How to Network a Printer

Add a printer to your home network

What to Know

  • Go to Control Panel Network and Sharing Center > Advanced sharing settingsTurn on file and printer sharing > Save Changes.
  • Go to Printers and Scanners. Right-click the computer, select Printer properties, and check off Share this printer on the Sharing tab.
  • Newer macOS versions can automatically detect and add most printers. You can do a manual configuration via System Preferences. 

This article explains how to add a printer to your home network using an ethernet or wireless connection on Windows and Mac devices.

Add a Network Printer Using Microsoft Windows

All modern versions of Windows include a feature called File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks. This feature allows a printer connected to one PC to be shared with other PCs on a local network.

This method requires the printer to be actively connected to the PC and the computer to be turned on so that other devices can reach the printer through it.

To network a printer using this method:

  1. Enable sharing on the computer. Go to Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Network and Sharing Center > Advanced sharing settings. Then select Turn on file and printer sharing, then select Save Changes.

    Advanced Sharing Settings in Windows with the "Turn on file and printer sharing" option highlighted
  2. Close the window and choose the Devices and Printers or Printers and Scanners option on the Start menu.

    A screenshot of Windows' Start menu with the Printers & Scanners option highlighted
  3. Right-click the target computer, select Printer properties, go to the Sharing tab and then select the Share this printer check box.

    Printer settings in Windows with the Sharing tab and Share checkbox highlighted
  4. Printers can be installed on a PC using Devices and Printers. Some printers come with software utilities (either on a CD-ROM or downloadable from the web) to simplify the installation process, but these are generally optional.

A HomeGroup includes support for networking a printer and sharing files. To use a homegroup for sharing a printer, create one using the HomeGroup option on Control Panel, ensure the Printers setting is enabled (for sharing), and join other PCs in the group. The feature works only with Windows PCs joined into a homegroup enabled for printer sharing.

Network Printers Using Non-Windows Devices

Operating systems other than Windows incorporate slightly different methods to support network printing:

  • Current versions of macOS have the ability to automatically detect and add certain kinds of printers, with manual configuration options in the Print & Fax section of System Preferences. Older versions of Mac OS X provided a utility called Print Center for setting up printers connected to Mac computers.
  • Apple AirPrint enables Wi-Fi wireless printing capability on Apple iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. AirPrint support requires using a specially manufactured printer of the same brand.
  • Different Unix and Linux distributions provide generic support for network printing. User interface details differ, but most are based on a common Unix printing mechanism called CUPS.

Bluetooth Printers

Some home printers offer Bluetooth network capability, usually enabled by an attached adapter rather than being built-in. Bluetooth printers are designed to support general-purpose printing from cellphones.

Because it is a short-range wireless protocol, phones running Bluetooth must be placed close to the printer for the operation to work.

Printers With Built-In Network Capability

Network printers for home and small businesses look similar to other types. However, these network printers feature an Ethernet port, while many newer models incorporate built-in Wi-Fi wireless capability.

Network printers typically allow entering configuration data through a small keypad and screen on the front of the printer. The screen also displays error messages that are helpful in troubleshooting problems.

  1. Update the printer settings (such as WPA wireless encryption keys or DHCP addressing) as needed to join the local network.

  2. For Ethernet-capable printers, connect the printer to a network router using an Ethernet cable.

  3. For Wi-Fi capable printers, associate the printer with a wireless router or another wireless access point.

Wireless Print Servers

Many older printers connect to other devices using USB but don't have Ethernet or Wi-Fi support. A wireless print server is a special-purpose gadget that bridges these printers to a wireless home network.

To use wireless print servers, plug the printer into the server's USB port and connect the print server to a wireless router or access point.

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