If you support mobile computer users, or if you're a road warrior yourself, you might have run into this situation: You're sitting in an airport with a coworker and the two of you realize you need to transfer a few files between your notebook computers. The files are too large to put on a floppy disk, so you decide to email them to your coworker as soon as you can access a phone line. But you probably already have everything you need to set up a file transfer network between your two computers.

Most notebook computers made in the past few years have Infrared Data Association (IrDA) ports that you can use for 2-way communication, although few users use the port for anything but printing. Configuring the IrDA port for file sharing is easy with Windows XP or Windows 2000.

  1. Right-click My Network Places and select Properties.
  2. Select "Create a new connection (WinXP)" or "Make New Connection (Win2K)" to launch the New Connection Wizard.
  3. Select "Set up an advanced connection."
  4. Select "Connect directly to another computer."
  5. Choose Host or Guest configuration (configure one of your computers for each role).
  6. Complete the wizard depending on whether you're setting up the Host or Guest computer. Make sure you select the IrDA port as the connection device.

When finished, simply point the IrDA port on each notebook toward each other, and you'll have a quick and easy link between the two computers. Recent IrDA ports connect at speeds up to 4Mbps; the earlier IrDA standard supported only 1.5Mbps. In either case, IrDA file transfer is faster than emailing files over a dial-up connection.

Because the Host connection requires an account for the Guest to log on to, you needn't worry about random people with IrDA devices accessing data on your computer. You can also activate the Guest account, then disable the account after you transfer the files.

XP gives you more detailed control over the wireless link when you select the Control Panel Wireless Link applet. I keep the IrDA icon in the taskbar, and the system pops up a message when a file transfer is in progress. I've created a folder to store the files I receive over the IrDA port. XP also lets you use the wireless link to download images from an IrDA-equipped digital camera.