Simple Questions: What is Bluetooth & How to Get it on Your Computer?

Many people visiting our website are interested in our tutorials about working with the Bluetooth technology. That’s why we decided to share more about this technology and its uses. In this article, I will share what Bluetooth is, how it works, where it used and how to get Bluetooth on your own computer. I guarantee it will prove to be an interesting and useful read.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless radio communication standard designed for communication over short distances, between different types of devices. The Bluetooth technology uses the same 2.4 GHz operating frequency as the 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards do, but runs using a lot less power. This translates into a much shorter range and slower transfer rates.

There are three types of Bluetooth radios: from Class 1 to Class 3. Class 1 is used in industrial environments and it provides a range of up to 100 meters (300 feet) but it uses quite a bit of power - 100 mW. Class 2 is the most used radio, as it uses only 2.5 mW of power and provides a range of 10 meters (33 feet). Class 3 uses 1mW of power and provides a range of only 1 meter (3.3 feet).

This technology is used in many devices, and some of the devices that have Bluetooth radio chips are not what we’d think of as Bluetooth capable. The most common use is to allow mobile phones to communicate with computers and other devices such as headsets. It can also be found in gaming consoles. For example, the controllers for the Nintendo Wii and the Sony Playstation 3 are linked to their respective consoles via Bluetooth. Many tablets and business laptops have Bluetooth radio chips. Other Bluetooth enabled devices are personal health devices (e.g. heart rate monitors, Nike+ training shoes), wireless home entertainment systems, audio car systems, etc.

A bit of History About Bluetooth

Bluetooth was invented by the swedish company Ericsson, in 1994. Since 1998, the standard is managed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) - a body that oversees the development of Bluetooth standards and the licensing of the Bluetooth technologies and trademarks to manufacturers.

This organization is focused on developing the standard, designing new versions, improved specifications and protecting the Bluetooth trademarks. The Bluetooth SIG does not manufacture or sell Bluetooth enabled products. This is handled by the companies that are part of a group.

If a company is interested in licensing Bluetooth technologies, it must become a member of the Bluetooth SIG. This also involves going through a rigid certification process.

The newest standard versions used by most modern devices are Bluetooth 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0.

Bluetooth 3.0 is found in most of today’s smartphones and Bluetooth devices. It was adopted on 21 April 2009 and provides theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 24 Mbit/s. One of the latest smartphones using this version is Nokia Lumia 920.

Bluetooth 4.0 is an improvement over 3.0 that provides much lower power consumption while providing the same transfer speed. It was adopted on 30 June 2010 and the number of devices using this version is growing steadily. Some of the most well known smartphones using this version are iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3.

'Bluetooth' was the codename for the SIG organization when it was first formed. It is inspired from the 10th century Danish King Harald Blåtand - or Harold Bluetooth in English. He was the first king uniting warring factions in parts of what is now Norway, Sweden and Denmark. If you would like to learn more about him and his deeds, you should check his Wikipedia entry: Harald "Bluetooth" Gormsson.

How to Get Bluetooth on Your Computer?

Bluetooth is included in almost every smartphone and tablet. It is found also on a number of laptops, mostly models designed for business use. On desktop computers Bluetooth chips are rarely included.

That’s why, the only way to get Bluetooth on your desktop computer is to purchase a small Bluetooth USB adapter. Such adapters can be found in almost any tech shop, including Amazon.

When purchasing one, pay attention to the Bluetooth version it supports. You should get one that works with at least version 3.0, if not 4.0. The cheapest USB adapters provide support only for Bluetooth version 2.1 and not the newer versions. The more expensive adapters tend to provide support for the latest versions.

Here are a couple of recommendations to get you started in your search for good Bluetooth USB adapters: Kinivo BTD-400 Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter, Aitek Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter (Newest Bluetooth Version Available) Class 2 Smart Ready Adapter w/ Low Energy Technology and Medialink USB Bluetooth Adapter v3.0 Class 2.

Installing such devices is generally a plug-and-play experience. Windows 7 or Windows 8 simply detects the Bluetooth USB adapter and installs its drivers automatically. Then you can start using the device.

If that doesn’t happen, you need to look for the installation disc packaged with the device or search for drivers on the manufacturer’s website.

When Bluetooth is installed and working on your computer, you will see its blue icon in the taskbar’s notification area.

If it is not there, the installation was not performed correctly or you simply don’t have a Bluetooth device.

Learn More About Bluetooth

We do have several tutorials on our website to help you learn more about Bluetooth and how to use this technology to transfer data between devices. However, if you want to learn more about this Bluetooth in general, its detailed specifications and uses, we recommend the website created by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG): Bluetooth Technology Website. You will find lots of useful information.