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What is the Difference Between Bluetooth&Reg; and WiFi&Reg; ?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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Bluetooth® and WiFi® are both wireless technologies that use radio frequency (RF) waves to create networks, but they’re used for fundamentally different purposes. Bluetooth®’s main purpose is to temporarily link an individual’s personal devices together over short distances, while the purpose of WiFi® is to link multiple computers together over longer distances.

Although Bluetooth® and WiFi® both create networks, Bluetooth® creates a Personal Area Network (PAN) by generating low frequency radio waves that all Bluetooth®-enabled devices in the immediate area can join to be interoperable. You might think of this as a “shroud” surrounding an individual user. A Bluetooth® headset, for example, allows hands-free cell phone use for driving or working. Other types of personal devices can swap files, synchronize data and even share access to the Internet through an Internet-enabled laptop, cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA) or iPod®.

A Bluetooth® network can also be used to send files from your laptop to your desktop, or from your laptop to your printer. If a machine does not come with Bluetooth® capability built-in, adapters are available. Most adapters make use of a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port, but other types of adapters are also available.

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WiFi® also uses radio frequency (RF) waves, but its protocols are designed to connect multiple computers. In the case of a business, WiFi® allows many computers to communicate with each other without stringing cable between them, saving considerable money and time in the installation process. Computers operating over the WiFi® LAN can share databases, files, programs and resources including printers, scanners and fax machines. The computers might also share Internet access, though this isn’t a requirement of a LAN.

A home WiFi® network is almost always setup to share Internet access among all computers in the household, while it may or may not be configured to share files and resources. Between Bluetooth® and WiFi®, Bluetooth® is much easier to use for swapping files between computers at home, and even for sending files to a nearby printer. There is virtually no setup involved in establishing a Bluetooth® network, while a LAN requires some configuration and know-how to allow sharing of files and resources.

Since Bluetooth® works with battery operated devices, it most commonly uses a low-powered Class 2 radio to broadcast the RF network, generating a weak signal that doesn’t extend effectively beyond 30 feet (~10 meters) or so. Class 1 Bluetooth® can reach 10x further, geared towards connecting home devices powered by electricity. WiFi® also comes in different flavors and architectures, currently meeting or exceeding the 300-foot (~100m) range.

Bluetooth® and WiFi® each follow specific protocols and standards that make it easy for manufacturers to design and market Bluetooth® and WiFi® products that will be interoperable with other brands and products that support the same standards. For example, as of winter 2008 the current Bluetooth® standard is 2.0 and the newest available WiFi® standard is 802.11n, faster than the previous standard, 802.11g. When shopping for network-capable devices, be sure they support the desired standard and version.

Another way that Bluetooth® and WiFi® differ is that WiFi® is supported by modems and routers, while a near-infinite range of products might support Bluetooth®. Personal devices and home entertainment products are forever evolving, making interoperability a highly desired feature. Perhaps the biggest commonality between Bluetooth® and WiFi® is that both technologies are incredibly useful and widespread; in homes, businesses, government, and in virtually every aspect of life.

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Discuss this Article

anon158617
Post 4

i wish also to know how you can protect another device from accessing your wireless hot spot.

anon132502
Post 3

No comparison between frequencies used?

anon91806
Post 2

I was wondering what the difference between the actual wave properties of Bluetooth and Wifi were? do they have similar wavelengths and frequencies?

Cheers

anon52670
Post 1

The correct spelling is "Wi-Fi" not "WiFi"

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