Setting up a temporary ‘ad hoc’ network

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

When you need a quick way to share files between two Windows PCs that aren’t normally connected, an ad hoc wireless network is the way to go.

Everything you need is already built into Windows 7, Vista, and XP. Here’s how to set up an ad hoc network on wireless PCs.

The Latin phrase ad hoc means for this. It refers to a technique or process that’s designed for a very specific purpose — often, a short-term goal. Microsoft describes an ad hoc network this way in the Windows 7 Help file:

  • “An ad hoc network is a temporary connection between computers and devices used for a specific purpose, such as sharing documents during a meeting or playing multiplayer computer games. You can also temporarily share an Internet connection with other people on your ad hoc network, so those people don’t have to set up their own Internet connections. Ad hoc networks can only be wireless, so you must have a wireless network adapter installed in your computer to set up or join an ad hoc network.”
Ad hoc networks can be very handy. I recently set one up when I was traveling and needed to transfer a massive number of large digital photos from a netbook to my more capacious laptop system. An ad hoc network let my PCs communicate directly with each other, via Wi-Fi, without having to involve any extra hardware at all (no cables, routers, access points, and so on). I did not have to connect to the Internet and laboriously upload the photos from one PC and then download them to the other.

In addition, an ad hoc network is much faster than using a flash drive or some other sneakernet option for transferring large collections of files or data. Simply put, when you need to move files between two (or more) PCs that are not otherwise networked, an ad hoc connection is a great tool.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-12-15:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.