Tether Your PC to the Internet via BlackBerry

Sayonara spotty hotel Internet. Au revoir overloaded coffee-shop wireless. Bye-bye pricey airport Wi-Fi.

If you have a BlackBerry with a strong wireless connection, you may never have to deal with such unappealing connectivity options again. As long as you know how to tether that BlackBerry to your PC to share its connection, that is.

More than two years ago, I penned my first tutorial on how to use a Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry smartphone to connect a Windows PC to the Internet, a.k.a., how to "tether" your PC to a BlackBerry and utilize its Web connection. It would be an understatement to say a lot has changed since then--in both the mobile/smartphone industry and from a tethering-perspective.

For example, setting up a BlackBerry tether connection used to require a lot of heavy-lifting; my first tutorial on BlackBerry tethering consisted of pages and pages of in-depth instructions. I wrote a second, equally-long post on how to wirelessly tether using with a Bluetooth-enabled PC.

Good news: Today, RIM's own, free BlackBerry Desktop Manager software does most of the work for you. And you can also purchase third-party apps that make tethering even more simple, while circumventing certain wireless carriers tethering fees. (More on that coming in the next section.)

Since the process has changed so drastically, I've decided to post up a new, improved tutorial on how to connect your Windows PC to the Web using a BlackBerry smartphone and the latest version of RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager.

Keep moving for step-by-step instruction on BlackBerry/PC tethering. And don't forget to peruse my BlackBerry Bible for mounds of additional BlackBerry tips and tricks, free apps, device reviews and much more.

BlackBerry Tethering: How to Connect a Windows PC to the Web via RIM Smartphone

First things first, you need to download and install the latest version of RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager, available here. BlackBerry Desktop Manager is currently available for both Windows and Macintosh computers, however, the two pieces of software have quite different functionalities. I will be focusing on the Windows version of Desktop Manager in this particular tutorial, since the Mac version makes tethering significantly more complicated. Desktop Manager is available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. (Read more about BlackBerry Desktop Manager for Mac here.)

You should also check in with your wireless service provider before attempting to use your BlackBerry to connect a PC to the Internet, because some companies charge pricey tether-fees after the fact and others require you to enable a special tethering feature on your account.

Tethering prices and details vary from carrier to carrier. For example, T-Mobile has no tethering limits or requirements at all, beyond an active BlackBerry data plan--at least that I know of; I use my T-Mobile BlackBerry to tether frequently and I've never paid extra or activated any tether-specific features. Verizon, on the other hand, charges a separate tethering fee. And some carriers require specific logins and passwords to access the functionality.

After you've downloaded and installed BlackBerry Desktop Manager--I'm using v5.0.1.37--and contacted your wireless carrier for the appropriate information you should open up the program and connect your BlackBerry device to your PC.

On the Desktop Manager home screen you'll see a number of options, including one labeled IP Modem. Click the IP Modem box, and on the following screen, under Connection Settings click the Configure box.

Next, you should choose the appropriate Connection Profile from the drop-down menu on the Set Up Connection screen. Your Connection Profile should correspond with your wireless carrier, so if you're a T-Mobile U.S. user, you should choose the T-Mobile US item. You can also add a custom profile if your specific wireless carrier isn't listed or the supplied information in the profile is inaccurate. Simply click the Custom Profile option and add the appropriate information.

Depending on your carrier's settings, you may need to enter some additional information, such as a user name, password, or access point into the corresponding fields in the Profile Settings section of the Set Up Connection screen.

When you're finished entering in your connection settings, you can fill in the check-box at the bottom of the Set Up Connection screen to ensure that your modem connection stays active even if you close the Desktop Manager software, if you so choose. Then click OK to return to the main IP Modem section.

Finally, click the Connect box beneath the Connect to the Internet heading, and assuming you've entered in valid connection settings, you should be good to go. If you get a connection error, return to the connection settings configuration screen, as described above, and make sure you entered in the proper information. If the problem persists, contact your wireless service provider.

As mentioned above, third-party applications that circumvent certain carriers' tether settings and restrictions exist, including the popular Tether for BlackBerry app. If you employ a wireless carrier with restrictive tethering policies, you may want to check out Tether. (Read all about Tether and why the company says it's faster and more reliable than tethering via BlackBerry Desktop Manager.)

This story, "Tether Your PC to the Internet via BlackBerry" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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