[Windows 8] How to decrease data or bandwidth usage (by using ‘metered connection’), and how to turn on ‘airplane mode’

Windows 8 is the first version of Windows that is designed to support mobile devices, such as tablets and hybrid laptops. From the user interface to the core of Windows 8, there are thousands of elements that focus on mobile users. The Start screen and Windows Store apps are great examples for the shift of Windows to become touch-friendly for mobile users. In addition, network settings also have many choices for optimizing mobile performance. In this article, I will introduce you to metered connections and how to turn airplane mode on/off.


If you are using an internet connection that has a cap on the amount of data you can use or is a per-per-use type connection, that is considered to be a “metered connection”. For example, most mobile broadband networks (3G or 4G) are metered connections because they have data caps or charge you based on the amount of used data. While these types of connections are most popular on smartphones and tablets, some WiFi users have similar metered connections.

Because of their data cap or pay-per-use, everyone that uses a metered connection always want to minimize the consumption of data… or risk crying when the bill comes. This is where Windows 8 comes into play — Windows 8 has the built-in capability to set a connection as a metered connection and then take steps to help minimize data usage.


When you designate a connection as a metered connection, Windows 8 will automatically limit the data use of your system. According to Microsoft, these are the steps Windows takes to minimize your data or bandwidth consumption:

  • Windows Update will only download priority updates.
  • Apps downloading from the Windows Store might be paused.
  • Start screen tiles might stop updating.
  • Offline files might not sync automatically.


By default, Windows 8 knows that a mobile network is a metered connection. So if you are using Windows 8 on a tablet, Windows 8 should automatically recognize when you are on network data. However, if Windows 8 does not automatically recognize your connection as metered or if you are on a metered WiFi connection or if you just want to decrease data/bandwidth consumption, you can do the following to manually set your network (even a WiFi network) as a metered connection:

  • Tap/click the network icon on system tray (in the bottom right corner) in desktop mode to show available networks. Another way to do this is via the Charms bar — place mouse or swipe from the right corner, choose Settings, and tap Network icon.
  • In the list of available networks, you need to find the connection you want to set as metered, long tap/right click on it, and choose “Set as metered connection”.

Once you do that, Windows 8 treats the connection you selected as a metered connection and takes the necessary steps to minimize data or bandwidth consumption.

In addition to marking a connection as metered, you can make some manually tweaks in settings to avoid overuse of data or bandwidth on a metered connection. First, you can turn off synchronizing your settings over metered connection. To do this job, you need swipe from the right edge then choose Settings (if on a tablet) or press Windows + W hotkey. After that, you should tap/click “Change PC Settings”.

Once PC Settings has opened, you have to choose “Sync your settings” on left side. Finally, you just need to switch the toggle from “On” to “Off” position under the section “Sync settings over metered connections”.

Secondly, to better control your metered connection, there is another setting you can change — turning off downloads. In the same PC Settings window as described above, choose “Devices” on the left side. Then turn off “Download over metered connections”.

How to track how much data/bandwidth is used

Windows 8 comes with a useful feature that natively tracks how much data or bandwidth you have consumed. This feature actually works on connections are metered or unmetered, but it is most useful for metered connections.

To show how much data or bandwidth you have used so far, you need to go to network settings just like how I described in the previous step. Then long tap/right click on the network you want to see and select “Show estimated data usage”. Windows 8 will then show you how much data or bandwidth has been consumed by your PC or tablet over that particular network.

Take note you only need to tap/click “Show estimated data usage” once; after the first time you just need to tap/click the network name in network settings and it will show your data usage at the bottom.


Airplane mode is a basic setting on mobile devices to help you safely using your device while a plane; it can also be used for any situation when you want to go completely off the grid because it disables all wireless connections your device, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, 2G/3G/4G, GPS, and NFC. Because of its desire to be a hybrid desktop/mobile OS, Windows 8 provides an airplane mode too.

You can turn on airplane mode by taping/clicking the network icon in system tray (in the bottom right corner) in desktop mode to show available networks. Another way to do this is via the Charms bar — place mouse or swipe from the right corner, choose Settings, and tap Network icon. Once at network settings, at the top of the panel, you will see the airplane mode setting. What you have to do is just switch it to the “On” position to enable it

Disable it the same way — switch it to the “Off” position.


Enjoy dodging those overage fees!

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