Printing a .PRN file

Category: Windows

If I'm using my laptop away from the office and I choose to print something and select print to file (since I don't have a printer with me) it creates a .PRN file, but how can I print that file later?

How to Print a PRN file

Okay, let's say you're home or back at the office, and you now have a printer attached to your laptop. Or maybe you copied that .PRN file to your desktop system. It should be easy to print that file now, right? WRONG!

My first guess was to open Windows Explorer, right-click on the .PRN file, then select Print. But there is no Print option in the dropdown menu.

Well then, I'll just go to My Computer, open the Printers folder, then drag and drop the .PRN file on the printer icon. Bzzzt... wrong again. Windows returns an error message that says "File cannot be printed. Open the file with the correct application and print from there." Just for jollies, I created a .PRN file with Word, then tried to open it with Word. You'd think the program that created a file could also open it, right? Nope... total gibberish, won't print.
print prn file

Okay, So What DOES Work?

It turns out you have to resort to the DOS Prompt and enter some arcane command string to find true .PRN file happiness. To open a DOS prompt, you can click on Start / Run, then enter CMD.EXE and press enter. Now use the CD (change directory) command to navigate to the folder where the .PRN file is stored. For example,


But wait, there's more... the format of the print command depends on the type of printer you have.

If you have an older printer that's connected via the parallel port (it will have a 1/4-inch cable with large connectors on both ends), then here's the command to use. (Substitute your actual print file name for TMP.PRN below.)


If you have a printer that's connected via the USB port (thin wire with small connectors) then here's the command to use.

COPY /B TMP.PRN \\computer_name\printer_share_name

What? You don't remember your computer name? You don't know the printer share name? Here's how to find them, if you haven't committed those arcane facts to memory:

To find your computer name go to Control Panel, open the System folder, then click on Computer Name. The info you want is shown after the tag "Full computer name". If there's a period at the end of the name, ignore it.

To find your printer share name, go to Control Panel, open the Printers folder, then right-click on your printer and select Sharing. The share name will appear there. If your printer is not shared, select the Share this printer radio button and enter a share name.

Okay, let's assume your computer name is Zippity and your printer share name is Doodah. That would make the print command as follows:

COPY /B TMP.PRN \\Zippity\Doodah

Note there are TWO backslashes before the computer name. Easy, right? Sheesh...

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Most recent comments on "Printing a .PRN file"

(See all 72 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

11 Jun 2008

In my case I had to make sure I was using the computer name of the computer the printer was attached to, not the computer the files were stored on. Once I did that it worked great!

Posted by:

11 Oct 2008

Hi, Had similar probs to above found that you had to add the full path to the file ie


should be :


were C:\ refers to the location of the file in this case the root directory

Posted by:

16 Feb 2009

Hi, I've also had many problems using
copy /b \\computer_name\printer_name
The DOS prompt thinks for a second then states it cannot find the network(!)I've tried renaming the computer and printer and even tried the troubleshooting utils. Nothing. Is this an SP2 issue?
USB is UBS - come back parallel, all is forgiven.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2009

if your printer name has a space in it, wrap it in quotes...

From the directory the file is in...

COPY /B file.prn "\\computername\printer name"

Posted by:

10 Mar 2009

what do you do if the printer you have is a wireless printer then how you print a prm file

thanks for any help


Posted by:

Tim ODell
05 Apr 2009

Here's a much easier way to print a .PRN file:

EDITOR'S NOTE: That page talks about Postscript and other formats, but does not mention PRN files.

Posted by:

11 Apr 2009

I second using PrintFile ( when you have to print to a USB or Internet Printing Protocol printer. Windows will not allow you to create a share for an IPP printer and using copy /b with "\\http://servername\printername" (or the any variation, both quoted and unquoted) does not work. So far PrintFile has worked with every PRN I've thrown at it and none have them have been for Postscript printers.

Posted by:

25 May 2009

Convert to an Adobe PDF file & print, easier than any of the alternatives presented here.

Posted by:

Rakesh Bhardwaj
03 Jun 2009

Yes, you can print a .prn files created with same printer driver where you want to print the file. For this purpose you only need to have a software called Initial Heidelberg Digimaster Print file Downloader.
For more info visit the following link

Posted by:

11 Jun 2009

I did it this way......

rename the file to ".mdi" format .... that will open in Microsoft Office Document Imaging .... and you can very well print it from there....



Posted by:

12 Jun 2009

thx works completely and save my day at the office.


Posted by:

13 Jun 2009

This works:

This didn't work: COPY /B file.prn "\\computername\printer name"
It said 'a device attached to the system is not functioning' go figure.


Posted by:

13 Apr 2010

the output is a .tiff file

Posted by:

15 Jun 2010

A .prn file content is depending on the printer device and its driver.

If the printer is accepting TIFF file then the printer driver is generating tiff and your .prn file is a .tiff file.
If the printer is accepting postscript then the printer driver generates postscript and your .prn file is a .ps file.
If you have a HP printer then the printer device is generating PCL code and your .prn file is a .pcl file

Get the picture?

Kind regards.

Posted by:

06 Dec 2010

actually dis site helped me with th commands to use dos for printing .prn file. i m using printer connected through usb, and i used th command COPY /B FILENAME.PRN\\COMPUTERNAME\SHARINGNAME format, but for me its displaying as THE SYSTEM CANT FIND THE SPECIFIED PATH... wat 2 do. I need my prn file to b printed. can u help me.

Posted by:

P. Stefan Bruciu
05 Nov 2011

Dear Mr. Rankin,

I am trying to print a .prn file using your method on a Dell AIO Printer A940 printer connected to my computer by an USB port, but I receive "Access is denied" error message.

Would you please tell me how can I fix this problem?

I sent the printing command in a Command window opened in the same directory as the .prn file.

I know the computer and the printer names.

I greatly appreciate your help.

Best regards,

P. Stefan Bruciu

Posted by:

18 Feb 2012

Another work-around would be to download the nifty, free software "CutePDF," which would save your document as a pdf. I'm addicted to it!

Posted by:

21 Aug 2012

It's perfectly works
Thank you
I lost 2hoursto find solution in different sites
and 10 min to apply your desision
Thanks a lot

Posted by:

10 Oct 2012

Kyle (06/mar/2009) works fine!

Posted by:

10 Nov 2012

just change extension .prn to .mdi, open using MS Word and maybe you'd have all the .prn happiness eluding you so far. I have Windows 8 - the copy or PRINT at command prompt didn't work for me.. this worked..

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Printing a .PRN file (Posted: 15 Jul 2008)
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