How to Share Your Mac's Printer With Windows Vista

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Mac Printer Sharing: Share Your Mac’s Printer With Windows Vista: An Overview

Mac Printer Sharing - Mac Printer Sharing With Windows Vista
You can set up a Mac printer for sharing using a single preferences pane.

Printer sharing is one of the most popular uses for a home or small business network, and why not? Mac printer sharing can keep costs down by reducing the number of printers you need to buy.

In this step-by-step tutorial, we will show you how to share a printer attached to a Mac running OS X 10.5 (Leopard) with a computer running Windows Vista.

Mac printer sharing is a three-part process: making sure your computers are on a common workgroup; enabling printer sharing on your Mac; and adding a connection to a network printer on your Vista PC.

Mac Printer Sharing: What You Need

  • A working network, either wired or wireless Ethernet.
  • A printer that is connected directly to a Mac running OS X 10.5.x (Leopard).
  • A common workgroup name for the PCs and Macs on your network.
  • About half an hour of your time.
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Mac Printer Sharing: Configure the Workgroup Name

Mac Printer Sharing: Configure the Workgroup Name
If you want to share a printer, the workgroup names on your Macs and PCs must match.

Windows Vista uses a default workgroup name of WORKGROUP. If you haven’t made any changes to the workgroup name on the Windows computers connected to your network then you’re ready to go, because the Mac also creates a default workgroup name of WORKGROUP for connecting to Windows machines.

If you have changed your Windows workgroup name, as my wife and I have done with our home office network, then you’ll need to change the workgroup name on your Macs to match.

Change the Workgroup Name on Your Mac (Leopard OS X 10.5.x)

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock.
  2. Click the ‘Network’ icon in the System Preferences window.
  3. Select ‘Edit Locations’ from the Location dropdown menu.
  4. Create a copy of your current active location.
    1. Select your active location from the list in the Location sheet. The active location is usually called Automatic, and may be the only entry in the sheet.
    2. Click the sprocket button and select ‘Duplicate Location’ from the pop-up menu.
    3. Type in a new name for the duplicate location or use the default name, which is ‘Automatic Copy.’
    4. Click the ‘Done’ button.
  5. Click the ‘Advanced’ button.
  6. Select the ‘WINS’ tab.
  7. In the ‘Workgroup’ field, enter your workgroup name.
  8. Click the ‘OK’ button.
  9. Click the ‘Apply’ button.

After you click the ‘Apply’ button, your network connection will be dropped. After a few moments, your network connection will be re-established, with the new workgroup name you created.

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Enable Printer Sharing on Your Mac

Mac Printer Sharing: Enable Printer Sharing on Your Mac
The Printer Sharing preferences pane in OS X 10.5.

For Mac printer sharing to work, you will need to enable the printer sharing function on your Mac. We will assume you already have a printer connected to your Mac that you wish to share on your network.

Enable Printer Sharing

  1. Launch System Preferences by either clicking the ‘System Preferences’ icon in the Dock or selecting ‘System Preferences’ from the Apple menu.
  2. In the System Preferences window, select the Sharing preferences pane from the Internet & Networking group.
  3. The Sharing preferences pane contains a list of available services that can be run on your Mac. Place a check mark next to the ‘Printer Sharing’ item in the list of services.
  4. Once printer sharing is turned on, a list of printers available for sharing will appear. Place a check mark next to the name of the printer you wish to share.
  5. Close System Preferences.

You Mac will now allow other computers on the network to share the designated printer.

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Add the Shared Printer to Windows Vista

Mac Printer Sharing: Add the Shared Printer to Windows Vista
Vista can search the network for available printers.

The last step in Mac printer sharing is to add the shared printer to your Vista PC.

Add a Shared Printer to Vista

From the ‘Printers’ column, select the model name of the printer attached to your Mac. Click ‘OK.’

  1. Select Start, Control Panel.
  2. From the Hardware and Sound category, select ‘Printer.’ If you’re using Classic view, just click on the ‘Printer’ icon.
  3. In the Printers window that opens, click on the ‘Add a Printer’ item on the toolbar.
  4. In the Add a Printer window, click the ‘Add a network, wireless, or Bluetooth Printer’ option.
  5. The Add a Printer wizard will check the network for available printers. Once the wizard completes its search, you will see a list of all available printers on your network.
  6. Select the shared Mac printer from the list of available printers. Click the ‘Next’ button.
  7. A warning message will display, telling you that the printer does not have the correct printer driver installed. That is OK, because your Mac does not have any Windows printer drivers installed. Click the ‘OK’ button to begin the process of installing a driver in Vista to talk to the shared Mac printer.
  8. The Add a Printer wizard will display a two-column list. From the ‘Manufacturer’ column, select the make of the printer connected to your Mac.
  9. The Add a Printer wizard will finish the installation process and present you with a window asking if you would like to change the printer name and if you wish to set the printer as the default printer in Vista. Make your choices and click ‘Next.’
  10. The Add a Printer wizard will offer to print a test page. This is a good idea as it allows you to make sure that printer sharing is working. Click the ‘Print a test page’ button.
  11. That’s it; the process of installing a shared printer on your Vista computer is complete. Click the ‘Finish’ button.
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Mac Printer Sharing: Using Your Shared Printer

Mac Printer Sharing: Using Your Shared Printer
When sharing a printer, you may find that not all of the printer’s options are available to network users.

Using your Mac’s shared printer from your Vista PC is no different than it would be if the printer were directly connected to your Vista PC. All of your Vista applications will see the shared printer just as if it were physically attached to your PC.

There are just a few points to keep in mind.

  • Your Mac must be turned on in order for the shared printer to be accessible on the network.
  • Some printer properties may not be accessible over the network. For example, you may not be able to determine the status of consumables on the shared printer, such as how much ink is left or whether the paper tray is empty. This varies from printer to printer, as well as from printer driver to printer driver.
  • Printing from the network may keep your Mac from going to sleep.
  • A sleeping Mac may not be able to respond to printer requests from networked PCs.