One of the nifty things about Google’s Project Fi wireless network is that the company doesn’t charge anything extra for tethering, so if you want to use your Android smartphone as a mobile hotspot, you can do that. But if you’d rather not run down your phone’s battery to keep your tablet or notebook online, Google also provides another option: a data-only SIM card.

Note that this perk is only available to customers who are already paying Project Fi customers. Your SIM card will be linked to your account and any data you use will be added to your bill. You can’t buy a data-only SIM instead of a voice and data SIM. It’s an add-on, not a replacement.

Customers can login to the Project Fi website, choose the Manage Plan option, and click the option for “Add data-only SIM” to request one. Google will send it to you for free. You don’t even have to pay for shipping.

But what do you do once it arrives?

If you have an Android tablet (or phone), all you have to do is follow the instructions that come with the SIM card to activate it (which involves typing a code into fi.google.com/data), then insert the SIM card and it should be detected and start working in a few moments.

Have an iPad or iPhone that you want to turn into a data-only cellular device? Activate the SIM, insert it in your device, open the Settings app, go to the Cellular Data option, and find the APN Settings. Enter “h2g2” for the APN (without the quotes).

The steps are similar if you want to use a computer… but you may have to jump through a few hoops to find the settings. So here’s a step-by-step guide for how I activated and configured a Windows 10 laptop to work with a Project Fi data-only SIM:

  1. Activate the SIM card.
  2. Insert the SIM card into your device.
  3. Open the Windows 10 Settings app.
  4. Select the Network and Internet option.
  5. Select the Cellular tab.
  6. Open the Advanced Options.
  7. Choose the “Add an APN” option under the APN settings header.
  8. Give the APN a name like “Project Fi” and enter “h2g2” for the APN (without quotes).
  9. Click the Save button.

Now you should be able to either connect manually or check the box that says “Let Windows manage this connection.”

You can also decide whether to let the computer automatically use cellular data when you’ve got an unreliable WiFi connection and/or you can restrict cellular data usage by Windows Store apps and Windows features running in the background or set data usage limits so you don’t run up your bill.

Project Fi charges $10 per GB of usage up to 6GB, and then lets you use up to 15GB of high-speed data for no additional charge before the network will start throttling your data speeds.

The carrier has been offering data-only SIMs for a while. If you’re wondering why I’m getting around to writing this today, it’s because Asus loaned me an Asus NovaGo Windows 10 convertible with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and 4G LTE support to review.

In order to put all of the computer’s functionality to the test, I ordered my first data-only SIM… but when I inserted the SIM card and it wasn’t immediately recognized by Windows 10 it took me a while to figure out what APN I needed to use, where to enter it, and other steps. So I figured it would be helpful to put everything in one place.

In related news, stay tuned for more posts about the Asus NovaGo.

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8 replies on “How to use a Project Fi data-only SIM with a Windows 10 PC”

  1. The sim port comes with all models or this feature is for limited additions?

    1. It’s $20 for unlimited talk and text for your voice+data SIM, and then $10 per GB after that. The $10/GB price applies across your phone SIM and any data-only SIMs you may have.

      I don’t use a lot of data unless I have a lot of business travel, so most months my bill is in the $28 – $35 range. It goes higher during CES or in months when I have multiple out-of-town trips.

      Personally I don’t like to tether too much because it burns through my data quickly. But I love that I *can* do it at times when there’s no easily accessible WiFi.

      So I probably won’t use this data-only SIM all that often, other than for testing purposes. Since I’m testing an “always connected” PC and the SIM was free, it seemed like a no brainer to order one.

      1. I just bought a Pixel XL ($249 refurbished, Amazon resellers, in perfect condition), and Project Fi comes close to what I need, but I call the UK a lot, and H2O Wireless still wins in that regard, because their international calls are free.

        I will be signing up for Project Fi next month, though — for the minimum one month. I’m sick of paying nearly $70/month for Spectrum Internet, and since they won’t negotiate, I’m cancelling my service for a month while I’m away. Project Fi will fill in nicely for the 10 days I need after returning home — especially with the tethering. After 30 days total (in theory) I will qualify for the new subscriber rate of $45 rate for a year. Should save about $200 for the year overall, after installation fees.

        Also kind of nice that I can use my Google Voice number with Fi, and return it to Voice after cancellation.

        1. Be careful with the Google Voice number thing. If you use it with Fi it won’t work as a Google Voice number anymore… it’ll just be your normal phone number. And then it may be a bit of a hassle to convert it back afterward, unless that’s easier than it used to be.

          1. Thanks for the information, Brad. Yeah, I have heard getting your Google Voice number back after cancellation can be a chore, but since I only use it for voicemail duties, I’m willing to take that chance.

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