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How to enable metered Wi-Fi connections in Windows 8

Windows 8 can designate Wi-Fi connections as metered, so you can better manage data usage on connections with a data limit.

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Ed Rhee/CNET

One of the new features of Windows 8 is metered wireless connections. In the past, you could run Windows programs to monitor your data usage, but they didn't do anything to actually reduce data usage. With mobile hot spot and broadband card usage on the rise and unlimited data plans nearing extinction, every kilobyte of bandwidth saved is a penny earned. Enabling metering in Windows 8 will limit your PC or tablet's data usage by preventing nonessential data transfers.

According to Microsoft's FAQ on metered connections, the effects of enabling a metered connection are:

  • Windows Update will only download priority updates.
  • Apps from the Windows Store may pause downloads.
  • Start screen tiles may stop updating.
  • Offline files may stop syncing automatically.

Enable metering
To enable metering on a wireless connection, go to the Wi-Fi network list and right-click on your connection. Touch-screen and tablet users should perform a long press. When the list of options appears, select "Set as metered connection."

Set Wi-Fi connection as metered
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Disable data usage over metered connection
There are two metered connection settings that can further reduce data usage. The first is downloading device software. Go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Devices and make sure that "Download over metered connections" is off.

The second setting is syncing settings. Go to Settings > Change PC Settings > Sync your settings, and make sure that both "Sync settings over metered connections" and "Sync settings over metered connections even when I'm roaming" are off.

Check data usage
To see how much data you've used on your connection, go back to your network list and left-click on your connection. Touch-screen and tablet users should perform a single tap. Unfortunately, there's no way to set the counter to automatically reset on a schedule, but you can manually select "Reset" on the first day of your billing cycle.

Estimated data usage
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

Check app usage history
If you want to figure out which apps are using the most data, go to the Task Manager and click on the "App history" tab. You'll see separate columns for overall network usage, metered network, and tile updates. You can get to the Task Manager from the Start screen by typing "task manager" or right-click on the desktop taskbar and select "Task Manager."

Windows 8 App history in Task Manager
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

That's it. Now you know how to use metered connections in Windows 8 to keep your data usage in check. Keep in mind that metered connections only work with Wi-Fi connections; Ethernet connections cannot be metered.

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