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How Windows 10’s Near Share feature wirelessly beams files to nearby PCs

Imagine sitting down at a conference table and realizing you have the URL for a shared document, but your boss isn’t willing to copy down the random gobbledygook of the Web address from your screen. A new feature in Windows 10’s Redstone 4, called Near Share, allows you to beam that file across the table in a flash. 

Near Share, first introduced as part of Windows 10’s Insider Build 17035, is an ad-hoc replacement for the “sneakernet” of trading USB keys. (If you’ve used an iPhone, think of Near Share as Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s AirDrop.) Unfortunately, my tests found that it a lack of speed makes it a poor choice for everything but webpage URLs and tiny files. For those simple transactions, though, it’s pretty convenient. Here’s how to use Near Share within Windows 10.

How to set up Near Share

To enable Near Share, both PCs will either need to be part of the Insider program, or just be up-to-date with Windows when Redstone 4 drops. 

Near Share, also known as “Nearby sharing,” is off by default within Windows. To turn it on, you’ll need to open the Settings menu, specifically Settings Home System Shared experiences. Toggle on the Nearby sharing button. (The Share across devices setting, below it, enables the “Pick up where you left off” experiences that are built into the related Timeline features and Cortana.)

shared experiences settings near share windows 10 Mark Hachman / IDG

To begin using Near Share (sometimes called Nearby sharing), first enable it within the Windows 10 Settings menu.

As you’ll see, the permissions associated with the feature are fairly self-explanatory. You can either allow any nearby device to send you files (with your permission, of course) or limit them to your own, signed-in PCs. You’ll also have the ability to specify in which folder the received files are stored.

Before you start using Near Share, though, there’s one tip to consider, if you haven’t already: renaming your PCs. Windows assigns a quasi-random device name to each PC, so that a Surface device might actually be named DESKTOP-SKLJ56B or something like that. Normally, that obscure reference doesn’t mean a thing when using your PC on a day-to-day basis. But when you’re transferring files, you’ll need to pick which PC to send them to, so a recognizable name is a good idea.

Here’s how to rename your PC within Windows: from Settings System About, you’ll see a list of device specifications, with a Rename this PC button at the bottom. You don’t have to choose anything too fancy, like you might for a password. Just make sure that the name doesn’t use any spaces. After renaming your PC, you’ll be asked to reboot. 

How to use Near Share

Using Near Share is just about as easy as setting it up, though there are some quirks. Here’s  a fundamental one: Near Share uses both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, using Bluetooth to establish and maintain the connection, and Wi-Fi to help transfer files. Both have to remain on and active during the transfer. 

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