In this article, we describe five ways how to get free WiFi anywhere and with minimal effort to help you connect to the internet regardless of where life takes you.
A WiFi hotspot is a term used to describe a physical location where you can obtain access to the internet over WiFi.
There are two main types of WiFi hotspots:
When connecting to any WiFi hotspot, but especially those that are located in public places, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s fairly easy for malicious cybercriminals to remotely capture your wireless traffic to steal sensitive information from you.
That’s why you should only connect to WiFi hotspots that use the latest wireless security standards, such as WPA3 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 3) to protect wireless traffic against snooping. Free WiFi simply isn’t worth getting your password stolen.
The terms WiFi and hotspot are sometimes used interchangeably but they actually refer to two different (albeit closely related) things. Here’s how each of these two terms is defined:
In other words, WiFi is the technology that enables the creation of wireless networks, and hotspots are the places where these networks are accessible.
If you have a smartphone and a mobile data plan, you should be able to create a mobile WiFi hotspot to share your 3G or 4G connection with your other devices.
Always make sure to protect your mobile hotspot with a strong password to prevent other people from using your data plan to connect to the internet. You should choose a password that’s at least 12 characters long, consists of numbers, letters, and special characters, and cannot be easily guessed. Avoid common passwords such as 12345QWERTY and don’t share your password with anyone else unless you’re willing to change it right after.
Keep in mind that your smartphone’s battery will deplete faster with a mobile hotspot active. How much faster exactly depends on many factors, including the number of devices connected to the hotspot and the type of mobile connection.
There’s such a massive demand for free public hotspots that there are entire apps dedicated to helping users find them. Hotspot database apps contain a huge list of WiFi hotspots around the world, and some even have passwords for hotspots that are not available to the public without paying.
Here are our top 5 favorite hotspot database apps:
This excellent and easy-to-use hotspot database app contains a long list of hotspots and information about them. For each hotspot, you can display Foursquare and WifiMapper comments, the hotspot’s type, and its exact place.
In the future, the developers behind this app would like to implement password sharing functionality and offline hotspot maps.
Quickly becoming the largest hotspot database in the world, Wiman can help you find free WiFi hotspots everywhere you go. Wiman works like the built-in WiFi connection manager on your smartphone, offering you free WiFi hotspots and classifying them based on their quality.
You can even earn special rewards for using the app and compete with your friends to see who can find the most free WiFi hotspots.
Cybersecurity software company Avast has created an incredibly convenient WiFi finder that can give you an answer to the question, “Is there free WiFi near me?” with a single tap on the screen.
Avast Wi-Fi Finder works even without an internet connection, and it has a large database of WiFi passwords provided by Avast community members from around the world.
Developed by a Swedish company, Instabridge gives you access to one of the largest free WiFi sharing communities in the world. You can download this hotspot database app to your Android or iOS smartphone to instantly unlock many WiFi networks near you.
The Instabridge database is constantly updated to only include functioning WiFi hotspots, and the app can automatically keep you off of those that don’t work correctly. As a bonus, Instabridge includes a VPN service that you can use to protect your data when using free WiFi.
Swift WiFi boasts a massive database with over 20 million free WiFi hotspots. Since its launch, the app has attracted more than 10 million users from around the world, allowing them to connect to nearby hotspots with a simple click.
To keep its users safe, Swift can perform a basic evaluation of available hotspots and highlight those that could be used for malicious purposes. The app can also test your current internet speed to help you decide if the hotspot you’re connected to is fast enough for your needs.
Portable routers, also known as travel routers, are not too different from the router you have at home. Instead of being connected to the internet via a cable, they have a slot for a SIM card, allowing you to connect to 3G and 4G networks practically anywhere in the world. Once connected, a portable router can create a WiFi network, so you can connect all your electronic devices to the internet.
Portable routers are relatively inexpensive, and they often last a whole day on a single charge. When selecting a portable router, pay attention to how many simultaneous connections it supports and how fast it is.
Cheaper portable routers typically support only three simultaneous connections, while premium portable routers can often handle more than 10 simultaneous high-speed connections. Of course, the free WiFi hotspot created using a portable router won’t technically be free since you have to pay for the router and the SIM card, but its convenience makes up for the initial investment.
There are certain places where you’re almost guaranteed to find a free WiFi hotspot. If you’ve ever wondered how to get free WiFi at home, then you should consider moving right next to one of the places listed below:
Wireless networks are identified by SSIDs (Service Set Identifiers), which essentially serve as network names. Without much work, it’s possible to hide a network’s SSID and thus create a hidden network that won’t be readily visible to various WiFi-enabled devices.
But just because a WiFi network is hidden doesn’t mean it can’t be discovered. Using a WiFi analyzer app such as NetSpot, it’s possible to find all nearby hidden networks. NetSpot works on Windows and macOS computers, and it offers two WiFi analysis modes and support for all 802.11 networks, both in the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands.
To discover hidden WiFi networks with NetSpot:
If you would like to set up a free public WiFi hotspot to provide wireless internet access near your location, you need a couple of things:
First, you need to find a suitable place for your WiFi router using your WiFi analyzer app. Place your router roughly in the center of the imaginary circle you want to cover with WiFi signal and perform a coverage analysis. NetSpot can turn gathered WiFi data into easy-to-understand visualizations, making it easy to discover signal weak spots.
With your router in the ideal place, it’s time to configure the WiFi network itself. There are many different ways you can go about this, but the most important thing is to always enable encryption. Without it, anyone could see what people connected to the network are doing, and that’s not good at all.
Last but not least, you should consider including your WiFi hotspot in public WiFi near me databases and apps so that people can easily discover it.
When setting up a private hotspot for personal use, you can:
The first approach is preferred when setting up a private WiFi hotspot for long-term use at home, while the second approach comes in handy when traveling.
To turn your WiFi router into a private hotspot, you need to find a suitable place for the router using a WiFi analyzer like NetSpot and then enable the WiFi interface in the wireless settings section of the admin panel. Make sure to protect the network with a strong password so that strangers can’t connect to it and steal bandwidth from you.
Turning your mobile device into a WiFi hotspot is even easier because you don’t have to worry about where the device is placed as long as you keep it somewhere near you.
To enable a WiFi hotspot on iOS:
To enable a WiFi hotspot on Android:
Once your private WiFi hotspot is running, you can connect other devices to it just like you would connect to a public WiFi hotspot. Keep in mind that the performance of your WiFi hotspot can be affected by other WiFi networks in your area. NetSpot can help you collect information about nearby networks and troubleshoot any performance-related issues you may run into.
Some internet service providers operate networks of public WiFi hotspots. Xfinity WiFi hotspots from Comcast are a good example, and all Xfinity customers can connect to them using the Xfinity WiFi app.
ISP-operated hotspots are almost always a better choice than hotspots operated by random businesses simply because they guarantee a certain level of security and performance.
We recommend you head over to your ISP’s website to check if it offers free public WiFi hotspots and a companion smartphone app that makes it easy to access them.