Networking 101: Sharing a Printer

February 16, 2012, By George Lang

Last week, DeviceMAG took an unannounced break from the Networking 101 series of tutorials. We apologize for that unavoidable transgression, but we are back.

The last tutorial demonstrated how to create a network of computers on the Microsoft Windows platform. Now that all of your computers are on the same network, it is time to find out exactly how the network is capable of helping you. Creating the network satisfies purely on a feel-good level only; the real purpose of what you’ve created is apparent when it starts doing something for you.

For instance, thanks to the last activity, all the computerized devices we connected two tutorials ago are now capable of communicating with one another.



Let’s start making it all work for you by sharing the printer on the network.

“By far, the easiest way to set up file and printer sharing on a home network is to create a homegroup. A homegroup links computers on your network so that you can share pictures, music, videos, documents, and printers. You can help protect a homegroup with a password, and you’ll always be able to choose what you share with the group. If all of the computers that you want to network are running Windows 7, creating a homegroup is the recommended method.

“HomeGroup is available in all editions of Windows 7. In Windows 7 Starter and Windows 7 Home Basic, you can join a homegroup, but you can’t create one” (Windows 7 “Help & Support”).

However, because the scenario where all home computers are running the same Windows 7 operating system is still new and very rare, we are going to focus on demonstrating the more likely scenario where a mix of Windows OSs are being used (e.g., Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7), and the printer is connected to a computer running Windows XP.

Turn on the printer and then start up the computer it is attached to. Make sure everything is working normally and that all other computers on your network are up and running with access to the Internet. Make sure all computers are using the same “workgroup” name and each has a unique name on the network as described in the past two Networking 101 articles.

Click on “Printers and Faxes” from the Windows XP “Start” menu. Find the printer you want to share and make it the “Default Printer” by right clicking its icon and selecting “Set as Default Printer.” You will now see a check mark next to the icon.

Now, right-click on the printer icon again and select “Sharing…” from the resultant menu. Select “Share this printer.”  Take note of the printer’s name and click OK. You will now see a hand beneath the printer icon indicating it is being shared on the network.

You must now go to each computer on the network from which you wish to print to the newly shared printer. On each, select Devices and Printers form the Windows Start menu and click “Add Printer.” A wizard will open which will walk you through the process. You will be adding a “Network Printer,” and the Wizard will find the printer for you. You may be prompted to add printer drivers for the various operating systems. Select all drivers you need for your network then finish the wizard.

You will now be able to print from any computer on which you’ve run the wizard. Next week we will dive into file sharing and begin looking at ways to share music and videos across your network. See you then!

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