How to Find the Printer on Your Network in Windows 11

And what to do if you can't find your printer

What to Know

  • Network printer: Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners > Add device.
  • Shared printer: Same steps, then Add manually, and enter printer name.
  • Troubleshoot: Restart printer and computer, and check network settings.

This article explains how to find a printer accessible over the network, including wireless printers and wired printers shared over the network. We'll also cover what to do if you've tried the normal steps but still can't find the printer.

How to Find Your Printer on the Network

Windows 11 provides a few ways to connect to network printers. Here's how to use the automated tool in Settings to search for available printers:

  1. Open Settings and then go to Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners.

    One way to open Settings is by right-clicking the Start menu and choosing it from the list. You can also search for Settings or Printers & scanners.

    Bluetooth and devices and Printers and scanners in Windows 11 settings
  2. Select Add device to search for available printers.

  3. Select Add device next to the printer you want to install.

    Refresh in Windows 11 Settings

    If you don't see your printer listed here, follow the troubleshooting tips at the bottom of this page.

  4. Windows will install the printer. Follow any on-screen steps to complete the installation.

How to See Shared Printers on the Network

Windows users can share printers for other people to use. This is normally how it's set up when multiple computers within a network want to print to a printer which isn't network-enabled. One computer installs the printer via USB and then shares that printer which makes it available to anyone else who can reach it.

Here's how to find shared printers:

  1. Go to Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners > Add device.

  2. Wait a few seconds, and then select Add manually when you see it.

  3. Choose Select a shared printer by name, and enter the printer's share name. It needs to include the computer hosting the printer. It will look something like this:

    Select a shared printer by name in Windows 11 Add printer settings
  4. Select Next to begin the printer installation, and then Next > Finish on the final prompt.

    Next in Add printer settings in Windows 11

How to Fix It When You Can't Find a Network Printer

Connecting to a printer over the network has more challenges than one attached directly to your computer. Follow these steps to troubleshoot when you can't reach a printer on the network, and be sure to test after each step to see if the printer is available.

  1. Ensure you're on the same network as the printer. For example, if you're using a laptop which normally uses the internet over a mobile connection, you'll need to enable Wi-Fi on the laptop and enter the network's password.

  2. Confirm the printer itself is able to reach the network. If it's a wireless printer with a screen, you should be able to find out via the printer's display. For wired printers shared over the network, verify the computer has a valid connection.

  3. Shut down, and then power back on, everything standing between your computer and the printer.

    • Restart the printer. There should be a prominent power button somewhere on the face of the printer. Press it, wait for it to fully power down, and then press it again.
    • Restart the computer. Especially if you're the only device on the network that can't reach the printer, the issue is likely with your computer, specifically.
    • Restart the router. This is probably only necessary if more than one person on the network is having a problem, but if you're not sure, and you have access to the router, a simple reboot is a good idea.
  4. Enter the printer's details manually into the Add Printer dialog box. Get there through Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners > Add device > Add manually.

    There are a few options, including one to add the printer using its IP address or hostname, which you can gather from the printer itself or from the computer it's attached to.

    Add manually in Windows 11 Settings
  5. Install the printer driver, if when adding the printer, you see the message Driver is unavailable. The best way to do this is to visit the printer manufacturer's website to search for and download the appropriate driver.

  6. Start the print spooler service. This is relevant only if the service is off, because if it is, you won't be able to add a printer manually.

    Windows can't open Add Printer error in Windows 11 settings
  7. Run the built-in printer troubleshooter. This is likely to help only if you've partially installed the printer already, but it's worth a shot.

    Get there through Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners > Troubleshoot.

  8. If the printer is being shared over the network through a computer, go there and completely reinstall the printer. This involves uninstalling it from the computer, rebooting, reinstalling it with the proper drivers, and then re-sharing it.

  • Can a printer be too old for Windows 11?

    Yes, but most printers made in the past decade will work with Windows 11 provided you have the right device drivers. If your printer is compatible with Windows 10, it should work with Windows 11.

  • How do I connect my printer to Wi-Fi?

    The steps for connecting your printer to your Wi-Fi network differ depending on your model. Some printers have a companion app you must install on your computer or mobile device to configure the network settings. You will need to know the Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and password.

  • How do I enable printer sharing in Windows 11?

    Open the Control Panel and go to Network and the Internet > Network and Sharing Center > Change advanced sharing settings. Find the File and Printer Sharing section and select Turn on file and printer sharing.

  • How do I set a default printer in Windows 11?

    Go to Settings > Bluetooth and Devices > Printers & Scanners > your printer > Set as default. Alternatively, select Let Windows manage my default printer on the Printers & Scanners page.

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