How To Share Printers Across a Network

Wednesday Aug 20th 2003 by Ronald Pacchiano

Confused about whether or not you can share a printer over your network? Learn the most effective ways for setting up printer sharing for your small office or home office.

I manage the local community center where I live, and one of my responsibilities is maintaining the clubhouse computer systems. We have 10 computers that are all networked together. All the systems are running Windows 98SE, and there is currently no file server. We also have two printers. One is an HP LaserJet, and the other is an HP DeskJet. The LaserJet printer is accessible by all of the computers on the network. I think this is because the LaserJet is connected directly to the network (just as all of the other computers are).

Our HP DeskJet Color printer is a different story, however. This printer doesn't use the same kind of connector as the LaserJet does, so it cannot be connected directly to the network. Instead I had to connect it to one of the PCs in the clubhouse via the Parallel Port. So now when anyone wants to print in color they have to wait to use this one PC. At times this can be quite inconvenient. I've heard that there is a way to make the printer accessible to all of the computers on the network, but I don't have the slightest idea how to go about doing it, and I am very eager to get this resolved. Could you please tell me if this is even possible, and if it is, could you please tell me how to go about setting it up?

Yes, it is possible for you to share your HP DeskJet Color printer with all of the computers in the clubhouse. As a matter of fact, in my home office now I'm using a setup similar to the one you described. I have one printer with a built-in HP JetDirect card connected directly to my switch. Then I have a color printer that is connected to the Parallel Port of my desktop PC. I configured it to be shared over the network, and now all of the workstations on my network can print to it.

Configuring a printer to be shared on a network is actually a pretty simple task. To begin with, in Windows 98SE before you can share a printer, you need to first enable "File and Print Sharing." This is done by simply right-clicking on the "Network Neighborhood" icon on your desktop and selecting "Properties." Next, click on the "File and Print Sharing" button, then check off the box that says "I want to be able to allow others to print to my printer(s)," and finally click "OK." This will install the File and Print Sharing service on your system. At this point you might need to reboot the PC.

With the File and Print Sharing service now installed and running, you can share out your printer. To do this, go to your "Printers" folder and right-click on the printer you'd like to share (the HP DeskJet, in this case). On the menu displayed, select "Sharing." At this point you need to assign the printer a share name and click "OK." When you finish, you'll see a hand displayed under the printer icon. This indicates that the printer is now being shared.

The final step is to go to each of the other workstations and install the drivers for this printer. On each computer, go to your Printer folder and launch the Add Printer Wizard. On the screen that says, "How is your printer attached to your computer?" select the Network Printer option and click "Next." Now you need to enter the Network Path or Queue name for the printer you just shared. This can be done in one of two ways.

You can either select "Browse" and search the network for the printer's share name or you can just type in the URL name of the queue. The name syntax is as follows: \\computer_name\Printer_name. So for example, if the computer you installed the printer on was called PC1 and the printer was given a share name of HP, then the URL name would be \\PC1\HP. When you finish, click "Next."

Answer any remaining questions prompted by the wizard. If you're not sure of what your response should be, just press "Enter." Once finished, your new printer will be available for use. There's only one important thing to keep in mind when sharing a printer in this fashion — in order for people to use this printer, the PC that it is connected to must be kept on at all times.

If this is a problem for you, and if you have a couple of extra bucks available in the budget, you could invest in an inexpensive external print server. An external print server would connect to your network in the same way your HP LaserJet currently does. The printer would connect to the print server via its parallel port, with the print server connected to one of your switch's available Ethernet ports.

Print servers are compatible with almost all printers and can print up to six times faster than a file server or shared-PC printer. A good model to consider is the HP JetDirect 170X, which retails for under $150 and can be configured using a Web browser. It's also compatible with HP's JetAdmin software. More information on the HP JetDirect 170X can be found at online or on HP's website. Hope this helps!

I have two computers at home (possibly three in the near future) and finally got around to networking them together. Both systems are equipped with Windows XP Professional. I have a digital subscriber line (DSL) for Internet access and use Microsoft's Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) and Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) to share the DSL line with my other PC. To protect me from viruses, I installed Norton Antivirus 2003 on my primary system only.

I was under the impression that if the anti-virus software were installed only on the computer with the Internet connection, then that would be sufficient to protect any other PC on my network. A friend of mine however is insisting that I need to install anti-virus software on each of my systems. This brings me to my question — is it really necessary for me to purchase and install another anti-virus product on my second PC if I already have anti-virus software protecting the PC that the Internet traffic is coming in on? I'd rather not spend the extra money if I don't need to.

I'm guessing the problem here is a little bit of mistaken identity. I think that you are confusing the function of the anti-virus software with the function of a firewall. Both protect you, but that's where the similarities end. The anti-virus software protects your PC and network from becoming infected by troublesome and sometimes destructive viruses (look no further than MSBlast and Welchia for prime examples). A firewall protects your entire network from unauthorized access into your network. This prevents intruders or hackers from accessing your personal information or from participating in a Denial of Service Attack on another company's website.

With that being said, I have to tell you that your friend is correct. Even though only one of your PCs is directly connected to the Internet, both systems have Internet access and both systems are capable of accidentally downloading or opening files infected by viruses. For that reason, it is absolutely imperative that you install a good anti-virus package on all of your systems. It's definitely worth a few bucks for the added protection, and trust me, the first time a virus sneaks in and erases your data, you"ll wish you had. Remember, a dime wise, a dollar foolish — best of luck to you.

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