Metered Wifi Connections in Windows

Easy to get caught out – but easy to fix

meterOn Monday, I was working on a client’s computer when my phone pinged. It was EE (my mobile provider) warning me that I’d run out of data allowance for the month. I thought it was odd, but I’d got my Microsoft Surface laptop connected to the internet by the “personal hotspot” on my phone, so it wasn’t that strange. I simply moved 2gb of unused data from my mobile wifi account to my phone and carried on working. A minute later, the phone pinged again. Another text message saying the same thing. What? Sure enough, I was about to run out of allowance again. I’d just used another 2gb of precious mobile data.

wifi-settingsI hadn’t used my Microsoft Surface much recently as it’s the machine I carry when making visits to my IT Support clients – and we all know why that hadn’t happened recently. So, it hadn’t had much of an opportunity to install Microsoft’s latest updates. And – you’ve guessed – it was using my modest mobile phone and mobile wifi data allowances to download gerzillions of megabytes of Windows updates that could easily have waited until I was connected to my unlimited wifi at home.

manage-known-networksThe answer is actually very simple. On the Windows installation on the Microsoft Surface, I should have marked both my mobile phone and mobile wifi (a separate device with a separate data plan for providing wifi on the move) as “metered connections”. Had I previously done this, Windows would not have attempted to download the updates: it would have waited until I switched the Surface on at home, in range of my normal wifi. In fact, as soon as I made the changes to Windows, Norton Antivirus also popped up a message (that I didn’t read properly before it disappeared) suggesting that it, too, wouldn’t waste precious data when connected to a metered connection.

Set-as-metered-connectionSo, if you are in the habit of using either a mobile wifi device or your phone to give a wifi connection to your computer, then I would definitely recommend making the simple change(s) as described below.

As an aside, this is also a way of preventing Windows from ever updating. Simply tell it that your home wifi connection is metered. This won’t prevent the updating, of course, if you also have a wired ethernet connection. Personally, I recommend allowing Windows to update at home in the normal way.

Anyway, changing a wifi connection into a metered wifi connection:

  • Open Windows Settings by clicking on the Start button and then clicking on the cogwheel, or by depressing the Windows key and tapping the letter “i”.
  • In the “Find a setting” box, type “wifi” (without the quotes).
  • In the list that comes up, tap on “Wifi Settings”.
  • Click on “Manage known networks”. You will then be presented with a list of all the wifi networks that your Windows device remembers you have connected to.
  • Click on the name of your mobile wifi hotspot, and then click on “Properties”.
  • Scroll down to the section entitled “Metered connection” and, under “set as metered connection”, slide the switch to the right.
  • Repeat for any other wifi connections that you’ve used before and which you wish to set as metered.
  • Close the Settings window by clicking on the “X” (top right) as usual.

That’s it!

(Last updated 09/07/2021)