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December 22, 2010

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration

By Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration

While it is not typically known by non-technical people, it is possible to connect Wi-Fi computers together without the use of a wireless router or access point; this feature is called Ad-Hoc networking.

With Ad-Hoc networking, the multiple computers are connected directly to each other through the same wireless cards used to connect to the more standard wireless router or access point. In this article we’ll review the process of setting up an Ad-Hoc network on Windows 7.

How to Create an Ad-Hoc Network on Windows 7

The first step in the process requires that we start at the Network and Sharing center as shown in Figure 1 below. You can access the Windows 7 Networking and Sharing Center through your control panel.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 1: Windows 7 Networking and Sharing Center

Now, from this point, there are two different ways to setup an Ad-Hoc network:

  • one uses the Setup a connection or network wizard
  • the other utilizes the Manage Wireless Networks control panel

The choice of which one to use depends on your preference. The setup of the Ad-Hoc network only needs to be performed on the first computer being configured.

Let’s review the steps using both of the setup methods.

Ad-Hoc Network Configuration using the Setup a Connection or Network Wizard

When using the wizard method, the first task to perform requires the selection of ‘Set up a new connection or network’ option from the main window; this is shown in Figure 1.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 2: Setup a Connection or Network

At the bottom of the list shown in the window is the option to Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network. Once this option is selected the window shown in Figure 3 is displayed.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 3: Set up a wireless ad hoc network

The window shown in Figure 3 describes the Ad Hoc network and describes the requirements. Once you review the text on this window select next.


Figure 4: Give your network a name and choose security options

The next window shown in Figure 4 lets the user select the Network name, Security type and Security key which will be used between the computers. It is always recommended that a strong security option is used even when only connecting together two computers as it is always possible for a nearby person to exploit the lack of security.

There is also an option to Save this network; when this box is selected, the Ad-Hoc wireless network is saved in the list of available wireless networks to connect to.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 5: The Ad-Hoc network is ready to use

Once the Ad-Hoc network has been set up, the window shown in Figure 5 will be displayed; this completes the process using the wizard method.

Ad-Hoc Network Configuration using the Manage Wireless Network Control Panel

Using the Manage Wireless Networks control panel method, the first task is to select the Manage wireless networks option from the top left of the main window; this is shown in Figure 6.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 6: Manage Wireless Networks

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 7: Manage Wireless Networks that use (Wireless Network Connection)

Once the Manage wireless networks selection has been selected, the window shown in Figure 7 is shown. From this window, the next option is to select the Add selection to add a wireless network.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 8: How do you want to add a network?

Once the Add selection is selected, the window shown in Figure 8 is displayed. From this window the option to ‘Create an ad hoc network’ would be used to create an ad hoc network.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 9: Setup a wireless Ad-Hoc network

Once this option has been selected, a familiar window is shown that runs through the same set up a wireless ad hoc network selections that are used in the previous method. This process is shown in figures 9,10 and 11.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 10: Give your network a name and choose security options

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 11: The Ad-Hoc network is ready to use

Now, if you selected the option to Save this network when creating the Ad-Hoc network, it will show up under Manage wireless networks as shown in Figure 12.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 12: Manage wireless networks that use (Wireless Network Connection)

Regardless of whether the Save this network option was selected, the computer is going to connect to the just created Ad-Hoc network. However, if the network was not saved, once the computer is rebooted or if a connection is made to another wireless network then the Ad-Hoc network will not be an available option without recreating it again.

Figure 13 shows how the Ad-Hoc network will display in the available networks window on the computer which created the Ad-Hoc network.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 13: Available Networks

Connecting to an Already Created Ad-Hoc Network

The configuration of the computers connecting to an already created Ad-Hoc wireless network is the same as connecting to any other type of wireless network. Figure 14 shows the available wireless networks as shown on the other computers. The different icon shown to the right of each network name shows the type of wireless network.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 14: Open Network and Sharing Center

Simply select the network and choose connect.  If no wireless security was selected, then the network will be connected; if wireless security was configured then the window shown in Figure 15 will be displayed to allow the entry of the security key.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 15: Wireless Security

Once the network is connected, the network will show as connected as shown in Figure 16.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 16: Connected to Wireless Ad-Hoc Network

IP Addressing in Ad-Hoc Networks

Now, another important thing to remember is that typically there is no DHCP server running on computer hosts. What this means is that there will be no IP address automatically assigned as is typically done when using a wireless router or access point.

Two options are available: either to use APIPA addressing (169.254.0.0/16) which will permit a connection between the two computers automatically when a DHCP server is unable to be contacted or using static IP addressing.

Figures 17 and 18 show the output from the ‘ipconfig’ and ‘arp –a’ commands on two computers connected via an Ad-Hoc network using APIPA addressing. The two computers’ addresses can be seen in each other’s ARP tables.

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 17: Windows IP Configuration

Windows 7 Ad-Hoc Network Configuration
Figure 18: Windows IP Configuration

The Ad-Hoc network is very useful when trying to connect computers together which have wireless capabilities and no active wireless router or access point to connect them together. If the need to network computers together in these situations happens, the Ad-Hoc option is certainly an easy to setup option which enables these abilities.

About the Author

is an accomplished networking consultant for SR-W Consulting (http://www.sr-wconsulting.com) and writer/editor for infoDispersion (http://www.idisperse.info). Sean has been in the IT field for over 15 years, working with companies like Cisco, Lucent, Verizon and AT&T as well as several other private companies. Sean holds certifications with Cisco (CCNP/CCDP), Microsoft (MCSE) and CompTIA (A+ and Network+). His educational accomplishments include: a Master’s of Science in Information Technology with a focus in Network Architecture and Design, a Master’s of Science in Organizational Management, a Master’s Certificate in Network Security, a Bachelors of Science in Computer Networking, and an Associates of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems.

Author's Website: http://www.sr-wconsulting.com


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