Install a printer on a home network


There are two basic ways to make a printer available to the computers on your home network:

  • Attach it directly to one computer and share it with all the others on a network.

  • Connect the printer as a stand-alone device on the network itself.

This article explains how to do both in Windows. However, you should always first consult the information that came with your model for specific installation and setup instructions.

If you're just getting started, and you need to install your printer, see Install a printer for information about how to set up your printer.

Setting up a shared printer

Traditionally, the most common way to make a printer available to a home network has been to connect it to one of the computers and then tell Windows to share it. This is called a shared printer.

The advantage of sharing a printer is that it works with any USB printer. The downside? The host computer always has to be powered up, otherwise the rest of the network won't be able to access the shared printer.

In previous versions of Windows, setting up a shared printer could sometimes be tricky. But a new home networking feature in Windows 7 called HomeGroup has greatly simplified the process.

When a network is set up as a homegroup, printers and certain files are automatically shared. To learn more about what homegroups do and how to use them, see HomeGroup: recommended links.

If you've already set up a homegroup and want to access a shared printer from another homegroup computer, just follow these steps:

To manually connect to a homegroup printer

  1. On the computer the printer is physically connected to, click the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then click Control Panel. In the search box, type homegroup, and then click HomeGroup.
  2. Make sure the Printers check box is selected. (If not, select it, and then click Save changes.)

  3. Go to the computer you want to print from.

  4. Open HomeGroup by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, typing homegroup in the search box, and then clicking HomeGroup.

  5. Click Install printer.

  6. If you don't already have a driver installed for the printer, click Install driver in the dialog box that appears.

Notes

  • After the printer is installed, you can access it through the Print dialog box in any program, just like a printer that's directly connected to your computer. The computer that the printer is connected to must be turned on to use the printer.

  • Homegroups aren't available on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Setting up a network printer

Network printers—devices designed to connect directly to a computer network as a stand-alone device—were once found mostly in large offices.

Today, printer manufacturers are increasingly offering inexpensive inkjet and laser printers that are designed to serve as network printers on home networks. Network printers have one big advantage over shared printers: they're always available.

There are two common types of network printers: wired and wireless.

  • Wired printers have an Ethernet port, which you connect to your router or hub via an Ethernet cable.

  • Wireless printers typically connect to your home network using Wi‑Fi or Bluetooth technology.

Some printers offer both options. The instructions that came with your model should tell you exactly how to install it.

To install a network, Wi‑Fi, or Bluetooth printer

  1. Open Devices and Printers by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, and then, on the Start menu, clicking Devices and Printers.

  2. Click Add a printer.

  3. In the Add Printer wizard, click Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer.

  4. In the list of available printers, select the one you want to use, and then click Next.

  5. If prompted, install the printer driver on your computer by clicking Install driver. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  6. Complete the additional steps in the wizard, and then click Finish.

Tips

  • Make sure that you have permission to use these printers before adding them to the computer.

  • You can confirm the printer is working by printing a test page. For details, see Print a test page.