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iPhone Personal Hotspot not working? Here's how you can try to fix it

You'll almost certainly be able to diagnose the situation by the end of this guide.
By
January 4, 2024

The iPhone’s Personal Hotspot feature can be a real lifesaver. Now that (some) carriers are being less draconian about tethered data, it’s a great way to get your laptop or tablet online without a nearby Wi-Fi router. Naturally, however, it’s not immune to technical trouble — here’s what you can do when Personal Hotspot seems broken.

How to fix an iPhone’s Personal Hotspot

iPhone personal hotspot tethering stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Some of the troubleshooting steps below may seem obvious, but that’s intentional, since we’re trying to be comprehensive. In fact, it’s best to run through these steps in order unless a particular solution jumps out at you — we’ve saved the most complicated and/or time-consuming steps for later on.

Without further ado:

  • Check that both Wi-Fi and cellular are active. While you can tether a Mac to an iPhone via USB, in most cases you’re going to need Wi-Fi for other devices to connect. Disable Airplane Mode if it’s on. No matter how you’re tethering, you’ll want a strong 4G or 5G cellular connection, or else a Personal Hotspot is going to feel sluggish if it works at all. It might be worth toggling cellular and Wi-Fi off and on again using Control Center.
  • Check that Personal Hotspot is actually enabled — or can be enabled. Go to Settings > Personal Hotspot and verify that Allow Others to Join is on once you’ve chosen a password. If the Personal Hotspot menu is missing entirely, it may be that your carrier won’t allow it, at least on your specific data plan. There’s nothing you can do if that’s the case, except perhaps see if an iOS or carrier settings update will help (see further down).
  • Doublecheck that you’re entering the right password. It’s easy to mistype a password on the device connecting to your hotspot, so try re-entering it unless you’re 100% sure you did it correctly. You can edit or verify your password by going to Settings > Personal Hotspot > Wi-Fi Password on your iPhone.
  • Check if you’re bumping up against data caps. While many people have unlimited data plans, many don’t, and even those “unlimited” plans sometimes cap how much can be used for tethering. Your carrier’s app or web dashboard should tell you whether you’ve hit or exceeded plan limits.
  • Try the Maximize Compatibility option. Under Settings > Personal Hotspot, you can toggle Maximize Compatibility to ensure your connection works with as many devices as possible at the expense of internet speeds.
  • Scan for iOS updates. It’s possible (if unlikely) that an iOS update will fix related bugs or add support for your carrier or region. To see if there’s a new version, head over to Settings > General > Software Update. Assuming there is one, be sure your iPhone is backed up, well-charged, and connected to Wi-Fi before you begin. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes or more as well, because it can take a while for an iOS update to download, and your iPhone will be temporarily out of commission while the installation is underway.
  • Scan for carrier settings updates. These are smaller, carrier-specific patches meant to resolve cellular network issues, or in rarer cases, unlock new functionality. Normally you’ll be prompted to install carrier updates automatically, but you can force a check by going to Settings > General > About. If an update is available you should be prompted in less than a minute.
  • Restart your iPhone and/or the connecting device. There could be a temporary software glitch interfering with Personal Hotspot, whether on your iPhone or the device you’re trying to link. A restart could solve this by giving caches and processes a fresh start.
  • Reset network settings. Consider this the “nuclear” option. It’s not as drastic as a full factory reset, but your iPhone will nevertheless forget all its Wi-Fi logins, Bluetooth pairings, cellular network preferences, and even its custom name. You’ll have to set all of this up again, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll solve any connection problems — it’s just the last option available (on your end). When you’re ready, follow our network settings reset guide.
  • Contact Apple Support. There’s probably little advice Apple can offer that we can’t, but they can at least help schedule an appointment at an Apple Store or authorized third-party repair shop. Even that’s unlikely to bear fruit, since any hardware defects would probably prevent Wi-Fi or cellular from working in the first place.