How to Get the Internet on a Tablet Computer

By Josh Fredman

All tablets come Internet-ready straight out of the box, so you can connect to any wireless local network. Additionally, some tablets come "4G-enabled," which allows you to use them with some mobile carriers and take advantage of 4G / LTE (or 3G / LTE) network service when a local wireless network isn't available. Whether you use ordinary Wi-Fi or a 4G network, the process for connecting to the Internet depends on which operating system you're using: Windows, Android or iOS.Beware that you may incur significant added costs by using a 4G network for Internet access due to roaming charges or data transfer fees. Check with your mobile provider for details.

Windows 8 Tablets such as the Surface or Surface Pro

For any tablet running Windows 8 or 8.1, swipe in and tap the "Settings" button. From the Settings panel, tap on the "Wireless Network" icon, resembling a signal strength bar. When the list of available networks displays, tap on the one you want to access, and tap "Connect." If it's a protected network, you'll then have to enter the security password. If it's a hidden network, it should appear in the list as "Hidden Network." Tap it, and then type the network name.To connect to mobile broadband, you'll need to install a SIM card in your tablet if it doesn't already have one. On the left side of your Surface, press the SIM card tray to open it. Attach your SIM card and align its notch with the notch on the tray. Close the tray and power on the tablet. Swipe in, tap "Settings," and tap the "Wireless Network" icon. There, switch "Mobile Broadband" to "On" and tap the name of your mobile carrier. Tap "Connect," and follow the instructions to pair the tablet with a data plan from your carrier.

Android Tablets Like the Galaxy, Xperia or Nexus

On the Home screen, tap "Apps" and then "Settings." Under "Wireless & Networks," tap "Wi-Fi Settings" and mark the Wi-Fi check box if it isn't marked already. Type the wireless network's name and enter the security password if applicable. Then tap "OK."To connect to mobile broadband, install a SIM card if necessary. The location and process for this varies depending on the tablet manufacturer, so consult the user guide. Afterwards, tap "Apps" and then "Settings." Under "Wireless & Networks," click on "Mobile Networks." Select your carrier and follow the instructions to link your tablet with a data plan.

Connecting with an iPad

Tap "Settings" and then "Wi-Fi." Choose the network you want to access, or tap "Other" to enter the name of a hidden network. Enter the network security password if necessary, then tap "Join."To connect to mobile broadband, install a SIM card into your iPad if necessary. To do this, insert the SIM eject tool or an ordinary paperclip into the tiny hole on the back side near the top-left corner (it'll look like the top-right corner when you're looking at the back side). The tray will dislodge. Pull it the rest of the way out, and insert the new card securely into the tray. Be careful as these cards are extremely small, about the size of your fingertip. Push the tray back in, and power on the device. Tap "Settings," then "Cellular Data." Set the "Cellular Data" switch to "On." Follow the instructions to link your iPad with a data plan from your carrier.

Connecting a Tablet via USB Cable

As mobile devices, most tablets don't have built-in support for a wired Internet connection. A handful do, however, so if you're in the market for a tablet, then take that into consideration. Otherwise, you'll have to use an Ethernet adapter. These come in the form of a dongle with a USB plug on one end and an Ethernet socket on the other. Choose one that specifically supports your tablet's operating system and version. For Windows 8 tablets, you can buy one directly from Microsoft. For Android tablets, some manufacturers produce these adapters while others don't, in which case you'll have to go with a third-party alternative. For the iPad, Apple's iOS doesn't natively support Ethernet connections.