If you’re reading this particular guide then the chances are that you’re already online. But do you know how to get your computer or tablet connected elsewhere?
If someone set up your equipment on your behalf, you may have little to no idea how it all works – let alone how it connects to the online world.
Connecting to wi-fi hotspots is a great way to stay in touch when you’re away from home or the office. It isn’t hard to do but if you’re not sure of the method, it can be embarrassing to have to ask – even assuming that there’s someone around who is able to help.
So help yourself by printing out this guide for future reference.
Step 1: Find a wi-fi hotspot
WiFi hotspots are everywhere these days – BT Broadband customers can access over 5 million in the UK alone. Check out the full list here.
However, it’s important to ensure that you’re connecting to a legitimate hotspot, because fakes are not unknown.
If you’re in a coffee shop, for example, ask the barista for the WiFi network’s name and password – and connect using only those details.
Many hotspots are free. If you do choose to use a paid one, then note that after connecting (by following the relevant steps below) you may need to launch a web browser to choose the payment method – but double-check that you’re connected to the right network.
Step 2: Windows XP, Vista or 7 computers
The graphics and options look slightly different between the various editions of Windows but the process of connecting to WiFi is essentially the same in XP, Vista and 7. Windows 8 users should skip to the next step.
Find the Network icon in the Notification Area – this sits by the clock at the far right of the Taskbar, which is the strip of icons at the bottom of the Windows Desktop. The Network icon looks like either a small computer monitor or a little bar chart. Click (Vista and 7) or double-click it (XP).
Now click the name of the WiFi network to which you want to connect then click the Connect button. Type in the network’s password and press Enter.
Step 3: Windows 8 computers
Open the Charms bar (swipe left from the right-hand side of the screen, or hold down the Windows key and press C) then click or tap Settings.
Click or tap the Network icon (if WiFi networks are found nearby, it will be labelled ‘Available’), then click or tap the name of the WiFi network to which you want to connect. Click or tap the Connect button, then type in the network’s password and hit Enter.
Step 4: Apple Mac OS X computers
Click the AirPort icon at the top right of the menu bar – depending on whether AirPort is currently off or on and connected to a WiFi network, it will look like either an empty baseball pitch or a series of concentric arcs.
If necessary, first click Turn AirPort On. Now open the menu again to view the available WiFi networks – click the one to which you’d like to connect. Type in the password and press Enter.
Step 5: Apple tablets and smartphones
Tap Settings followed by WiFi. If necessary, slide the WiFi switch to On.
Now tap the name of the relevant network, type in the password and tap Join.
Step 6: Android tablets and smartphones
Note that precise menu names and option labels may vary depending on your Android devices.
Tap Settings then tap WiFi in the ‘Wireless & networks’ section.
Now tap the relevant WiFi network, type in the password and tap Connect.
Step 7: Connect by tethering to your smartphone
If your mobile phone contract allows it, you may be able to use your smartphone’s 3G data connection to get online with your laptop or tablet – this is known as tethering.
Most modern smartphones can do this by broadcasting their own WiFi hotspot that you can connect to by following the above steps.
With an Apple iPhone, tap Settings followed by Personal Hotspot. Now slide the Personal Hotspot switch to On. Use the password displayed below to connect by following the above steps.
The process is much the same in Android. Tap Settings followed by More in the Wireless & Networks section, then tap ‘Tethering & portable hotspot’. Tap ‘Set up WiFi hotspot’ then follow the prompts.
Be warned, though – 3G data use can be expensive in the UK and absolutely extortionate overseas, so check your tariff carefully.
Some tariffs don’t include tethering, so check with your network first.