Need to quickly connect to another laptop wirelessly to transfer data without a router or internet connection? Without an internet connection, you won’t be able to use sync services like Dropbox to easily share data between devices. If you have a network device such as a router, hub, or switch, you can get computers to communicate with each other, but it takes quite a bit of extra work (file sharing, permissions, firewall settings, etc.) to do so.
However, if you have a laptop or computer with a wireless card like your buddy, you can use the cards to establish a wireless connection between the two computers. Once they are connected wirelessly (also called a peer-to-peer wireless network), you can easily communicate between computers.
You can create a peer-to-peer network in Windows or OS X, and in this article, I will explain the steps to create a network for each OS. It’s important to note that ad hoc networks in general have certain limitations that make them useful only in certain situations. First, the speed of a peer-to-peer network is usually slower than that of a conventional infrastructure network. Peer-to-peer specifications require a maximum speed of 11 Mbps, which is much lower than the maximum b / g / n / ac speeds.
Secondly, you cannot monitor the signal strength on peer-to-peer networks, so you need to make sure that computers are close enough to each other and not move around too much. Finally, ad-hoc networks do not support all of the security features of conventional infrastructure networks and are therefore easier to hack.
Create an ad hoc network
This guide will be written for Windows 7, but you can follow the same instructions for Windows 8 and Windows Vista. To get started, open Control Panel and click on Network and Sharing Center.
In the next dialog box, click the “Set up a new connection” or “network” link at the bottom.
In the New Connection dialog box, scroll down until you see the “Configure Peer-to-Peer Wireless Network (Computer-to-Computer)” option.
On the next screen, it will explain what an ad hoc wireless network is and inform you that if you are currently connected to a wireless network, you will probably disconnect. Go ahead and click Next.
Now you need to give the network a name, choose a security type, and give it a security key. For the security key, you can only choose one of three options: no authentication, WEP, or WPA2-Personal. The default is WPA2-Personal, which is the strongest. Click “Next” and a screen appears showing that the network is configured. Please note: if you do not check the Save this network box, it will simply disappear after disconnecting from the peer-to-peer network. If you want to use it again, you have to start from scratch.
Congratulations, you’ve finished Part 1! Go ahead and open your list of wireless networks and you should see your newly created one listed along with the rest of your wireless networks. Click on it to connect.
Once connected, you will see a message next to the network name that says “Waiting for Users”. Your network is now ready to accept new connections. It’s time to actually exchange data between the two computers. Let’s dive into the details as it is not as easy as it sounds.
Share data over an ad hoc network
Now that you’ve set up the ad hoc network, go ahead and let other clients connect to the network. Note that the wireless icon may continue to show this blue spinning circle icon even if the computer is connected to a peer-to-peer network. This is because it is also trying to connect to the internet, which it obviously cannot do as it is just a peer-to-peer network.
At this stage, you have several ways to exchange data between computers. Let’s deal with different scenarios.
– If all computers are running Windows 7 and later, you can use the homegroup feature built right into Windows. It allows you to easily share music, videos, documents, pictures and printers.
– If all computers are running Windows, but there are also Windows XP or Windows Vista clients, you need to combine all computers into one workgroup and make sure Network Discovery and File and Printer Sharing are enabled.
– If computers are a mixture of operating systems like Windows and Mac, you only need to rely on file sharing and permissions. The most important thing here is to make sure the Windows user account has a password (otherwise you won’t be able to connect to the file share) and correctly enable file sharing on non-Windows operating systems.
Create a homegroup
Create a homegroup
The easiest way to exchange data between computers with Windows 7 and later is to use a homegroup. You don’t have to worry about manually sharing folders or files, setting up a firewall, or adding passwords to user accounts. Everything just works and it’s nice! First, go to Control Panel and click Homegroup.
If there is already a computer that is joined to a homegroup on the ad hoc network, it will appear and you can join it or click the Create Homegroup button.
