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Mobile hotspot makes it easy to establish a network you can use to connect to the internet. However, there are times when the mobile hotspot won’t appear in the list of available networks. Let’s talk about why it happens and how you can fix it.

AdobeStock_291294173 Woman hand using smart phone with wifi icon abstract background at coffee shop with colorful bokeh light.

Why Mobile Hotspot Is Not Showing Up

Most smartphones and other devices will automatically disable features that can prevent mobile hotspots from working. However, some issues may occur as you set up your mobile hotspot, preventing other devices from detecting it.

To fix this issue, you must first understand why your mobile hotspot isn’t showing up. You must check two devices:

  • The device you’re using as the access point or mobile hotspot
  • The device that you’re trying to connect to the mobile hotspot

Either of these devices could have issues preventing the mobile hotspot from showing up. It’s essential to determine which devices have problems because addressing either of them will require varying fixes.

The Device Trying To Connect Has Connectivity Issues

Use the device (the one you want to connect to the hotspot) to look for other networks within the area and try to connect to one of them. Doing this will help eliminate the possibility that your device has connectivity issues that prevent it from detecting the mobile hotspot.

If your device can’t connect to other networks, you might have to update the operating system (for smartphones) or the network drivers (for laptops and desktops). Your device’s connectivity relies on both hardware and software. If one of them is faulty, your device might not be able to detect any wireless network, including your mobile hotspot.

The Device Trying To Connect Is Out of Range

Many people fall into the trap of thinking that their mobile hotspot will have the same range as their wireless router. Unfortunately, being able to connect to a wireless router from the other room doesn’t mean that you can also connect to the mobile hotspot in that room.

A mobile hotspot doesn’t have the same range as the wireless router you’re using for your home network. A typical wireless router will have a range of up to 147 feet (45 meters), while a mobile hotspot only has approximately 32 feet (10 meters).

If your device is out of range, the signal weakens and will cause intermittent or slow connection. The further you are from the mobile hotspot, the slower the connection gets until the signal drops. When this happens, the mobile hotspot won’t appear in the list of available networks.

The Mobile Hotspot Signal Is Unstable

Mobile hotspots rely on cellular data or another connection to create a mobile access point that other devices can use to connect to the internet. Your devices may have trouble connecting if this connection is weak or unstable. In some cases, it can even prevent the mobile hotspot from appearing in the list of available networks.

The Smartphone Is Connected to the Wrong Frequency Band

For smartphones, there are two types of frequency bands that you can use for a mobile hotspot: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Almost every Wi-Fi-capable device has 2.4GHz, while 5GHz is only available for modern devices. Both frequency bands have pros and cons, which can also affect the connection you’ll get from the mobile hotspot.

To learn more about them, you can check CenturyLink’s article about the differences between 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Although some considerations are to be made when choosing between 2.5GHz and 5GHz, most of the pros and cons aren’t as important as compatibility. The frequency bands your devices use will determine whether your smartphone will work as a hotspot for another device.

A device configured to receive signals from 2.4GHz won’t detect the mobile hotspot from a smartphone that uses 5GHz as the AP (Access Point) band. When creating your mobile hotspot, you need to confirm the frequency your devices use before enabling it.

The Mobile Hotspot Is Not Visible to Other Devices

When creating a mobile hotspot, you’ll see an option to hide the network from other devices. If you enable it, your smartphone will still create the access point, but it won’t broadcast the SSID (Service Set Identifier).

The SSID is the network name that appears on the available networks you can connect to. Every wireless router or access point has one, which your device needs to connect to the network. If the mobile hotspot is not broadcasting the SSID, your network won’t be visible to any device.

Although your mobile hotspot isn’t on the list of available networks, you can still connect to it. You need to manually input the network details to join, which may be a bit more complicated than passwords.

VPN Connection Is Enabled

Using a VPN is a good practice to keep your data safe. However, if you’re using a VPN, your mobile hotspot may encounter issues with the connection. Your internet may be too slow, or it may not even appear on the list of available networks.

Unfortunately, some of these services run in the background and are always on whenever you’re using your smartphone. There’s nothing wrong with this feature. In fact, it ensures that you’re always protected, and you don’t even have to think about it. However, you’d have to manually turn it off before creating your mobile hotspot, which requires a few more steps.

Aside from this, if you’re only using your smartphone as a mobile access point, there’s no need for a VPN. Other devices connected to the mobile hotspot won’t be able to use the VPN service. It will only work for the device that’s using the application.

AdobeStock_418876746 People hand using smartphone looking for signal wifi in off the grid no power space area or in the wood

How To Fix Mobile Hotspot That’s Not Showing Up

Luckily, the reasons a mobile hotspot doesn’t show up are easy to address. In fact, you can do almost all of these fixes without the technical know-how or in-depth knowledge about networking and connectivity.

