How to Share a Windows XP Printer with Mac OS X 10.5

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Printer sharing is a great way to economize on computing costs for your home, home office, or small business. By using one of several possible printer sharing techniques, you can allow multiple computers to share a single printer, and use the money you would have spent on another printer for something else, say a new iPod.

If you’re like many of us, you have a mixed network of PCs and Macs; this is especially likely to be true if you’re a new Mac user migrating from Windows. You may already have a printer hooked up to one of your PCs. Rather than buy a new printer for your new Mac, you can use the one you already have.

What You Need

  • A working network, either wired or wireless Ethernet
  • A printer that’s directly connected to a PC
  • A common workgroup name for the PCs and the Mac network
  • A few minutes of your time

Configure the Workgroup Name (Leopard)

Printer Sharing - Windows Printer Sharing With Mac OS X 10.5
If you have changed your PC's workgroup name, you need to let your Mac know.

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Windows XP and Vista both use 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.

Set Up Windows XP for Printer Sharing

Printer Sharing - Windows Printer Sharing With Mac OS X 10.5
Use the 'Share name' field to give the printer a distinctive name.

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Before you can successfully set up printer sharing on your Windows machine, you must first ensure that you have a working printer connected and configured.

Enable Printer Sharing in Windows XP

  1. Select ‘Printers and Faxes’ from the Start menu.
  2. A list of installed printers and faxes will display.
  3. Right-click on the icon of the printer you wish to share and select ‘Sharing’ from the pop-up menu.
  4. Select the ‘Share this printer’ option.
  5. Enter a name for the printer in the ‘Share name’ field. This name will appear as the printer’s name on your Mac.
  6. Click the ‘Apply’ button.

Close the printer’s Properties window and the Printers and Faxes window.

Add the Windows Printer to Your Mac (Leopard)

Epson Computer Printer
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With the Windows printer and the computer, it’s connected to active, and the printer set up for sharing, you’re ready to add the printer to your Mac.

Add the Shared Printer to Your Mac

  1. Launch System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock.
  2. Click the ‘Print & Fax’ icon in the System Preferences window.
  3. The Print & Fax window will display a list of currently configured printers and faxes that your Mac can use.
  4. Click the plus (+) sign, located just below the list of installed printers.
  5. The printer browser window will appear.
  6. Click the ‘Windows’ toolbar icon.
  7. Click the workgroup name in the first column of the three-pane printer browser window.
  8. Click the computer name of the Windows machine that has the shared printer connected to it.
  9. You may be asked to enter a user name and password for the computer you selected in the step above.
  10. Select the printer you configured for sharing from the list of printers in the third column of the three-pane window.
  11. From the Print Using dropdown menu, select the driver that the printer needs. The Generic PostScript Printer driver will work for almost all PostScript printers, but if you have a specific driver for the printer, click ‘Select a driver to use’ in the dropdown menu, and select the driver.
  12. Click the ‘Add’ button.
  13. Use the Default Printer dropdown menu to set the printer you want to use most often. The Print & Fax preferences pane tends to set the most recently added printer as the default, but you can easily change that by selecting a different printer.

Using Your Shared Printer

person reaching for paper in printer
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Your shared Windows printer is now ready to be used by your Mac. When you’re ready to print from your Mac, select the ‘Print’ option in the application you’re using and then select the shared printer from the list of available printers.

Remember that to use the shared printer, both the printer and the computer it’s connected to must be on. Happy printing!