen, under Settings, click Prevent the usage of OneDrive for file storage. In the Prevent the usage of OneDrive for file storage box, select Enabled, then click OK. Be aware that disabling OneDrive like this will disable it for all users of the PC, not just you.

Check Task Manager

The Task Manager is a great tool for checking to see which apps or services are using a lot of data at any time. To open the Task Manager, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc or search for it in the Start menu search field. Click at the top of the Network tab to display high usage services at the top.

Reduce streaming video quality

Streaming or downloading videos is a surefire way to burn through your data quickly and is best avoided when tethering. However, if you need to view video over a tethered connection, you can tell Windows to reduce quality in Settings → Apps → Video Playback. Click 'Allow video to play at low res'.