Sharing a Printer
I have two computers but only one printer. I understand there is a way to share the printer so both can print to it. Can you tell me how to do that?
Shared Printers - Switches
Yes, sharing a printer if you have multiple computers is a good idea. And you don't have to be a computer guru to make it happen. If your computers are not already networked, the simplest solution is a switch.
First determine if your printer is connected with a USB cable or a parallel port cable (see diagram). Then purchase either a USB switch or a parallel port switching device. They're not expensive, shop around and you'll find them for under $20 (USD). The USB models are typically automatic switches, but you can get an automatic parallel switch as well, for a bit more money.
To share the printer, just plug the cables from both computers into the switch, then connect the switch to the printer. (You may need additional printer cables too.) Make sure the software that came with your printer is installed on both computers, and it should work great. If you have a manual switch, you'll have to remember to flip it to the computer that wants to print.
A switch doesn't care if you're running Windows, Mac or Linux. If your computer can print to the desired printer without a switch, it should work just fine through the switch.
Shared Printers - Networks
If you already have your computers networked, sharing a printer is easy. (If you're interested in setting up a home network, see my illustrated Home Networking tutorial.)
Here are the instructions for sharing a printer on a Windows XP network. Start at the computer that already has the printer installed. Go into the Printers section of the Control Panel, right-click the icon for the printer that needs to be shared, and choose Sharing from the resulting menu. By assigning a name to the shared printer, you allow other computers on the network to easily identify it.
As with a switch, you must install the printer software on both computers. It's a little easier with a network, because you can install the software right over the network. Go to the other computer that needs access to the printer, then in the Printers section of the Control Panel, select "Add a Printer". The Add Printer Wizard will step you through the process of installing the printer software on the second computer.
Your Firewall May Cause Problems
If you have a software-based firewall, it may interfere with printer sharing. I recommend you read Do I Need a Firewall? for some advice on whether or not you should use firewall software. (Hint: Most users DO NOT need it.) If you must have a software firewall, and it seems to be preventing printer and/or file sharing, you'll have to poke around in the options to find the setting to allow sharing.
Got questions or comments about printer sharing? Post them below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 14 Mar 2006
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Sharing a Printer (Posted: 14 Mar 2006)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved