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Mac 101: Create a wireless network between Mac and iPhone

Many applications require your Mac and your iPhone to be on the same wireless network in order to communicate properly or sync. Apple doesn't advertise the ability to use such applications without a wireless router... nor do many developers. It's not only possible, it works great in a pinch or even as a standard. A few quick examples:
  • Be a makeshift DJ. I have a lot of music on in my iTunes Library. If there's something I or my friends want, I'll buy it and add it to the collection. Because of that, I get asked "Can you bring your music to the party tonight." I used to say no, because I didn't want to play DJ all night and miss out on the party. Now, I can setup a network anywhere I go and control my iTunes Library directly from my iPhone with Remote.app -- even play requests during a conversation.
  • Keynote presenters unite! Creating a wireless network on your Mac frees you to worry about your presentation not the availability of wireless in the lecture room. Setup a network, connect and you're swiping through your slides.
  • Sync applications anywhere, anytime. Victor just pointed this out today... if you're in an airport and need to sync some information from a desktop app to your iPhone, you don't need to pay for the airport wireless. Syncing apps like Bento, MacGourmet, Things, TextExpander or any other apps that sync over the network can update whenever you want without issues.
I'm sure there are many more uses for this idea... those just name a few. Please read on for a step-by-step, illustrated guide to create a wireless network between your Mac and your iPhone (or iPod touch).

Click the AirPort icon in the menu bar and select "Create Network."

Name your network. In heavily populated areas, making the name unique would be a great idea. For this demo's purposes, I just named it "Josh's Laptop."

You have the choice to require a password. In all of my use, I've found that iPhone-to-Mac connections remain more stable if I require a password and select 40-bit WEP. Again, I'd suggest a wireless password in high-traffic areas like airports.
Click "OK" and it will create the network. That's it for the computer side.

With your iPhone or iPod touch, open the settings app and tap "Wi-Fi." You should see the network you just created on your Mac. Tap it and allow it a moment to connect. I have never seen the "3G" go away next to the carrier logo when connected this way... so don't worry about waiting for the AirPort icon appear. Every app I've tested still recognizes that they're on the same network. Open an application and test.

I chose to open Remote.app and connected to my iTunes Library.

As you can see, it connected just fine. From here I can use the Remote as if the devices were on the same wireless network. Turning on the "Stay Connected" feature will always result in better stability. Without that on, I found it difficult to find the Laptop's Library after a few idle minutes on the iPhone.

For those of you who are wondering about distance, I have remained connected to the Laptop at well over 100 feet away. I did notice that everything is a little more stable within 100 feet. You are, after all, broadcasting a wireless signal with a device that's real purpose is to receive signal.

Your friends may never notice that you're able to do cool things without a wireless router... you could tell them OR just stand in amazement at your ability to blow your own mind with a Mac and an iPhone or iPod touch.

Please let us know of other amazing uses you find.

UPDATE -- Thanks to ZipperSeven, S, and Joseph, I'm happy to give you another cool use for your reading pleasure. Provided that you're connected to an internet connection via ethernet, you can just share that network to other computers using AirPort and it will allow your iPhone access to the internet when no other solutions are available. In System Preferences, go to Sharing - Internet Sharing - Share connection from Ethernet - To computers using Airport - Click Airport Options and set it up the same way as described in the post. Check the checkbox and confirm that you want to share the connection. That's it! This tip is only if you have an ethernet connection... otherwise I'd recommend following the steps in the post. Please read the comments for even more tips from our readers.


Many applications require your Mac and your iPhone to be on the same wireless network in order to communicate properly or sync. Apple...