, author of Windows XP Unwired

One of the much-touted uses of Bluetooth is as a cable replacement solution. With its short range (10 meters is common, but 100 meter devices are easy to find) and limited bandwidth, Bluetooth is well suited to applications that need to transfer small amounts of data quickly and easily.

For example, you may need to quickly copy a document (or presentation slides) to a co-worker but there is no network available at the moment. In this situation, using Bluetooth is the ideal solution. Bluetooth enables you to set up an ad hoc, wireless network instantly, without the need for a network infrastructure.

Pairing

In this article, I assume that you want to copy a file from one Windows XP computer to another, and that both computers are Bluetooth-enabled. Let's step through the process of setting up Bluetooth for file transfer.

Pairing Bluetooth Devices

In Bluetooth, you have the option to "pair" two devices. When you pair with a Bluetooth device, this device will be "remembered." The next time you need to use the device, you need not search for the device again.

When pairing with a device, the device requesting the pairing will need to supply a PIN code to establish the link. The other device would need the same PIN to complete the pairing process.

You can still a use Bluetooth device without pairing; you will just need to search for the device every time you need to use it.

The first step you need to perform is to pair up with the destination computer to which you want to copy the files.

  1. Go to My Bluetooth Places by clicking on the Bluetooth icon located in the Tray.
  2. Click the "Search for devices in range" option to search for the destination computer (see Figure 1). My destination computer is named TABLETPC.
    Searching for the destination computer
    Figure 1. Searching for the destination computer

  3. Right-click on the TABLETPC icon and select "Pair Device." Enter a PIN code to be used on your computer as well as on the destination computer (see Figure 2).
    Entering a PIN code for pairing
    Figure 2. Entering a PIN code for pairing

Your two computers are now paired up.

Copying

Once the pairing has succeeded, you will see all of the services provided by the destination computer (see Figure 3).


Services provided by the destination computer
Figure 3. Services provided by the destination computer

  1. Double-click on the "File Transfer on TABLETPC" icon.
  2. You can now transfer files to the destination computer by dragging your files and folders into the File Transfer folder (see Figure 4). Note that the file transfer is actually performed via an FTP operation.
    Copying files into the File Transfer Folder
    Figure 4. Copying files into the File Transfer folder

  3. The destination computer will be prompted via a balloon message to give permission for the file transfer (see Figure 5).
    Requesting permission for file transfer
    Figure 5. Requesting permission for file transfer

  4. Click on the balloon to give the permission (see Figure 6).
    Setting permissions for the file transfer
    Figure 6. Setting permissions for the file transfer

  5. There are three permission settings available:
    • For the current task: Only grants permission for the current file transfer (permission is only for one file transfer).
    • For the next X minutes: Grants permission for the next X minutes.
    • Always allow this device to access to my computer's File Transfer service: Grants permission for all file transfers from this device.

Note that if you are copying multiple files (or a folder containing multiple files), you should check either the "For the next X minutes" or "Always allow this device to access to my computer's File Transfer service" options. This is because each file that is copied requires an explicit permission, and so if you choose the "For the current task" option, the destination computer needs to give permission for each file.

Another thing to take note is the transfer speed of Bluetooth. If you are transferring a relatively big file, be prepared to wait. A 1.6MB file typically takes about 2.5 minutes, and so you need to estimate the amount of time to allocate (and set) for this transfer.

Checking the Transfer Status

Because Bluetooth transfer is inherently slow (compared to 802.11 or Ethernet), copying a relatively large file requires some time. It is often useful to see the status of the transfer.

On the destination computer:

  1. Go to "My Bluetooth places" and select "View My Bluetooth services."
  2. Right-click on "My File Transfer" icon and select Status (see Figure 7).
    Checking the status of a file transfer
    Figure 7. Checking the status of a file transfer

  3. The Bluetooth Connection Status window will show the status of the file transfer (see Figure 8)
    Displaying the status of the file transfer
    Figure 8. Displaying the status of the file transfer

  4. You can also change the folder used for the file transfer by selecting "Properties," as shown in Figure 7.
  5. You have the option to specify a secure connection (all of the files transferred are encrypted) or change the default folder used for file transfer. You can also give users the permission to modify read-only files and folders, as well as access hidden files or folders (see Figure 9).
    Configuring the File Transfer service.
    Figure 9. Configuring the File Transfer service.

Conclusion

The beauty of Bluetooth is that it can really be a lifesaver when you need to transfer files quickly, especially in situations where there is no network infrastructure available. So the next time you attend a conference, be sure to bring along your Bluetooth adapter; you never know when you will need it.

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