In the past, we have taught you How to Build a Local Area Network Without a Router, How To Set Up a Wireless Home Network With Just a Mobile, How To Set Up A Network Domain, and I have personally explained How to Set Up a Small Business Computer Network. Setting up your network is the first step, but being able to print across it is another matter.
In this article, I am going to cover some of the easiest ways how to share a printer over a network, as well as some of the pros and cons of using each method. This way, you will be able to print from any machine in your network, no matter how many computers you have or how they are connected.
How To Share A Printer
Back in February, Karl explained How To Make A Printer Wireless. While we’re on the subject, he also covered How To Share A Printer Over The Internet the year prior. So, as you can see, printers can be shared in a lot of different ways. Allow me to go over a few of the easy methods.
[Note]: For the purposes of this article, I will be using Windows XP. You can certainly achieve the same results using Windows Vista/7, but the terminology and menu navigation may be slightly different.
1. USB-Connected Sharing
This is probably the most widely used method for printer sharing on small networks and home offices. If you have an older printer that doesn’t have an ethernet port or support wireless printing, this may be your method of choice.
All printers generally come with a USB cable. If you attach the printer to a computer on the network via USB, you should automatically be able to print on that computer.
To share the connected printer, navigate to the Printers and Faxes settings in your Control Panel. Once there, right-click the printer you would like to share and click Sharing… .
On the Sharing tab, select the button that says Share this printer. Then, type in a name for the printer and hit Apply or OK.
Now, provided your computer is connected to the network, other computers should be able to see and access the printer. Just go to the printers settings page and click Add a printer. Search for your newly networked printer and you’re all set.
The only con to using this method is that the computer you have the printer connected to must be turned on in order to print. For additional methods, keep reading.
[Note]: If any of the printers on your network can’t use the printer, you may just have a problem with the installation drivers. Take the CD that came with your printer and run it on the machine you are unable to print from.
2. Wireless Sharing
If your printer supports wireless printing, you’re in luck. Methods will differ between printer brands, but generally you will have to connect the printer to a computer via USB (to install the drivers) and enter printer setup. Insert the disc that came with the printer to install all of the necessary software.
You can usually enable wireless sharing by pushing a button on the machine or navigating to it through the menus. Your printer’s manual should have steps to do this written right in it or you can find them online. You will need to type in your network’s credentials (password, etc.) for it to connect. It may be able to find your network on its own.
[Note]: You will need to have a wireless router in order for this method to work. Without a wireless router broadcasting your access signal, the printer will not be able to find your network, and you will have to have it physically connected via USB to print.
3. Using A Network Hub
If you do not like the USB method (I wouldn’t blame you) and your printer is not wirelessly capable, you can opt to use a network hub. A network hub (or print server) is a little box that allows you to plug your printer into it via USB. It has an ethernet port on it so that you can connect your printer to a router or switch, allowing your printer to be shared on the network.
You may still need to install printer drivers on your machines, but if you attempt to find the printer on the network by going to Add a printer (see 1st method), it should be able to locate the device.
[Note]: As you may imagine, network printer hubs are not free. You can, however, pick one up for relatively cheap. I would advise searching around on sites like Amazon or eBay, or going to your local computer store.
In summary, you can share your printer a variety of different ways and you don’t have to make it difficult. These were the three easiest methods I could think of, but how do you have your printer shared? Is there an easy method I may have missed? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!