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Troubleshooting Q&A - December 16, 2004

Taming a Network Printer for the Home

The good news is your company upgraded its hardware and gave you one of its retired printers. The bad news is that reconfiguring a printer built for corporate workgroups to function on your home network will take a bit of fussing. Fear not. We walk you through the process.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. The company I work for just replaced all of our PCs and printers with new systems. Since the original equipment was outdated anyway, the powers that be decided to allow the employees to keep some of the old hardware. I managed to get my hands on one of our old HP LaserJet 4050 printers with built-in network conductivity.

I brought the printer home and connected it to my network via the switch, but now I'm not sure how to go about setting it up on my PC. I know you can do it and I've even tired cornering one of our IT guys for assistance, but with the holidays coming, many of the guys are on vacation. So they most likely won't be able to help me until after January.

Is there any chance that you could help me with this? It'll kill me to wait till January. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

A. This is one of those tasks that can fall into one of two categories. If you know what you're doing, this is pretty simple and straightforward. If you don't know what you're doing, it's one of those things that could make you pull your hair right out of your head.

In order to make this printer accessible to your network a number of things need to happen. First off, you need to provide this printer with a static IP address. This address can never change and typically should not be included in your DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) scope (provided you're using one). Your router's documentation should be able to tell you how to modify your DHCP scope or reserve a specific IP address for this function.

Once you have identified and freed up the IP address, you'll need to assign it to the printer's JetDirect card (the 4050's built-in print server). This can typically be done one of two ways: On some printers, you can modify the configuration information directly on the printer itself using its integrated front-control panel. However, this can be somewhat complicated and, in some cases, highly frustrating to use.

Navigating these menus and sub-menus isn't always intuitive either and it might be necessary for you to attempt to enter this information a few times before you finally get it right. I find this to actually be my preferred way of doing this though. As irritating as it can be, it is far less work then the alternative.

If the printer does not have a front-control panel, the HP JetDirect can be configured using its embedded Web server. In order to do this, you first need to print a configuration page to find out the printer's current IP address. Once you have that information you'll need to modify your computer's IP address so that it resides on the same network as the printer. In other words, if your printer's IP address was, you would need to change your PC's IP address to 192.168.1.x. This will allow them to communicate with each other. Then type the IP address of the printer into a Web browser to pull up the JetDirect Configuration Menu and make the appropriate modifications.

More detailed instructions and guidelines for getting this properly configured can be found at here. Once your printer has been given its new IP address and your PC is online, try to ping the printer to verify that it's visible on the network. If you get 4 replays, we're ready to proceed. If not, it's back to the drawing board for you.

With that accomplished, we can now go about adding this printer to your PC. Setting up your new network printer is very similar to the process you would use to setup any other printer. The difference is that now instead of printing to a Parallel Port or a USB port as you typically would, you're going to need to print to a TCP/IP port. This part is very easy.

Begin by opening the Printers and Faxes folder. This can be found in the Control Panel. Double-click on Add Printer to start the Add Printer Wizard, and then click Next. Click Local printer, clear the Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer check box, and then click Next. When the Add Printer Wizard prompts you to select the printer port, click Create a new port. Click on the down arrow to select a list of available port types. Choose the Standard TCP/IP Port and press Next.

This will bring up the"Add Standard TCP/IP Printer Port Wizard". Press Next and where it says Printer Name or IP Address enter the IP address you assigned to your Printer. You'll see that the Port Name by default duplicates the IP address. Change it if you like, but I would just leave it be.

When finished Press Next. It will now ask you for a device type. In most cases the default device of "Generic Network Card" is sufficient. In some cases (like when configuring a wireless D-Link Print Server for example) you'll need to use the Custom settings. Press Next and then Finished.

Congratulations, you have just completed adding the printer port to your system. The rest if this is a cakewalk. The only thing left for you to do now is finish installing the printer driver. Do this just like you normally would. Follow the instructions on the screen and select the manufacturer, model of your printer and give it a name. When finished have it print out a test page. If you did everything correctly you should have your test page in hand momentarily.

Configuring the router and the printer's JetDirect card is the toughest part of this. If you can make it through that ok, the rest of this will be easy. I hope it goes smoothly for you!

I hope you find this helpful. Good Luck!

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all. Earthweb HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation

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