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.
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:
Make sure the Printers check box is selected. (If not, select it, and then click Save changes.)
Go to the computer you want to print from.
Open HomeGroup by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, typing homegroup in the search box, and then clicking HomeGroup.
Click Install printer.
If you don't already have a driver installed for the printer, click Install driver in the dialog box that appears.
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.
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.
Open Devices and Printers by clicking the Start button , and then, on the Start menu, clicking Devices and Printers.
Click Add a printer.
In the Add Printer wizard, click Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer.
In the list of available printers, select the one you want to use, and then click Next.
If prompted, install the printer driver on your computer by clicking Install driver.
If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
Complete the additional steps in the wizard, and then click Finish.
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.
The most common way to install a printer on a home network is to install it as a stand-alone device on the network, and then add a connection to the printer on each computer that is on the network.
If you're not sure what type of network printer to install, decide if you want to:
Use a wireless printer. These printers use a built-in wireless card and plug into a power source, not your network or computer. After you turn on the printer, you need to refer to the information that came with the printer to set up a wireless connection to each computer on a home network. Security options for wireless printing are determined by each printer manufacturer.
Connect a printer directly to the network. To do this, you need to plug in the printer to your network hub or router. How to install these printers depends on whether the printer and your network device use an Ethernet, universal serial bus (USB), or another type of connection. You also need to refer to any installation information or tools provided by the printer manufacturer.
Connect more than one printer directly to the network. To do this, your hub or router must be able to support more than one printer connection.
To find out how to install a network printer, check the information that came with the printer.
After you have installed a network printer, you need to add a connection to the printer for each computer on the network.
Open Printers by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking Hardware and Sound, and then clicking Printers.
On the toolbar, click Add a printer.
In the Add Printer Wizard, select Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer, and then follow the steps in the wizard.
Available printers can include all printers on a network, including Bluetooth and wireless printers or printers that are plugged into another computer and shared on the network. Make sure that you have permission to use these printers before adding them to the computer.
It's a good idea to print a test page
to check if the printer is working correctly. For more information, see Print a test page.
See all support pages for devices & drivers.
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See what devices are compatible with Windows 7 at the Compatibility Center.