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Tips on Sharing Printers on a Network

By Eric Geier

As you may know, you can share a single printer across multiple computers that are on the same network, or in other words connected to the same router. Here I'll discuss some tips to help you get your printer shared and use it via your other computers.

Make Sure the Printer is Shared

Most modern mid-level printers have a network (Ethernet) plug or integrated wireless (Wi-Fi) so you can more easily share it on the network. If this is the case, read the manual or quick start guide to see how to share it on the network. If it supports Wi-Fi and has a built-in screen on the printer itself, you can usually find and connect to your wireless router via a menu on that screen. If it only has a network plug, connect it to one of the four ports on the back of your router with an Ethernet cable.

If you have an older or basic printer that only has a USB or Parallel port for connecting to a single PC, then you can still share it using Windows. Via the Start Menu or Control Panel, open the Printers window, right-click the desired printer and select the sharing option. If there isn't a sharing option, select Properties and then click the Sharing tab.

If you're using Windows Vista or 7 to share your printer, you also want to make sure sharing is enabled in the Network and Sharing Center too. You can get there via the network icon in the lower right corner of Windows or via the Control Panel.

If you're using Windows XP to share your printer, you need to make sure File and Printer Sharing is enabled for your network connection/adapter. Via the Start Menu or Control Panel, open the Network Connections window, right-click the connection you're using, and click Properties. Then make sure the File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks is enabled.

Add a Printer by Browsing Computers

Once you have the printer shared, you can try adding it to another computer so you can print from it. First, try browsing to the computer if shared via Windows or browsing directly to the printer if connected directly to your router.

If you're adding a printer to Windows XP, click Start > My Network Places. If adding to Windows Vista or after, click Start > Computer and then click the Network shortcut on the left pane. If you see the computer that's sharing the printer or the printer itself, open it. Then you can right-click the printer and select Connect. This will automatically add the shared printer to Windows.

If you can't find your computer via the My Network Places or Network window, try the next tip.

Add as a Local Printer by Using the Network Path

Sometimes a setting or unknown fluke in Windows will prevent a computer from being seen by other computers or a computer won't see other computers or printers on the network. Thus you can't add a printer by browsing to the computer/printer as discussed in the previous tip. However, you can sometimes get around this by manually adding the printer to a computer. Furthermore, instead of adding it as a network printer, you add it as a local printer but specify the network path.

Here's how to do this in Windows XP:

  1. Click Start > Printers and Faxes.

  2. Click Add a Printer on the left pane.

  3. Click Next.

  4. Select Local printer attached to this computer and click Next.

  5. Select Create a new port, select Local Port for the Port Type, and click Next.

  6. For Port Name, enter the network path to the printer by entering two slashes, the computer name or local IP address of the PC sharing the printer, and then the share name of the printer. For example "\dellpchpprinter" or "\192.168.1.100hpprinter"

  7. Select the printer and click Next. If the exact model isn't listed, try the closest model number or a generic printer.

  8. Follow the rest of the wizard.

In Windows Vista/7:

  1. Click Start > Devices and Printers
  2. Click Add a Printer on the top.

  3. Select Add a local printer.

  4. Select Create a new port, select Local Port for the Port Type, and click Next.

  5. For Port Name, enter the network path to the printer by entering two slashes, the computer name or local IP address of the PC sharing the printer, and then the share name of the printer. For example "\dellpchpprinter" or "\192.168.1.100hpprinter"

  6. Select the printer and click Next. If the exact model isn't listed, try the closest model number or a generic printer.

  7. Follow the rest of the wizard.

Check Firewalls

If you can't add a shared printer to another computer with the two methods we discussed, a firewall on the computer that's sharing the printer might be blocking the connection. This is usually more of the case if you're using a third-party firewall or an antivirus program that has a firewall in addition or instead of the Windows Firewall that's included with Windows by default.

If you have a third-party firewall on either computer, check the settings and make sure the ports used for file and printer sharing are allowed for incoming and outgoing traffic: UDP ports 135 - 139 and TCP ports 135 - 139.

Eric Geier

Eric Geier is the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi networks with the Enterprise mode of WPA/WPA2 security by offering a hosted RADIUS/802.1X service. He is also a freelance tech writer--become a Twitter follower or use the RSS Feed to keep up with his writings.

________________________________________


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