How To Add Network Printing To Your Home Or Office

Network printing can let you print to printers in other rooms—even to printers on the other side of the world.

Combined with wireless networking, it lets you put your printer anywhere in your house, freeing up valuable desk space.

Previously we have had a number of articles published about how to add a network printer and network printer problems, however this article is about connecting a printer that is equipped for networking.

Does Your Printer Support Network Printing?

By far the easiest way to get started with network printing is with a printer that already supports it. Many business printers in the $300 and up range have supported network printing for over a decade. More recently, most consumer-grade printers have begun including wireless and bluetooth-based printing.

To discover whether your printer supports network printing, follow these easy steps:

  • Look for a Ethernet jack, called an RJ45 jack, on the back or side of your printer. You’re probably familiar with these from your other computers, but if not, they look like large American-style phone jacks. Sometimes, they come covered with a piece of plastic to protect them, so look hard.

Unfortunately, some printers have these jacks but don’t use them, so to verify it works, you’ll need to use the instructions later in this article to try setting up network printing.

  • Use your printer’s menu to set the network options. Many printers made in the last 5 or so years have interactive menus. If you can find network settings, then your printer has networking support. If the settings refer to WEP or WPA encryption, then you have a wireless network printer. If not, you probably have a wired network printer and you still need to find the Ethernet jack.
  • Read your printer’s manual to see what it says. Unfortunately, many manufacturers sell nearly-identical printers with the same manual, so the manual may list features on your printer that it doesn’t actually have.
  • If you’re still not sure, call the manufacturer. Have your printer’s serial number handy. Using the serial number, they can usually tell you instantly exactly which model you have and exactly which features it comes with.

Please note that if you have a wireless network printer you can simply plug the printer in and turn on the power. Then add a printer just as if you were adding a new printer to your computer. The difference is, you do not need to have this printer plugged into any computers. It just has to be plugged into the wall for power. The only thing you might have to do is enter your WEP or WPA code for your wireless network security.

What If Your Printer Doesn’t Support Network Printing?

If you want network printing support but your printer doesn’t support it directly, you can buy a cheap device to enable it. First, you need to find the connectors on your printer. There are two common options:

  • Parallel ports are found on all older printers and some newer printers. They have 25 small round holes in two rows—the top row has 13 holes; the bottom row has 12 holes. Note, some really old printers (most made before 1995) use a 36 pin parallel port; these are not supported by network printing devices.
  • USB ports are found on almost all printers made in the last 10 years. Most printers use USB type B connectors which are square, not rectangular.

If you have both a parallel and a USB port, you probably want to find an network printing adapter that supports USB, as they tend to be cheaper.

Here’s how to Turn your normal printer into a network printer by buying a simple “print server”. You should find numerous devices in the $25 to $40 range. You’ll also find both wired and wireless print servers—if you buy a wired print server, remember to buy an ethernet cord to go with it.

How To Setup Network Printing

Note: turn off any printers before changing cords.

If you use wired networking, connect it to your router using an ethernet cord. If you previously had it connected to a computer, disconnect it now. Restart or turn on your printer.

If you use wireless networking, you need to configure your computer to get an IP address from your router. It may do this automatically if you have an open wireless connection, but if you use WEP or WPA encryption, you need to enter your network password. If you are not sure what network encryption you have please see more information about network security. Every printer and print server is different, so please consult your manual.

In Windows, go to the Printers section of the Control Panel and click Add A New Printer. In the menu that appears, choose Network Printer. Browse the network to find your printer, select it, and then set it up like a regular printer by indicating its manufacturer, model name, and driver. Then print a test page.

network printing

You need to repeat these steps on each other computer on your network.

David A. Harding began using Linux in 2001 and quickly became a Linux Professional Institute certified system administrator. His articles have appeared in over a dozen publications and he has given over 50 presentations about Linux—including two Software Freedom Day keynotes. Dave always loves to hear from readers at dave@dtrt.org.  Dave was blown away earlier this year when he discovered his grandmother was using network printing.