How to Set Up an Ad-Hoc WiFi Network Using a Mac's Built-In Airport (OSX 10.5 Through OSX 10.9)

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OSX provides a simple way of setting up an ad hoc WiFi network using a Mac’s built-in Airport. The following steps show screen shots from a Mac running Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) but the process for the previous version, Leopard (OS X 10.5), and through Mavericks (OS X 10.9) is very similar. Starting with OS X Yosemite (10.10) the procedure was changed.

See this article if you are using OS X 10.10 or later.

Step 1:
Open System Preferences and select “Network”. Choose the Airport item from the list at the left.

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Step 2:
Open the “Network Name” popup, then select “Create Network...”.

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Step 3:
Enter a name for your ad hoc network. Leave “Channel” set to “Automatic” unless you have problems with interference from other nearby WiFi networks. If you are concerned about another laptop or device connecting to your Mac check “Require Password” and follow the on screen directions. If you elect to employ a password you will be required to enter that password also in your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad when you attempt to connect to this ad-hoc network. Note that this kind of password protection is considered “weak” and not really suitable for protecting against determined intruders. So be careful to disable sharing features such as “network sharing”. You may also wish to enable OSX’s firewall. However, enabling the firewall may require additional set up to keep it from interfering with communications between your device and computer.

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Step 4:
From your device’s Settings application select “Wi-Fi”. Turn “Wi-Fi” ON if it is OFF. After a few moments you will see the available WiFi network candidates in a list. Select your ad-hoc network. iOS will show the checkmark next to the network name almost immediately. However the network connection is still not completed when this happens and can take awhile to become fully active. Don’t give up if your app does not seem to be able to connect! Give it a bit more time.

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Step 5:
You can verify that your device is connected to the ad hoc network by tapping on the "i" button at the right of the network name to show the following. The connection is established when the number highlighted below switches from all zeros to something like shown.

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When your are finished using the network:
When you are finished using the ad hoc network disconnect all of the devices from the network, then as the final step disconnect your Mac. It is important that all devices disconnect, otherwise you may leave a “zombie network” active that could confuse your devices (and you!) that it is connected when it is not. It is also recommended that you prevent your Mac from entering into its sleep mode when using an ad hoc network. If your Mac goes to sleep it may disconnect from the ad hoc network while your devices remain connected. This can create confusion and other potential issues if you try to recreate the network when your Mac awakens.