Wireless data sharing is one of those things that we already enjoy, but not necessarily in the way we would like to have it. For instance, sharing Windows files and folders on a home network so that data can be easily reached from a second device is relatively simple, but sending data directly from one device to another isn’t.
Email is an option, as is NFC, but not many computers support the latter which at the moment tends to be limited to handheld devices.
Two options are built into Windows, but both can be initially difficult to use. However, once you’ve become aware of them and how they can be used, WiFi Direct and Bluetooth can be called upon in most situations.
After this, it’s really a case of deciding which is best for your file transfer requirements.
Transferring a File With Bluetooth in Windows 8.1
You’ll need to ensure your computer is paired to a suitable Bluetooth device (smartphone – perhaps Android, iPhone/iPad, another computer, etc.) before sending a file to it. The methodology for this is largely the same across devices, and requires ensuring both are set to “discoverable”, searching for one with the other, and then confirming that the code is identical on each device; an explanation of how file transfer is achieved with Android was shared previously on MakeUseOf.
If you’re not sure where Bluetooth can be found on your Windows 8 computer, open the Charms menu (a basic gesture explained in our guide to Windows 8 gestures and shortcuts), then Settings > Change PC Settings > PC and devices > Devices. In Windows 8.1, instead of Devices, open Bluetooth.
With Bluetooth enabled, and your devices paired, switch to the Windows desktop and find the Bluetooth icon in the system tray/notification area. Left-click and select Send a file; you’ll be prompted to select the target device, then browse for the file. Upon sending, the device receiving your data file will ask you to confirm that you wish to save the data.
When it finishes, you’re done!
Introducing WiFi Direct
You can think of WiFi Direct as a sort of Bluetooth over WiFi. That is, it has the same “discover and send” functionality of Bluetooth, but the data is sent using wireless networking, which thereby offers greater speed for your file transfer.
Bluetooth has been around since 1994, and although useful for transmitting audio and connecting devices (such as game controllers) it isn’t ideal for transferring larger files. WiFi Direct has this particular problem covered.
At this stage, however, there is a problem with WiFi Direct which may limit your use; sadly there seems to be some difference in how it is implemented on different devices. As such it isn’t as universal as Bluetooth, but if you have success with it then it is a very useful feature for transferring data between Windows 8.1 and other suitable hardware.
Transfer Data With WiFi Direct in Windows 8.1
Using WiFi Direct to send a file is more or less as simple as using Bluetooth, you’ll be pleased to know. First, however, you’ll need to check that your device is WiFi Direct-compatible. You can do this by pressing WIN+R, entering CMD to open the Command Prompt (which you should probably be using more than you are) then entering ipconfig /all. If WiFi Direct is available you should see an entry labelled like this:
Note that due to the relative immaturity of the protocol, WiFi Direct file transfers cannot be completed without a third party app. A couple are available for Windows 8.1, but you’ll probably want to get started with a free option…
Feem offers Modern and Desktop apps, as well as apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone 8, and you can find the various app store links at http://www.tryfeem.com/en/download.html
With your Windows 8.1 computer connected to your wireless network, and the device you’re intending to send data to also hooked up, launch the Feem app on both. You should see your network name with a list of devices with default names assigned (these can be edited). There may also be a requirement to specify the folder that downloads (data sent to your device) should be saved in; this option can be found in the Settings screen.
To send a file, click or tap the browse button, a box with a right-pointing arrow within. You will then be able to browse your files, select one to send and click OK to commence. Seconds later the data should have arrived on your second device! Below you can see how the Android app looks.
Data Transfer Speeds: Which Is Best?
You will probably notice while trying these two methods that WiFi Direct is considerably quicker than Bluetooth. Indeed, recent tests have demonstrated that Bluetooth is tortoise-like in comparison. While WiFi Direct isn’t quicker than any cable data transfer (such as USB 2.0 or USB 3.0) it is certainly capable of transferring a 1.5 GB file inside 10 minutes; in contrast, Bluetooth takes almost 125 minutes to shift the same data.
Despite the impressive speed, we wonder if WiFi Direct is really as convenient to use as Bluetooth. What do you think? Have you used either in Windows 8.1? Does the need for additional software put you off? Perhaps you’ve transferred data from your Android device or other hardware?
Let us know what you think, even if you prefer Bluetooth!