Once you have a network with a couple of computers on it, you will probably want to take advantage of it and have your printers sharable by all computers on the network. This will give you two advantages:
- All of your computers will have access to the capabilities of all the printers you own.
- You can buy one printer for your whole network, rather than a printer for each computer.
There are two ways to do this:
- Share the printer on the computer that it is connected to.
- Add a print server device.
Sharing a printer on a computer
This is the simplest way to share printers. To do this, all you need to do is make the printer that is already working on one computer visible to the network (i.e. all the other computers).
To do this, first get on the computer that has the printer attached to it. Now from the start menu, select “Printer and Faxes.” Once the list of printers comes up, select the one you want to share, right click on the mouse and select “Sharing.”
From the Sharing Tab, select Share This Printer and enter a name in the text box (I would suggest a name that makes it clear what computer this printer is attached to, just to make things easier in case you have multiple printers).
Hit OK and you are all set.
Now, it is time for the other computers to attach to this printer.
Get on one of the other computers and select “Add a Printer”. Now select the “Network Printer” option.
On the next tab, the easiest thing to do is select “Browse for a printer” (if you know the name of the computer and printer, you could just enter it directly, I’m lazy and let the browse function take care of it).
When you see the printer come up, select it and you are good to go!
Now there is one big limitation to this setup.
The computer that has the printer attached to it has to be on.
This can be a major pain (and a waste of energy if you are turning on the computer just to be able to use the printer).
Because of that, the second option gives you a lot more flexibility.
Buy a print server device and attach the printer to it
In this scenario, you will buy a piece of hardware that you will attach to one of the ports of your router (or use a wireless one) and assign it an IP address. The print server device will look like any other computer on the network. You then physically attach the printer to this print server device.
For the remote machines, you will add the printer the same way as you do in the previous method (i.e Add Printer, Browse for a printer, etc.), the only difference is that the printer is attached to the printer server device name instead of a computer name.
A print server device will cost somewhere between 40 and 70 dollars.
Once you add this printer to your computer, you can print to it without any other computer being on.
The advantages/disadvantages to this method are:
- A lot more flexibility because you now just need to have the printer on, not the computer it is attached to.
- It is an extra piece of hardware so there is an additional cost compared to just sharing a printer attached to a computer.
- There is some configuration that needs to be done on the print server.
Overall, despite the added cost and configuration, a print server is a better way to go if you can set it up.