Bluetooth is the gold standard for device-to-device transfer and close-range communication, but it has a competitor you might not have heard of: WiFi Direct.
What is WiFi Direct? This little-known alternative has been around for years, but unlike Bluetooth, you can use WiFi Direct for more than just transferring files.
Windows 10 has direct support for WiFi Direct, but if you plan on using it, you need to know what it’s for (and if it’s safe to use it). There are many devices that support WiFi Direct (under different names), so if you want to know more about WiFi Direct in Windows 10, here’s what you need to know.
What is WiFi Direct?
WiFi Direct is a standard that allows Wi-Fi radio frequencies (typically 2.4 and 5 GHz) to be used for direct peer-to-peer connections with other devices. The connection does not require an existing Wi-Fi network as the connection is established directly between the two devices.
WiFi Direct works by activating a software-generated hotspot on the host device, while creating a temporary WiFi network. Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is then used for authentication, using a button or PIN to establish a connection. This provides a seamless (but secure) connection between devices.
Like Bluetooth, you can use it to send files, share your screen with other devices, play games directly, share your internet connection, and more. It also plays a central role in other communications systems and standards such as short-range communications.
However, WiFi Direct support is very patchy. While it is fully supported on Windows 10 (depending on your device), Apple devices such as Mac, iPhone, and iPad use proprietary AirDrop and AirPlay instead.
Modern Android devices (Android 4.0 and up) offer WiFi Direct support, but you may need a third-party app to take full advantage of its features. It also has some support on some smart TVs, game consoles, and other Wi-Fi enabled devices.
Check WiFi Direct support on Windows 10 PC
If you want to use WiFi Direct as an alternative to Bluetooth, your best bet is a Windows 10 computer or laptop. Windows 10 offers full WiFi Direct support, but your internal WiFi chip (or external WiFi device) must support it.
If you want to check if your Windows PC or laptop supports WiFi Direct, you will need to use Windows PowerShell
- Right-click the Start icon to open a new PowerShell terminal. menu and select the Windows PowerShell (Admin) option.
- In a new Windows PowerShell window, type ipconfig / all and press Enter. A list of your network adapters and connections will be listed. Browse the list of adapters to find the Microsoft Wi-Fi Direct virtual adapter.
If Microsoft Wi-Fi Direct virtual adapter appears in the list, your computer supports Wi-Fi Direct connections. If not, you need to connect a third party USB WiFi device to enable its support.
Connect to other WiFi Direct compatible devices
If your computer supports this, you can connect to other WiFi Direct devices. To do this, you can use Windows Search and Discovery to find other Wi-Fi Direct devices nearby.
- To do this, you need to open the Windows settings menu. Right-click the Start menu and select the Settings option.
- From the Windows Settings menu, select Devices. From there, you will need to select the “Add Bluetooth or Other Device” option.
- From the “Add device” pop-up menu, you can select the type of device you want to connect to. For example, some WiFi Direct devices are mainly used for screen mirroring. To add one, select the Wireless Display or Dock option. Otherwise, select the “Everything Else” option.
- Next, a list of available nearby devices that your computer can connect to will appear. There will also be devices that support Wi-Fi Direct, including smartphones, smart TVs, game consoles and more. To connect to these devices, select a device from the list.
- After connecting the device, click Finish to end the connection.
- The device will then appear in your Known List under the Bluetooth & Other Devices menu in Windows Settings.
While this method should work for most Wi-Fi Direct devices, you can use other methods to connect, so refer to the user manual for those devices for more information.
For example, some WiFi Direct devices will have their own always-on Wi-Fi networks that you can connect to. If you have, for example, an HP printer or a Sony smart TV, you can connect by joining the DIRECT-XX wireless network for that device.
Send files using WiFi Direct
One of the best uses for WiFi Direct is file transfer, especially if you have a lot of files. Although you can use Bluetooth, transferring large files (or a lot of them) will take much longer than a WiFi Direct connection.
If you have an Android device, the best way to use WiFi Direct is to use the Feem app, which supports Windows 10 and Android. Although WiFi Direct is not supported for iPhones and iPads, Feem uses an alternative method for transferring files on those platforms.
- First, download and install the Feem app for your Android device. You also need to install Feem on your Windows PC. Once installed, open Feem on both devices.
- On your Android device, tap the Enable Wi-Fi Direct slider in the Feem app This will activate a dedicated WiFi Direct hotspot to connect your Windows device. The password required to connect to this network will appear in the upper right corner.
- On a Windows device, connect to a temporary Wi-Fi network created by your Android device (for example, DIRECT-mH-Android). You can do this from the Windows settings menu or by clicking the Wi-Fi / Network icon on the taskbar and selecting a temporary Wi-Fi network from there.
- Once connected, open the Feem app on your Windows PC. Your Android device should be listed in the left menu. You can send files in a different way by selecting your Windows PC in the Feem app on Android. Select a device from the list on any platform, then select or tap the “Send File” option at the bottom to start uploading files.
- After sending files, tap the WiFi Direct slider on your Android device to disable the WiFi Direct hotspot and disconnect.
Connect Windows 10 computers to other devices
As the name suggests, using WiFi Direct in Windows 10 allows you to connect directly to other devices. If you want to transfer files from your smartphone to your computer on a regular basis, you can use the built-in Your Phone app instead.
If Wi-Fi Direct is not available then Bluetooth is your next best option for standalone peer-to-peer communication. Many Windows 10 PCs have built-in Bluetooth, but you can make your computer Bluetooth compatible with a USB adapter. You just need to remember to turn on Bluetooth before trying to establish a connection.