You’ve probably found yourself in several situations where you needed Wi-Fi but didn’t have access to it. Your data ran out and you were desperate.
Infuriating doesn’t come close to the feeling. Luckily, many businesses and public spaces offer Wi-Fi for free or to their customers.
For one reason or another, you need access to Wi-Fi–and fast. Here, you’ll read several ways of finding the hotspot you need.
Connect With Care – PSA on Wi-Fi Safety
Before continuing, there’s a number of safety tips you should practice when you’re looking for the holy grail of hotspots. As enticing as public Wi-Fi spaces sound in your head, you can run into many issues connecting to just any hotspot.
You have to understand, you’re sharing a network with one or more individuals. Anyone of them could be snagging personal information from unsuspecting victims. Arm yourself with this knowledge:
- Double-check with employees that the hotspot you’re connecting to is the one they advertise. It’s not uncommon to see a disguised hotspot.
- Any sensitive information is off the table. Before you connect to the nearest hotspot, you should log out of any banking, shopping, or email accounts. In fact, don’t even visit those websites or applications at all.
- If a website or program offers a two-factor authentication process, always use it. Oftentimes this extra layer of protection will ask for a security code that only you would have access to. This also includes a VPN, or virtual private network.
- Website addresses with the prefix “HTTPS” and “SSL” are known as secure websites. You can lessen your chance of unwanted access by using sites with those prefixes.
- Devices have an option for file sharing. Turn it off.
- When you’re finished using the hotspot, always log out. Every device that has Wi-Fi capabilities can also forget a connection. You wouldn’t want your device automatically connecting to random hotspots.
1. Use an Open WI-FI Network
If your phone, laptop or other compatible devices use Wi-Fi, then that means any Wi-Fi connection can be connected to.
You’ll need passwords to most, but when you’re searching, connections that say “open” and “unsecured” can be accessed without a password. Remember the PSA above, though. Connect with care.
- Go to Settings. This is usually the gear.
- Select Wi-Fi. Once inside, make sure to turn your Wi-Fi on.
- Select the connection that you want to use. If a connection listed has a small lock symbol by its name, you’ll need a password to access it.
2. Visit Public Places and Businesses
This is by far the easiest place to find hotspots that are free to use. However, “free” is not always clear. Many businesses advertise “free Wi-Fi for customers,” the part to focus on is, of course, “customers.”
This might be a problem for some, but peek inside a Starbucks and you’ll see dozens of customers typing away on their keyboards, doing their work and downing a cup of joe. Come back a few hours later and they’ll still be there.
If you’re looking for something truer to the word “free,” you’ll have better luck finding libraries with free Wi-Fi. In fact, you’ll have a hard time finding libraries that don’t have computers to use, if you’re in need of one.
It should be noted that many have time limits, especially in high-traffic areas, however, many are nice enough to let you on past their time limits if no one is in dire need of one.
So, maybe you’re really desperate and don’t have the money to throw at coffee or food. You could always find computer shops that offer free Wi-Fi. Apple stores, for example, need Wi-Fi for their customers. There isn’t much stopping you from hanging outside unless there’s a “No Loitering” sign.
3. Contact Your Internet Provider
This one is a bit of a secret, but many internet providers give access to Wi-Fi hotspots if you’re a customer near one of their locations. Load up their website or call a representative for information on their hotspots.
Chances are good that they’ll direct you to their dedicated application that gives you locations of their hotspots.
This incredibly useful method takes the 3G or LTE connection your phone is using and turns your own phone into a hotspot. It allows other phones, laptops, and tablets to piggyback off your phone’s connection. Here’s how you do it:
An Android phone was used to take these screenshots, however, the steps taken should be nearly identical, if not the same, to other phones like Apple or Windows.
- Go to Settings.
- Select Hotspot.
- Turn Hotspot on. Here, you can configure the hotspot’s Network name, it’s Broadcast SSID, its Channel, its Security, its Password and even its Sleep policy–when the hotspot disconnects.
As it turns out, the Facebook app has its own built-in Wi-Fi finder, but you’ll have to share your location with the social media app if you want to use it.
You’ll have access to a list of Wi-Fi hotspots. There is one downside–besides the concern of privacy–Facebook only lists locations that gave Facebook the go-ahead for listing. Its list can be lacking in some areas.
- Open Facebook app.
- Click on your Menu.
- Click on See More. It will open up into another drop-down menu.
- Click on Find Wi-Fi. You’ll be asked to share your location. Afterward, you’ll be given a map of your location and all the hotspots available.
- Select the hotspot you want. You’ll get directions to them.
6. Applications Can Find Wi-Fi Hotspots
Internet providers and Facebook aren’t the only ones with hotspot location apps. Apps like WeFi list locations to your nearest Wi-Fi hotspots.
It would be wise to be extremely cautious about which WiFi finder you use. Recently, a hotspot finder app exposed an unfortunate number of network passwords.