Recently I started use hotspot as my home internet. I have unlimited data and high speeds 160/40 Mbps. Everything works well except Photos.app. It just doesn't sync even a single photo.

I contacted Apple support, but it's just a big facepalm. They asked me to test this problem with other iPhones and MacBooks. I tested with over 5 devices, as I expected the result was the same. I wrote them and provided steps to reproduce the problem, but their answer was:

Thank you for the Response. Since the issue is happening on more than 1 iPhone, as I discussed when we spoke on the phone the first time, Its due to the computer needing a stronger connection other than hotspot. There is no need move forward with troubleshooting at this point due to the same thing happening on all the Apple products you have tried. As discussed, we would have continued troubleshooting only if the issue didn’t persist on another Apple product, because then it would have shown that its device specific and this it is not because its all the Apple products you have tried. Thank you for understanding.

So that's why I am looking for the answer on how to treat hotspot as a regular Wi-Fi on macOS.

macOS 10.14.5; iOS 12.3

  • I don't know if there's a workaround, but this is designed to work this way and is not a bug.
    – Ezekiel
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 17:28
  • @EzekielElin I found a workaround, I will post it soon. If it's designed to work this way, then I think it's a poor design. It allows background software updates, downloading apps from Mac App Store (5+ GB), iCloud Files are also syncing.
    – Nick
    Commented May 19, 2019 at 10:27
  • Apple supported confirmed that some iCloud services - include Photos - is restricted to no sync over a hotspot.
    – Synox
    Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 20:34
  • 2
    This is so very annoying in countries where mobile internet is fast and inexpensive, which is pretty much most of Europe; the US seems to have the opposite, maybe because of telecoms monopolies? In any case, it feels silly that I cannot update the phone or sync photos using the iphone's own hotspot, even though in many areas here (in Finland) the "house wifi" is using exactly the same kind of mobile connection. Wired connections don't make sense in areas where houses are few and far apart. Wish there was at least an option in the settings to disable these "features", at least outside the US.
    – Ilmari
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 12:35
  • related: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/180101/…
    – pkamb
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 3:34

4 Answers 4


So, finally I got the workaround to solve this issue.

You need to setup a VPN connection for that. Probably you can use any VPN connection, but I used OpenVPN and used Viscosity as a client.

You can install OpenVPN either locally or using remote server using this bash script.

After connecting to the VPN it assumes that it connected to the real internet not a Wi-Fi hotspot. I assume that it's because it cannot access iPhone router IP address. So theoretically blocking iPhone's local network could work as well.

  • could you please give us a deatiled guide about this workaround? I have the same problem with icloud photo sync via personal hotspot and I tried to run these vpn applications but the solution is not clear for me. What should I install to the Mac/iPhone and how the setup works? I know its not allowed to ask help in this answer block, but this is my last hope because I don't find any information on the internet about this issue. Thanks in advance!
    – TomGregor
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 17:56
  • @TomGregor, yes I can provide detailed instructions this weekends. I will post it here.
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 18:47
  • One another way to solve this problem is to connect my iPhone to Mac with a USB cable and transfer all the photos directly into my Photos library on the Mac. (Left panel - Devices - iPhone - Import new photos)
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 12:01
  • This did not work for me on Catalina.
    – laktak
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 21:58
  • still doesn't work on Monterey, did a try with both OpenVPN Connect and Tunnelblick.
    – emmekappa
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 22:01

This issue continues to trouble me in the year 2022. While Nick's answer is excellent, I am offering a possibly-simpler alternative solution. That is to use a wifi range extender. Many routers in the current market offer this function as well. Despite using iPhone's hotspot as the internet source, the WIFI from the extender/router will be recognised as a regular home WIFI. For me, iCloud and photo syncing on MAC have been working like a charm ever since!


In the meantime I found an other solution for this problem so it can be an option to disconnect the iCloud account from the phone. This way the iPhone is not associated with the Mac used by the same iCloud login and also the personal hotspot could work separately.

Anyway this option is really circumstantial and inconvenient so the detailed vpn solution would be much better for me.

Unfortunately I haven't enough reputation to add a comment to your previous respond but every plus instruction is welcomed from my side and I also ask the admins to not delete this answer or make from this block a comment manually because I don't have any other option to contact with Nick Walker in connection with this issue.

  • Hey, @TomGregor. I am sorry for late response. I didn't have time for full tutorial, and I think that it's not worth it since there are a lot of information on the internet that is written much better than I would. So here's the tutorial link: digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/…
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 11:55
  • Also, you can just buy somewhere the OpenVPN service, some of them provide even cheaper than DigitalOcean cheapest plan. But be sure that it's OpenVPN. For some reason for me L2TP doesn't work.
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 11:56
  • 1
    I tried this but the Mac still shows the hotspot icon and does not sync.
    – laktak
    Commented Aug 29, 2020 at 21:59

A variant of the VPN solution suggested, worked for me on my Mac with Big Sur 11.7.6. I've had this problem for a few months now and just now got around to finding the VPN solution. Used my OpenVPN client to connect to a work-related VPN I had access to. Opened Photos, and it synched the latest updates while connected to my iPhone hotspot! NOTE: I did not need to use the Viscosity client, I just used the OpenVPN client itself.

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