Setting up a home printer is much easier than it used to be – especially if you’re just connecting it to a PC via USB. Network printers – wired and wireless – can be a little more challenging, though most people shouldn’t have problems. This guide walks you through the steps for setting up either type of printer.

Before getting started, you’ll need a printer, a computer, a A USB cable (for a USB printer), an Ethernet/LAN cable (for a wired network printer) or a wireless access point/router (for a wireless printer).

Setting up a USB printer

 

A USB connection is ideal if computer and printer are located close to each other, or when the printer doesn’t need to be shared by PCs in different locations.

1. Install the components and power on the printer

Following the steps in the quick start manual that came with your printer, remove the packaging, install the toner or ink cartridges and put paper in the feeder or tray. Then plug the printer into a power socket and turn it on.

2. Once the printer is powered on, connect it to the computer using a USB cable

Your computer should automatically detect that a new device has been connected, and it will start to install the drivers.

If there are drivers built into your operating system, you may not have to do anything at all after this, but most likely an ‘Add New Hardware’ Window will pop up. When it does, insert the driver CD that came with your printer.

3. Install the driver

Follow the steps in the driver setup dialogue box to install the drivers for your printer.

4. Test the printer

Open the Windows Control Panel (click on Start > Control Panel). Now click on “Printers” (in Windows XP/Vista) or “View Devices and Printers” (in Windows 7). An icon representing your newly installed printer should be present. Right-click on the icon and select ‘Properties’ (in XP/Vista) or “Printer Properties” (in Windows 7).

A new window will appear. Click on “Print Test Page” to print out a sample page. If it works, you should then be able to print from any program you run on your PC.

Setting up a wired or wireless network printer


1.  Install the components

Following the steps in the quick start manual that came with your printer, remove the packaging, install the toner or ink cartridges and put paper in the feeder or tray.

2.  Find out your wireless network settings (wireless only)

Before you can set up a wireless printer, you need to know the SSID (the unique name for a wireless network; it’s how you pick out your network from any other overlapping wireless networks) and password for your wireless access point or router. These will be the same ones you use for your wireless computers. Without these details, you won’t be able to configure your printer to connect to your wireless network.

3.  Connect the printer to your network (wired only)

Using an Ethernet cable, connect the printer to your network switch or router. The Ethernet cable plugs into the network port on the printer and any one of the LAN ports on your router/switch. The LAN port is the same type of port that a regular computer plugs into on the switch. A common modem router (such as a typical ADSL router) has four such ports.

Most ADSL modem/routers have four LAN ports for connecting printers and computers via Ethernet cable. All devices plugged into the modem/router can share information and connect to the Internet. In wireless networks, a ‘wireless access point’ serves the same function, but without the need for Ethernet cables.

4.  Power the printer on

5.  Configure printer’s wireless network settings (wireless only)

You need to set up your printer to talk to your wireless network. Your printer’s quick start guide should walk you through the steps for using the printer’s control buttons to choose the wireless network (the one that matches your SSID) and enter the wireless password.

Note that some printers may require you to connect to them via USB to set up wireless. The setup guide should have all the details on doing so.

6.  Install the drivers

Depending on your printer model, this can be achieved in one of several ways. Most commonly, printers will come with a setup Wizard on a driver CD that will search the network for the printer and install the driver for you. Using the Wizard will be detailed in the quick start guide.

Alternatively, you can follow these steps:

i) Open the Windows Control Panel by clicking on Start > Control Panel.

ii)  Now click on “Printers” (in Windows XP/Vista) or “View Devices and Printers” (in Windows 7). At the top of the window, there will be an “Add a Printer” button. Click it.

iii) A new Wizard will appear, which will walk you through the process. Choose to add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer. The Wizard will perform a search of the network for available printers. It will show a list of printers it finds. Click on the one that matches your new printer, then follow the steps.

iv) When the computer asks, insert the driver CD that came with your printer. It will search this CD for drivers that match your printer.

7.  What if I can’t see the printer?

This is a common problem, and occurs when the computer searches the network for the computer (as outlined by the steps in 6, above) and can’t find it. There are a number of causes, including:

i) The printer isn’t connected to the same switch or router as your PC.

ii) The printer’s wireless network authentication failed.

iii) The PC and router have incompatible network addresses.

The cure for the first of these is to simply ensure that your computer and printer are plugged into the same switch. The second will require that you re-check the printer’s wireless network settings (see step 5, above) and may require that you check your wireless access point’s security settings to ensure that it will allow the printer to connect.

The fix for the last can be quite technical. When it’s plugged into your router/switch, your printer will ask it for an IP (Internet Protocol) address, just like your computer has. This address is used to allow devices to find one another on a network. If your router is not configured properly, however, it may give the wrong type of address to the printer, and your computer won’t be able to find it.

One cure is to check your router settings (you’ll have to consult your router manual) and ensure DHCP is enabled. Now check your printer’s network configuration and ensure its network address/IP mode is set to “Auto”. Alternatively, you may have to use the printer’s control panel to manually set an IP address. The printer’s user manual should have a guide on how to set the address to Auto or manually configure it.

8. Test the printer

Open the Windows Control Panel (click on Start > Control Panel). Now click on “Printers” (in Windows XP/Vista) or “View Devices and Printers” (in Windows 7).

An icon representing your newly installed printer should be present. Right-click on the icon and select “Properties” (in XP/Vista) or ‘Printer Properties (in Windows 7). A new window will appear.

Click on “Print Test Page” to print out a sample page. If it works, you should then be able to print from any program you run on your PC.

Sharing a printer

In Windows, it’s quite easy to share a printer with several computers, even though it may already be connected by USB to a PC.

In the “Printer” or “Devices and Printers” control panel in Windows, right-click on the icon of the printer you want to share and select “Sharing” from the drop-down menu. Windows will walk you through the steps for sharing the printer and (if necessary) reconfiguring the network settings.

For other people to add the printer to their PC, just look to step 6 under “Setting up a wired or wireless network printer” above. Using the “Add a Printer” Wizard should locate and help install drivers for the shared printer.

The first page of the ‘Add New Printer’ Wizard in Windows.

The final word

Setting up a USB printer is usually just as easy as plugging it in and inserting a driver CD.

The key to setting up a network printer is connecting it to the network itself and getting the network settings right. If you have those, it should work very much like a USB printer.