How to make a Wi-Fi hotspot on your Mac

The Sharing pane in macOS System Preferences is one of the most overlooked tools on the Mac. It has a wealth of options for sharing files, printers, your Mac’s screen, and network connections. In this article, we’ll show you how to share your Mac’s internet connection with other devices and turn your Mac into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

What is a Wi-Fi hotspot?

What do we mean when we say Wi-Fi hotspot? Any device connected to the internet to which another device can connect via Wi-Fi and share its internet connection. In this case, your Mac is connected to the internet, and another device can connect to it and share its internet connection. There are some limitations. The most important one is that if your Mac is connected to the internet using Wi-Fi, you can’t connect the other device to it via Wi-Fi. So, if your Mac is connected to a Wi-Fi network, you’ll need to share that connection using Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB, or Thunderbolt.

Apple doesn’t explain the reason for this limitation, but it’s likely to be related to bandwidth. If you use your Mac’s Wi-Fi to connect to a router and connect to another device, its bandwidth will be split between incoming and outgoing connections.

The other main limitation is that the Mac you use as a hotspot must be running macOS Lion or later. But given how old Lion now is, that shouldn’t be too much of a restriction.

How to create a hotspot on your Mac

First, you’ll need to decide how you want to share your Mac’s internet connection. Remember, if your Mac is connected to the internet using Wi-Fi, it can’t connect to the device using it as a hotspot via Wi-Fi. For this example, we’ll assume that the Mac is connected to a router with an Ethernet cable and that the other device is going to connect to Mac’s hotspot over Wi-Fi.

Setting up Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Go to Apple menu > System Preferences.
  • Choose the Sharing pane.
  • In the left part of the window, select Internet Sharing.
  • Click on the dropdown menu next to ‘Share your connection from’ and choose an option. We’ll select the Ethernet Adapter.
  • In the window ‘to computers using,’ check the box next to one of the options. We’ll choose Wi-Fi.
  • Press the Wi-Fi options button and give the network a name and password.
  • Click Ok.
  • Check the box next to Internet Sharing in the left part of the window.
  • Press Start to confirm.
  • Quit System Preferences.

Your Mac’s hotspot is now set up. All you have to do on the device you want to connect to is go to its Wi-Fi settings, choose the network name you created and type in the password. If you chose to connect via Bluetooth, go to Bluetooth settings instead. And if you chose a tethered method, like USB or Ethernet, you’ll need to plug the device into your Mac.

When you want to stop sharing your Mac’s internet connection, go back to System Preferences > Sharing and uncheck the box next to Internet Sharing.


Tip

If you use your MacBook when you’re out and about and there’s no public Wi-Fi, you can use an iPhone as a hotspot. It works in the same way as a Mac hotspot. All you have to do is go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and toggle the switch to On. You’ll see the password on the screen. To change it, just tap it and type a new one. You can now select the iPhone in your Mac’s Wi-Fi settings.

This could also be useful if you are in a location where you're not sure if a public Wi-Fi network is trustworthy. Remember, though, that using your iPhone as a hotspot could use up quite a bit of your data allowance.



You might notice when you share your Mac’s internet connection that it slows down your mac. It makes sense that if you share your internet bandwidth with another computer or device, that it will be slower than it would if your Mac had that bandwidth all to itself. However, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the problem. One of those is to make sure your Mac is running optimally so that any further slowdown doesn’t have too much of an impact.

Drivers in Launch Agents tab

The easiest way to do that is to use the Optimization module in CleanMyMac X. This handy tool scans your Mac and recommends specific operations to improve its performance, such as removing login items or launch agents, quitting hung applications, or dealing with apps that use lots of resources. 

You can also use CleanMyMac X to clear out junk files on your Mac, which could free up gigabytes of space, and to run maintenance routines such as repairing disk permissions and reindexing Spotlight. Finally, CleanMyMac’s menu bar item displays network usage so you can quickly see the difference to your network when you share your Mac’s internet connection with another device. Download the app for free here to try out all the features mentioned.

It’s also worth noting that your Mac keeps a record of every Wi-Fi network you connect to so that you can connect to it quickly again next time you need it. HoweverYoues as a record of where you have been with your Mac. If you feel that is a privacy risk, CleanMyMac X’s Privacy module can remove those networks.

It’s very easy to set up a Mac hotspot so you can share your internet connection with other devices or computers. Just follow the instructions above and remember to turn off sharing when you no longer need it.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

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