Get in a Good Spot

Most of the time, you can make your mobile hotspot appear in the list of available networks just by being in a better spot. It works for the smartphone you use as a mobile hotspot and the wireless device you want to connect to the network.

Here are three reasons why being in a good spot can help you fix this issue:

  • You can get a better connection from your network carrier. Remember, a mobile hotspot relies on the connection it gets from the network carrier. So you must have a good signal in your area to have a reliable access point.
  • Your device can detect the SSID for your mobile hotspot. The range of mobile hotspots is much shorter than wireless routers. If you want your device to detect the mobile hotspot’s SSID, both should be as close to each other as possible.
  • You’ll establish a stable connection between the two devices. The closer both devices get to each other, the more stable the connection gets. You’ll be able to avoid signal drops or slow connections that may even prevent you from using the internet. Ideally, both devices are in the same room to ensure that you have a stable connection between the two.

Enable/Reenable Your Wi-Fi Network Connection

Another reason a mobile hotspot is not showing up on your device is an issue with your Wi-Fi connectivity. It may be because of software glitches or because its Wi-Fi connectivity is turned off. If you’re sure that both of your devices are within range and that you’re getting a good signal from your network carrier, you might want to check the Wi-Fi connectivity on your device.

There are three ways to check it, depending on the device that you’re trying to connect to the mobile hotspot:

For Android and iPhone:

  1. Open the control center.
  2. Turn on the Wi-Fi option.
  3. If it’s already turned on, turn it off for at least 10 seconds before turning it back on.

For Windows computers:

  1. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run window.
  2. Type in ncpa.cpl to open the Network Connections window.
  3. Right-click on the Wi-Fi network that your computer is using, then click Disable.
  4. Wait for a few seconds, then Enable the same connection again.

For Mac computers:

  1. Click the Apple icon on the top-left corner, and select System Preferences.
  2. Find and open Network Preferences to view your computer’s available network connections.
  3. Click on the Wi-Fi (WLAN) that your computer is using.
  4. Click the gear icon at the bottom of the panel.
  5. Click Make Service Inactive to disable the network connection.
  6. Wait for a few seconds, then click the gear icon again.
  7. Click Make Service Active to refresh the list of available networks for your computer.

Turning the Wi-Fi connection off and on will allow your device to refresh all the available Wi-Fi networks. If your mobile hotspot is not showing up because of an issue with your Wi-Fi settings, this refresh should fix it.

Reboot Your Devices

Although it’s rare for modern computers to have software issues that warrant a reboot, it’s still one of the possible reasons for a mobile hotspot not to show up. Rebooting the mobile hotspot and the device you want to connect to it will refresh most of the issues preventing it from appearing in the list of available networks.

AdobeStock_313486941 Personal hotspot concept image, phone close up

Recreate Your Mobile Hotspot

The configuration for the mobile hotspot can create several issues that may prevent it from showing up in the available networks. If you’ve followed the previous fixes and your devices still can’t detect the mobile hotspot, you might have to recreate it with the proper configuration.

Here are some of the things that you need to remember when recreating your mobile hotspot:

  • Set a different name for the hotspot. When you do this, your hotspot will have a new SSID, which forces the other devices to reconnect.
  • Make sure that you’re using the right AP band for the connection. If you’re trying to connect an older device to the mobile hotspot, using 2.4GHz would be a better option. However, you’d need to change the frequency of the other devices that you want to use for them to detect your mobile hotspot.
  • Enable the SSID broadcast to make it visible to other devices. The phrasing for this option may vary, depending on the smartphone that you’re using. However, its purpose is to make the mobile hotspot visible to every device with Wi-Fi capability and in the same frequency band.

Recreating your mobile hotspot would delete all the information you have on the previous connection. So, you’ll need to connect all your devices again using the credentials you have set for the mobile hotspot.

Disable Other Connectivity Options

Mobile hotspots won’t work on most smartphones if other connectivity options are enabled, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. You may also have to disable your VPN if you’re using one to ensure that there won’t be issues when your mobile hotspot starts to broadcast its signals.

This issue doesn’t often happen because smartphones today will automatically disable the connectivity options that may affect mobile hotspots. Still, you’ll want to look at it and ensure that these options aren’t causing the SSID to disappear from the list of available networks. Aside from fixing the mobile hotspot, it may even help you get a faster and more stable internet connection.

Update Your Drivers or Operating System

Whether you’re using a laptop or smartphone, outdated software can cause several issues with your Wi-Fi. So you always need to ensure that both devices you’re using for the connection have updated software.

For laptops, you’ll need to update the Wi-Fi drivers. For smartphones, you’ll need to check for any available updates in the operating system. Doing both for your devices will ensure that you’re working with the latest software and that you won’t have issues transmitting or receiving wireless signals.


A mobile hotspot not showing up is a common issue for smartphone users. However, it’s easy to fix because most are only related to the signals you’re getting or how you configured your smartphone when creating the mobile hotspot.