HTC Desire to OS X tethering via USB

[Update January 2011: Note the date on this post, and the fact that it refers to Android version 2.1 specifically. Android 2.2 features Wi-Fi and USB tethering as a standard feature. If you're running that or later this article probably isn't the droid you're looking for.]

Here’s how to connect your HTC Desire (or perhaps any Android phone) to a Mac via a USB cable so that your computer can use the phone’s mobile broadband connection.

In my opinion, this sort of functionality should be built into the operating system, but I’ll save that rant for another day.

This uses the PdaNet for Android app, which costs USD 23.95 (currently on special at USD 18.95 for a limited time). However there’s a free trial which will suit my fellow reviewers in the Telstra HTC Desire Social Review. You can still use the app after the free trial is over, with the limitation that you can’t connect to secure sites.

Step 1: Install PdaNet Desktop for Mac on your computer

Just download and install the package. You will need to reboot your Mac after the installation. The installation will:

  1. Create a new Ethernet interface associated with your USB port, probably called “en2″ or “en3″. When it does this, make sure the interface is set to use DHCP. It should do this automatically, but it pays to check.
  2. Install a new drop-down menu in your menu bar.

Step 2: Install the PdaNet for Android app on your phone

On your phone:

  1. Go to the Market, search for “pdanet”, download and install the app.
  2. Go to Settings -> Applications -> Development and turn on “USB debugging”.

You’ve now got the software installed at both ends, so you’re ready to go.

Step 3: Connect to the internet

  1. Launch the PdaNet app on your phone and select “Enable USB Tether”.
  2. Plug the phone into your Mac’s USB port.
  3. When the phone pops up the “Connect to PC” dialog, choose either “Charge only” or “Disk drive”. Do not choose “Internet sharing” as this start a fight over who’s controlling the internet link.
  4. On the Mac, from your new PadNet drop-down menu, choose “Connect” and wait for the icon to stop flashing.
  5. Done!

Remember that your mobile data usage is expensive. Telstra’s Next G network is fast. It’s easy to download more than you intended. And uploads count against your usage too — so careful with that streaming video!

This procedure was tested using PdaNet version 2.41 on an HTC Desire running Android 2.1-update1, and a MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard version 10.6.3. Your mileage may vary.

[Disclosure: I have been given a HTC Desire handset by Telstra free of charge to review. The comments expressed by me reflect my user experience and personal opinion.]

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  1. mpesce’s avatar

    My god. They really make it easy, don’t they?

    Reply

  2. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @mpesce: Indeed. Though as glengyron points out, Android 2.2 aka FroYo will have native USB tethering. Allegedly.

    Reply

  3. Simon Rumble’s avatar

    Why wouldn’t you just do it over wireless? Much easier and no special software on the client OS required. And you can share to multiple machines.

    http://code.google.com/p/android-wifi-tether/

    Reply

  4. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Simon Rumble: The procedure you link to requires the phone to be “rooted”. One of the rules of this review is that we can’t do that, because we’re reviewing the phone and environment as supplied — although we can do what we like once the formal review period is over.

    Reply

  5. Simon Rumble’s avatar

    Ahhh fair enough. I don’t understand why there isn’t a way to do it in wireless without rooting. Should be an out-of-the-box thing. In the US market with their unlimited data plans I imagine the carriers might not be so keen, but with the excess charges on plans we have here you’d think they’d be positively encouraging it!

    Put that in your review, cos the wireless tethering is an awesome feature. Multiple machines sharing your connection, and no special software on the machines. Though your caveats on data charges are important.

    ObDisclosure: I work for the Big T these days, and I don’t have to worry about excess data charges. I’ll be buying my HTC Desire next week.

    Reply

  6. Robin Goodfellow’s avatar

    I found this article to be surprising, but tested it on my HTC Hero this morning and found the same to be the case. I had been surprised because I had used my Hero for precisely this purpose while setting up my Ubuntu Linux box.

    I needed to download wvdial so I could use my wireless modem, so I just plugged my Hero in via a USB port and in Settings > “Wireless controls”, I selected “Mobile network sharing”. Hey presto, my Ubuntu box was connected and I could download wvdial from the repositories.

    How come it is so difficult to do the same thing with a Mac? I thought they were supposed to be easy to use.

    Reply

  7. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Robin Goodfellow: Well, when the HTC Desire was just plugged into the MacBook Pro, the latter recognise it as “Android Phone” and popped a dialog to configure dial-up networking. A quick search for the relevant Telstra Next G details revealed nothing, so I asked around. This was the solution I was pointed to. And a Telstra guy said tethering wasn’t supported. So there you go.

    Reply

  8. Graeme Robinson’s avatar

    working fine on my HTC desire. Unlike other unrooted solutions (eg proxoid) its more than just http proxy – you can run ssh sessions no problem, a big plus.

    Reply

  9. Clive Jelley’s avatar

    Thank you so much for this information. I have recently acquired the HTC Wildfire and was pulling my hair out because it would start and then drop out. The key tip was “When the phone pops up the “Connect to PC” dialog, choose either “Charge only” or “Disk drive”. Do not choose “Internet sharing” as this start a fight over who’s controlling the internet link.”

    PdaNet should use your set up info.

    Reply

  10. wil’s avatar

    I just purchased a wireless printer(HP officejet 6500a E-710n-z). I own an HTC desire Android 2.1 smartphone. How do I hook them up so I can WIRELESSLY print out all the data I have saved to bookmark? Assume the printer is still in the box on a table in a completely empty room. And I know nothing. Help!!

    Reply

  11. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @wil: That sort of technical support is beyond my knowledge, I’m afraid. I’ve never configured any printer with Android, any version. But this page does still get a bit of traffic so perhaps some passer-by can help.

    Reply

  12. Zaatour36’s avatar

    Isn’t there a native tethering app for USB as well as WiFi???

    but i need some configuration for the USB, does anyone know how???

    Reply

  13. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    @Zaatour36: There is now. Note the “Update” bit at the very top of the post.

    As for the configuration information, you’d be better off trying at an Android or HTC forum. This is just my personal website and we don’t really have that sort of technical discussion.

    Reply

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