Features and Uses of an Ad Hoc Wireless Network

An ad hoc network connects directly to other devices without a server

man on laptop in office
Portra Images/Taxi/Getty Images

An ad hoc network is a type of temporary computer-to-computer connection. In ad hoc mode, you can set up a wireless connection directly to another computer without having to connect to a Wi-Fi access point or router.

Ad Hoc Wireless Network Features and Uses

  • Ad hoc networks are useful when you need to share files or other data directly with another computer but don't have access to a Wi-Fi network.
  • More than one laptop can be connected to the ad hoc network, as long as all of the adapter cards are configured for ad-hoc mode and connect to the same SSID (service state identifier). The computers need to be within 100 meters of each other.
  • If you are the person who sets up the ad hoc network, when you disconnect from the network, all the other users are also disconnected. An ad hoc network is deleted when everyone on it disconnects, which can be good or bad, depending on your view; it's truly a spontaneous network.
  • You can use an ad hoc wireless network to share your computer's internet connection with another computer.

Ad Hoc Wireless Network Limitations

For file and printer sharing, all users need to be in the same workgroup, or if one computer is joined to a domain, the other users have to have accounts on that computer in order to access shared items.

Other limitations of ad hoc wireless networking include the lack of security and a slow data rate. Ad hoc mode offers minimal security. If an attacker comes within range of your ad-hoc network, he won't have any trouble connecting. 

Set up an Ad Hoc Wireless Network to Share an Internet Connection

Newer Wi-Fi Direct technology eliminates many of the ad hoc wireless network limitations and is secure, but until that technology is widespread, you can set up an ad hoc wireless network and use it to share internet access on one computer to many devices.

To set up an ad hoc wireless network to share a Windows 10 computer's internet connection with other devices:

  • In Windows 10, open Command Prompt and enter this code, replacing "your network name" and "your password" with your information: netsh wlan set hostednetwork mode=allow ssid=yournetworkname key=yourpassword
  • Then start the hosted network: netsh wlan start hostednetwork
  • Go to Control Panel and choose Network and Sharing Center. Select Change Adapter Settings to open Network Connections.
  • Turn on Internet Connection Sharing by right-clicking on the device that is connected to the internet.
  • Go to Sharing and check the box that says Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection.
  • In the drop-down menu, select the ad hoc network connection and click OK.

Setting up an Ad Hoc Network in a Mac OS

On a Mac, select Create Network from the Airport drop-down menu which is usually located in the menu bar at the top of the screen. In the screen that opens, add a name for your network and click Create. Follow any additional prompts to complete the ad hoc network setup.