How to Turn Your Desktop Into a Wireless Server
By Alan Hughes
If you need to share files and folders among your household members but do not want to spring for an expensive server, you can convert any desktop into a server to meet the need. Additionally, you can avoid the expense of running network cables by converting the desktop-turned-server to a wireless server. The Windows operating system is capable of functioning as a network server that can meet most, if not all, of your server needs.
Configure the Desktop Server
Install a wireless network card inside the server, or take the easier path and install a USB wireless adapter on the server. Powerful USB network adapters are available for under $100 so you do not have to sacrifice signal range for ease of installation. The installation instructions for your device will differ in some detail according to the manufacturer.
Verify or change the Windows workgroup name on the server to enable resource sharing among all who join the workgroup. Click “Start,” right-click “Computer” and click “Properties.” Windows defaults the workgroup to “WORKGROUP,” which is suitable for your purposes. However, if you want to change it to a more definitive name click “Change Settings” beside “Computer Name” and change the workgroup name to your preference. Click “OK” when done and allow the computer to restart if prompted.
Click “Start," "Computer,” and right-click the “C:” drive. Select “New," "Folder” and give the folder a meaningful name. Right-click the folder name and click "Properties," "Share with" then "Specific people." Click the dropdown arrow and select "Everyone." Click "Share" to share the folder with everyone and click "Done" on the next window.
Configure a Peer-to-Peer Network on the Desktop Server
Click “Start,” type “network” in the Search box, and select “Network and Sharing Center" from the list of available programs.
Click the “Manage Wireless Networks” link on the left of the window and click “Add” in the “Manage Wireless Networks” dialog.
Click “Create an Ad Hoc Network” and click “Next” on the following screen.
Enter the “Network name” of your choosing, select a “Security type,” and enter a “Security key” of ten characters 0-9 and A-F. Check the “Save this network” box and click “Next.” The following screen should say that your new network is ready to use. Click “Close.”
Configure Remaining Computers
Change the workgroup name on each computer that will join the network and workgroup to match the name you specified on the desktop server. Follow the same instructions as you performed on the desktop.
Click the wireless network icon in the system tray to display available wireless networks. Select the new network name and click “Connect” to join the network.
Type the security key that you used when setting up the network on the server into the “Security key” box when prompted.
Test each computer in turn by clicking “Start," "Computer” and then click “Network” in the left panel of the “Network” screen. You should see each of the other computers on the network including the desktop server.
- If you already have a wireless network, you can just connect your desktop to it once you have installed the wireless interface -- no need to create an ad hoc network.
Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.