We’ll create a new homegroup, and the next screen will ask you what items you want to share. You can select images, music, videos, documents and printers. Click “Next” and you will see a screen with the homegroup password.
At this point, you just need everyone else to do the same as shown above, but join the existing homegroup rather than create a new one. Once you’ve done that, you can open File Explorer and click Homegroup from the left menu. When others join a homegroup, shared data folders appear there, and whatever you put in those folders will be visible to everyone in the homegroup.
Share a workgroup
If you have computers running Windows XP and Vista, the homegroup option will not work. In this case, you still have options. First, if you are trying to connect from an XP or Vista computer to a Windows 7 or later computer, there are a few things you need to configure on the Windows 7 or later computer.
Primarily. you need to make sure that the ad hoc network is configured so that its network type is Home or Work. To do this, open the Network and Sharing Center again, and then click the link under the name of the wireless network. If “Home” is already written, then everything is ready. If not, then you want to click on it and set the network location to Home. This will allow you to share it online with other computers.
The next thing to do is to make sure that all computers are in the same workgroup. This is especially important for Windows XP and Windows Vista computers that you want to access through a Windows 7 or later computer. By default, most Windows computers are part of the WORKGROUP, so you might not need to change anything, but it’s recommended to check.
In Windows XP, click Start, right-click My Computer, and select Properties. In the System Properties section, go to the Computer Name tab. Click “Change” if you need to change the workgroup name.
On computers with Windows Vista and later, click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties. In the Computer Name, Domain, and Workgroup Settings section, click the Change Settings button if you need to change the name.
The last thing we need to do is for Windows 7 and up. Go to File Explorer and click “Network” in the left menu.
When you do, you can see a pop-up panel with a message that network discovery and file sharing are disabled. Networked computers and devices are not visible. Click to change. Go ahead, click on that and select Turn on network discovery and file sharing. Once you’ve done that, you should see all other computers that are on the peer-to-peer network, if they also have network discovery and file sharing enabled. Just follow the same procedure on each computer to turn it on. The above process is only for Windows 7 and above. Here’s how to do it on other operating systems:
Enable file sharing on Windows XP
Enable file sharing and network discovery in Windows Vista
To see all the advanced sharing options, go to the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel and click the Change advanced sharing options link.
Here you will find all the exchange options, some of which we mentioned above. Make sure you are viewing your home or work profile settings and not your public profile.
The top section is network discovery and file and printer sharing, which we have already talked about. Shared Folder Sharing is when you want to allow others to access only shared folders over the network. If you are doing this over an ad hoc network, just turn it on.
Streaming media will allow other users to stream content from your computer, but you can turn this off and still exchange data between computers. File sharing connections are configured to use 128-bit encryption by default, so you should probably leave this option alone. Password protected sharing allows you to use the username and password from the computer you are trying to access to see the shared folders / files. If you don’t want to do this, you can disable this option. Finally, connections to the homegroup will be accepted by default and do not require a password to connect.
Sharing Operating Systems
Sharing between operating systems
Finally, for sharing between Windows and Mac or another operating system, you still need to follow all the instructions above for Windows computers. If you are trying to connect to a Windows computer, everything should be fine if you do all of the above. The only problem is that you might have to create a password for your Windows account to connect. You can try disabling password-protected sharing as shown above, but sometimes other operating systems still require you to enter your password, so try if you can’t connect and can’t figure out why.
If you are trying to connect from a Windows computer to another OS, such as OS X, you will have to separately enable file sharing on those operating systems. On a Mac, for example, you have to go to System Preferences and then click Sharing or File Sharing. Go ahead and add the folders you want to share and the corresponding user permissions.
To access files on a Mac from a Windows computer, you must click Options and then select the Sharing files and folders using SMB (Windows) check box.
I can’t go into details in this post for different operating systems, but hopefully this gets you far enough that you can probably google the rest. If you have questions about connecting two computers wirelessly, leave them in the comments. Enjoy!