Configure Android USB tethering on macOS
Even though Wi-Fi tethering is the most practical method for connecting an Android phone to a Mac, you may occasionally need to utilize USB instead.
However, USB tethering between Android and Windows is simple, but depending on the Android device you’re using, connecting it between Android and Mac can be more difficult. Here’s how to configure Mac OS for Android USB tethering.
Use the Built-In USB Tethering Option (if Supported)
A contemporary Android device running Android 12 or later may already have built-in support for USB tethering on macOS. To make it work, you might not need any additional strategies. For instance, on a Pixel 7 running Android 13, all you need to do is connect your phone to your computer to get started.
- Unlock and connect your phone to your Mac via a USB cable.
- If you’re using macOS 13, you may need to click to allow your phone to connect
- A notification will appear on your phone labeled something like Charging this device via USB. Tap on it.
- Under the USB Preferences screen that opens, set Use USB for to USB tethering.
Now that the issue has been resolved, you should be able to use your Mac to access the internet as usual. If you have a limited data plan and are using a 4G or 5G mobile data connection, be mindful of your usage.
If the notification doesn’t appear when you connect your phone, you can instead go to Settings > Network and Internet > Hotspot and tethering and toggle on USB tethering. This option will be grayed out if your phone isn’t connected to a computer using a USB cable, and remember that some of the menus may be slightly different depending on what phone you’re using.
To verify the connection on your Mac, go to System Settings (or System Preferences) > Network, where you’ll see your phone’s name listed with a green dot next to it.
If USB tethering on macOS isn’t supported on your phone and you can’t set up Wi-Fi tethering, you do have another option. However, this comes with a potential snag of its own.
Use the HoRNDIS Driver
The required driver is not present on older Android devices or those that lack built-in support for USB tethering on a Mac, which prevents the sharing of an internet connection. Fortunately, you can get it working by installing the third-party HoRNDIS driver. All Android devices are compatible with this driver, which is akin to the one used by Windows computers.
HoRNDIS is free and open-source and should work well in many cases. However:
- It hasn’t been updated since 2018, so may not support newer versions of macOS.
- It doesn’t work on Macs powered by Apple Silicon.
The discussions on the software’s Github page do include some workarounds to get HoRNDIS running on M1 and M2 machines. But it’s a complicated process that involves disabling your Mac’s System Integrity Protection, so is not suitable for most users.
Assuming the caveats don’t apply to you, here’s how to set up HoRNDIS on your (Intel-based) Mac.
- Download and install the most recent version of HoRNDIS on your Mac (the PKG file).
- It’s a good idea to reboot your Mac at this stage, although this may not be necessary depending on what version you’re using.
- Now run through the steps we outlined above. Connect your phone via USB, tap the notification labeled Charging this device via USB, and set Use USB for to USB tethering.
You should now be able to connect to the internet. Go to System Preferences > Network, where you should see your phone listed with the green dot alongside it. This confirms that the connection is active.
To uninstall HoRNDIS, check the /System/Library/Extensions/ and /Library/Extensions/ folders and delete HoRNDIS.kext. Then reboot your Mac.
Using HoRNDIS is easy enough if your Mac is compatible. However, we’d only choose to use it if wireless tethering is not an option. You can troubleshoot your Android mobile hotspot to see if that helps.
USB Tethering on macOS Is Simple
If your Android phone doesn’t support USB tethering with a Mac natively, you’ll need to install a driver, but it’s simple to accomplish and functions as expected.
Sharing a data connection with a desktop or laptop from your phone is practical. However, you may share the connection from your Mac to other devices as well, so it doesn’t stop there.