How to Connect Two Laptops Using a Wireless LAN

by Jeff Grundy

If you use your laptop in an area with no access to a Wi-Fi router, you might expect it to be difficult to transfer to or receive files from another laptop over the airwaves. However, using Windows' integrated ad hoc wireless-network support, you can create a small LAN between two wireless laptops without a router or even a network hub or switch. In fact, connecting two laptops over a wireless connection requires no hardware other than the Wi-Fi network adapters already installed in the computers.

Install USB Wireless Adapter on Computer Without Wi-Fi

Open the disc tray of the computers optical drive and insert the driver disc for the wireless adapter. Wait for the setup wizard to appear, then click "Install," “Install Driver,” “Setup Driver” or another similar link or button. Follow the onscreen prompts to install the Wi-Fi adapter device driver in Windows, and then reboot the computer if prompted.

Plug the USB data cable into the wireless adapter and an empty USB port on the computer.

Click the “OK” button if Windows displays a message asking you to confirm that you want to install the USB wireless adapter using an unsigned driver. Otherwise, wait a few seconds for Windows to initialize and configure the wireless adapter with the driver you installed from the installation CD.

Configure Network Adapter on Gateway (or Host) Computer

Click “Start | Control Panel | Network and Sharing Center | Change Adapter Settings.” Right-click the icon for the integrated or USB wireless network adapter for the laptop, and then select “Properties" on the pop-up menu.

Click the "Network" tab, then choose “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)” in the list of installed protocols. Click the “Properties" button on the Network tab.

Choose the “Use the following IP address" option on the General tab, then enter "" in the IP Address field. Leave the default value of "" in the Subnet Mask field, and then type "" in the Default Gateway field and click “OK.”

Create the Ad-hoc Network

Click Start, "Control Panel" and then “Network and Sharing Center.” Click the “Set Up a New Connection or Network” link. After the new window appears, click “Set Up a Wireless Ad Hoc Computer-to-Computer Network" and click the "Next" button.

Click the “Next” button after the “Set Up a Wireless Ad Hoc Network” window appears. Type a descriptive name such as “My Wireless Network” or something similar in the network name field of the “Give Your Network a Name and Choose Security Options" window.

Enter a security password for the wireless network in the Security Key field, then select the “Save the Network” option. Click the “Next” button, then wait for Windows to create the new ad-hoc network. Click “Close” after Windows displays a message confirming the successful creation of the new network.

Access the Ad-Hoc Network from Other Computer

Go to the other laptop computer with a wireless adapter installed. Power on the notebook computer and log in to Windows. Enable the wireless adapter in the notebook if you need to so or install an external Wi-Fi adapter or dongle.

Click the wireless signal icon in the Quick Launch tray on the right side of the taskbar and to the left of the Windows time and date display. After you click the icon, a popup list appears displaying any wireless networks within range. Choose the name of the new ad-hoc wireless network you created on the host computer, then click "Connect."

Type the security key for the ad-hoc network in the Connect to a Network window, then click the “OK” button. Windows connects the second laptop to the wireless ad-hoc network and accesses the gateway on the host laptop.

Click Start, then "Computer." Click "Network" in the navigation pane of the Windows Explorer window to view the other laptop. Double-click the laptop to browse for shared files and folders on the machine.


  • An ad-hoc network is one where computers connect directly to each other rather than through a router, switch or hub.
  • For a laptop that already has Wi-Fi capability built in, there is no need to install a USB wireless adapter.

Items you will need

  • USB wireless adapter or
  • RJ-45 cables

About the Author

Jeff Grundy has been writing computer-related articles and tutorials since 1995. Since that time, Grundy has written many guides to using various applications that are published on numerous how-to and tutorial sites. Born and raised in South Georgia, Grundy holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images