This guide is a must if working on the go with a Mac/Windows laptop and using tethering from Android, iOS, or on slow or paid public Wi-Fi!
If you’re a Windows 10 user – or have used Windows 10 in the past – you might know the feature of setting a Wi-Fi network as “metered” connection. This feature also exists in Android. Sadly, Apple has not built this feature into iOS nor their Mac OS / OSX / macOS (they can’t decide on the name either). But there’s a solution for all those systems, including the bitten Apple!
What’s a “metered” connection?
A so called metered connection, is a connection that has some form of data limit. That’s usually the case for your mobile data plan, where you might have a certain amount of GB per month. It is also the case for some paid Wi-Fi access points. If you’re tethering from your mobile phone to your laptop or tablet, that uses up your mobile data, and fast!
So what can I do about it to save data?
You simply have to set it as metered connection in your system. That way it reduces background downloads that you don’t want. For example unsolicited system and app updates that happen silently in the background.
- To set a Wi-Fi network connection as metered:
- Select Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage known networks.
- Select the Wi-Fi network > Properties > turn on Set as metered connection.
Windows 10 (Advanced data saving)
Same as on Mac, read on!
This is a bit tricky, as it depends on your version of Android and manufacturer modifications on top. But usually it’s similar. I will show you how it’s done on Android 9 (Pie) on the popular Samsung Galaxy S10!
- Pull down the quick settings’ menu from the top and long press on the Wi-Fi icon. You should now be in the list of available Wi-Fi networks.
- If not already connected, connect to your desired Wi-Fi network.
- Tap on the connected network.
- Scroll down to the bottom and tap “Advanced”.
- Tap on “Metered network” and choose “Treat as metered”.
- Tap on “Save” and you’re done!
Android (Advanced data saving)
If rooted, you can use the excellent AFWall+ firewall to block all unwanted connections. It’s available on F-Droid. There are also apps for non-rooted Android devices, which build up a local VPN to filter connections. Personally I cannot recommend any of those.
If you are tethering from iPhone or iPad to your Mac, it’s all done automatically for you. You can verify that by seeing a little tethering icon that looks like a chain link. But if you’re tethering from Android or on some other Wi-Fi, read on!
Mac (Advanced data saving)
Sadly, Macs don’t have a built in feature for this on non-Apple devices, but there’s a solution! TripMode2 – Your mobile data saviour. I personally use it and I think it’s perfect for this scenario. It is specifically made for this! The TripMode 2 FAQ reads: “When TripMode is ON, it prevents all your apps from accessing the Internet but those that have been whitelisted by yourself. It typically stops automatic updates, online backups, Photos syncs, and various obscure apps from consuming precious data. Both uploads and downloads are blocked.“ As of the time of this writing, TripMode 2 costs EUR7.99, USD7.99 or CHF9.00 which I find to be a fair price. They also have other currencies as options.
TripMode 2 does not work with macOS Big Sur anymore, and they are forcing users to pay again to upgrade to TripMode 3 for it to work. This is a “shady” move and thus I can no longer recommend TripMode.
Linux (Ubuntu and the like)
I’d feel bad if I wouldn’t be covering Linux at all. Sadly I don’t know any app for this from the top of my head, except for simply using a normal firewall.
A possibility would be to install the “uncomplicated firewall” with
sudo apt install ufw and block all outgoing connections by default, except for the ones you want. A possibility would be to just allow port 443/tcp and port 53/udp to be able to surf with encrypted connections, or even better, 853/udp and use DoT (DNS over TLS) to be safer on public Wi-Fi.
Alternatively use a travel router like the one I reviewed recently.
I hope this article helped you in some way! :)