The Definitive Guide To Finding Free Wi-Fi

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The Definitive Guide To Finding Free Wi-Fi

You’re out and about with your laptop and you’re in need of some fast internet connectivity. Here are some tried and true ways to find and get free Wi-Fi.

Photo by °Florian.

Easy: The Most Likely Places You’ll Find Free Wi-Fi

You can find some free Wi-Fi love at the local public library, McDonald’s, university campus, independent coffee shop or hotel lobby. Not all campuses offer free Wi-Fi though, so give the destination a ring before you hoof it over there only to be disappointed.

war-drivingt-shirthatpair of sneakers(Thanks, adrian_rich!)

Medium: Employ Wi-Fi Scanner Apps and Look-up Tools

Sometimes the built-in scanner on your smartphone or laptop can be too slow or won’t give you all the information you want about area networks. Here are some free apps and tools for scanning and finding free Wi-Fi networks.

Windows

NetStumbler

Mac

iStumbler
AirRadar

Smartphones: iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android
Your Wi-Fi enabled smartphone can scan for nearby networks using its built-in antenna, but a few apps let you search near your location or another location, too.

iphone.jiwire.com

On Windows Mobile, WiFiFoFum is available, and as Kevin pointed out, the WeFi app is also available for Android.
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Webapps
Installable applications aside, if you’ve got a smartphone with internet access, several webapps will search an area to help you find a Wi-Fi hotspot for your laptop, including:

Bookmark those in your mobile browser for future reference.

Desperation Level: High

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If your search for Wi-Fi is fruitless—or turning up only security walls—you’ve still got a few options.

First, you can turn your smartphone into a router by tethering to its connection. This isn’t going to give you the fast connection that most public Wi-Fi hotspots will, but it will get your laptop online. Here’s one method for enabling tethering on your iPhone 3.0. Android owners, the PdaNet app tethers your device to your laptop. In fact, PdaNet is a popular tethering app that works on Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm OS and iPhone—though you’ll need to jailbreak your iPhone to get it working.

how to crack a Wi-Fi network’s WEP password with Backtrack

What’s your favourite method, app or search engine for finding free Wi-Fi? Let us know in the comments.

Gina Trapani, Lifehacker’s founding editor, wishes you a neighbourhood blanketed in free Wi-Fi. Her feature Smarterware appears every Wednesday on Lifehacker.

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