Printers are my nemesis. I’ll happily (well, most of the time) work on computers all day, and usually have success troubleshooting whatever ails them. Computers make sense to me. Through the years, I’ve learned how to go about attacking whatever problem I’m faced with. There’s a system in my mind, and that system doesn’t usually fail me. Printers are another story altogether. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why they work…and why they won’t. Because of this, I won’t pretend to tell you how to fix a printer. Any number of things can and do go wrong. I can, however, tell you how to set one up. Today we’ll explore the different ways you can connect a printer in your home, so you can decide for yourself the best way for your particular application.
Back in the day, there was one way to connect a printer to a P.C. A parallel port, specifically a DB-25 was the standard for printer setup. This port was shaped like a “D” and contained 25 pins. The name DB-25 was born. As technology progressed, printers began offering the smaller USB port as well. Computer standards have now shifted to make parallel ports obsolete. The vast majority of P.C.s don’t contain a single parallel port, though there are plenty of USB ports to go around. When you don’t mind wires and have a single computer to service that isn’t far away from the printer, a printer connected by a USB cable is the most stable connection you can have. Think about it: as long as your computer is operable, it can use a USB connected printer. By comparison, if your wireless network should go down, so does your connection to the printer. With modern versions of Windows, all that’s really necessary to do to install a printer using a USB cable is to plug it in, and Windows should be able to recognize the printer and install the needed software automatically so you can use it. The downside of a USB connection is the visible wire (if you mind that sort of thing) limits your mobility, and the fact that only the computer that’s directly connected to the printer can use that printer. You can “share” the printer so that other computers connected to the same network can use the printer, but the computer with the direct connection must be powered on and logged in to Windows so others can access it. The USB cable needed to connect a computer to a printer is a Type A Male to Type B Male USB.
The next step in the evolution of printer set up is what the world has been trending to, a world without wires. From what I’ve encountered in the field, the vast majority of homes have wireless Internet. 100% of the homes and businesses I’ve been to have Internet, and almost all of them have Wi-Fi. With numbers like these, it makes sense to connect your printer wirelessly. In theory, all you’d need is a wireless router, and a place to position the printer within range of the router. Use the menu on the printer itself to navigate to wireless settings, and find the name of your network (SSID). Enter the password for that network, and the printer should be “online”. From there you can attempt to install the printer on each computer on your network. Type “Devices and Printers” in the search box in Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10. Open the applet, and click “Add a Printer”, then “Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer”. If the printer is in fact online, it will show up on the list. Click on the printer you’d like to install, then click “Next”. Type a name for the printer or leave it as is, and again click “Next”. Decide whether to share the printer with others or not (it isn’t necessary to share a printer connected to the network), then click “Next” again. Click “Finish” to complete the installation.
Last, but not least, is my preferred method of installation: Ethernet. To accomplish this, plug one end of an Ethernet cable into your printer, and the other end into your wireless router. This is the best of both worlds. Because the printer is hardwired to the router, the connection is much more stable than a truly wireless connection. The best part of this is, the connection between the computer and printer is still wireless. Obviously, this setup takes a little more planning than the others. You’d need to have the printer located close to the router (or switch if you don’t have enough available ports on your router), or you’d need to run Ethernet cable through the walls or ceiling if the printer will be in a remote area of the building. With this connection though, there shouldn’t be a need to monkey with any settings on the printer itself. Simply follow the steps above to install the printer on each computer. Occasionally you might need to download and install a printer driver on the computer to make the connection. Type the printer name, model name, and version of Windows the computer is running into a search engine on your favorite web browser. For example: “Canon MX922 Windows 7”. Download and run the driver software, and choose “wireless” when asked how you’d like to connect the printer. Please only download a driver from the printer manufacturer’s website. You’ll then find the printer listed as it was in the Wi-Fi connection we described earlier, and complete the steps to finish the installation.
There you have it – the three most common ways to connect a Windows computer and printer. As is the case with most things in life, each method has its pluses and minuses. While each application is different, you’ll now be able to make an informed decision about which way you should go in your home or business.