An IEEE* 802.11 Wi-Fi network utilizes 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio waves to carry digital information. Users can communicate with each other by two unique means: Infrastructure Mode and Ad Hoc (Device-to-Device) Mode. Let us discuss each briefly.
Users Wi-Fi connect their mobile client devices to an access point (AP) or broadband Wi-Fi router. A home or small-office network typically uses a broadband Wi-Fi router connected to the Internet, via a DSL, cable or other type modem, through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Profiles are then created on clients to match settings on the router. These clients are able to move about (roam) freely without being tethered to a network cable. Corporate environments employ APs in a similar manner but security and other logistics are more complex.
Connect to a Wi-Fi network on Windows XP*
Connect to secure Wi-Fi networks on Windows Vista*
How to create a Wireless Profile on Microsoft Windows 7*
Ad hoc (device-to-device) mode
Users Wi-Fi communicate with other mobile client devices without employing a central control device (e.g. Access Point or Wi-Fi router). Every device has the same capabilities and anyone can initiate a communication session. Such a temporary setup might be configured for peers in a small office setting or several friends collaborating on a school project in a study group.
Create a secure ad hoc Wi-Fi network on Windows XP*
Create a secure ad hoc Wi-Fi network on Windows Vista*
Access point: Stand-alone Wi-Fi hub that allows any computer that has a Wi-Fi network adapter to communicate with another computer and to connect to the Internet. This device is typically used in an enterprise or corporate environment with a large number of users.
Ad hoc network: A communication configuration in which every computer has the same capabilities, and any computer can initiate a communication session. Also known as a peer-to-peer or computer-to-computer network.
Broadband Wi-Fi router: Stand-alone Wi-Fi hub that allows any computer that has a Wi-Fi network adapter to communicate with another computer and to connect to the Internet. This device is typically used in a home or small-office environment with a relatively small number of users.
Client computer: The computer that obtains its Internet connection by sharing either the host computer's connection or the AP/router's connection.
Infrastructure network: Wi-Fi network centered around an access point (AP) or broadband Wi-Fi router. In this environment, the AP not only provides communication with the wired network, but also mediates Wi-Fi network traffic in the immediate neighborhood.
Internet service provider (ISP): Subscribers obtain access to the Internet from their homes, small businesses or corporate networks by paying these providers for service.
Modem: DSL, cable or other hardware types connected to both the AP/router and external line leading to an Internet Service Provider.
Wi-Fi network adapter: Hardware device on client devices consisting of a radio and antenna(s) used for transmitting and receiving Wi-Fi frames. Antennas may also be integrated into the client device itself. The adapter contains additional components to enable Wi-Fi communication, and it may be embedded in the client or an external PCMCIA card.
This applies to: