If you’re planning on installing a new printer, you’ll need to have all of the right pieces to make everything work properly. In this video, you’ll learn the importance of the correct printer driver and how to connect and share your wired or wireless printer.
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When you’re installing a printer for the very first time, you not only need the hardware printer itself, but you also need the appropriate drivers to use for the operating system so that it can talk properly to that printer. You need to make sure that the printer drivers that you’re getting are exactly the ones you should have for the operating system you’re using. In some cases, even specific versions of the operating system.
For example, a Windows XP driver is different than a Windows 7 driver. So make sure you know what version of the operating system you’re using and use the appropriate printer driver for that version.
You also have to make sure you pick exactly the right driver for the printer that you’re installing. That’s because the printer driver has a lot of very important information in there. It defines what type of language the printer is using. Maybe it’s using PCL, maybe it’s using PostScript, maybe it’s using something different.
The printer driver determines how your computer will talk to that printer. It also knows the type of paper trays that are expected on that printer type. If there are different colors that printer can support. Perhaps any fonts that might already be enabled inside of the printer. That would certainly enhance any printouts that you’re doing. And anything else that the printer uses to be able to finally give you an output from that printing device.
Here’s a good example of why choosing the exact printer driver is so important. Let’s look at these two printers. This is one that is an Epson ActionLaser 1000. This other one also a laser jet, an HP LaserJet 8150. These are two different printers made by two different manufacturers.
And if we look at the Epson ActionLaser we can see there is an upper paper tray. There is a manual paper feed tray. There is a lower paper tray. And some font cartridge options which have nothing installed on them.
Notice the differences on the HP side. The Hewlett Packard printer has many different paper trays associated with it. There’s even an envelope feeder along with the manual feed tray. So when you send, for instance, information to print out on a letter and you send that to the Epson ActionLaser you have the choice of an upper, a manual, and a lower. When you send that to an HP LaserJet 8150 you can choose from all of these other options. And the only way those options would be available to you on the screen is if you had installed the proper printer driver.
If you’re connecting to a wired printer you may see a number of different interfaces being used. If you are using point of sale type printers, you may see something like a serial port being used. We don’t commonly see serial ports being used on our desktop computers or our laptop computers. It’s something that is very specific to point of sale.
On our desktop systems commonly in the past we have used something like a parallel connection with this Centronics connector on the back of the printer. And usually there is a parallel 25 pin connection that is plugging into the computer. These days that’s more of a legacy connection. They’re very big 25 pin connectors, and usually you don’t see those on laptop computers where the amount of real estate on that particular device is at such a premium.
Commonly these days we’re seeing something like USB. USB has turned into this very common interface that we would use for almost everything. We use it for our keyboards. We use it for our mouse. We can also, of course, use it for our printers, as well. And if you’re plugging in a modern wired printer to your computer it’s probably going to use USB.
Another way to connect a printer using a wire is to plug in an ethernet connection. You can get something like a print server like this one that has an ethernet connection on one end so you can plug into the network and have everyone access the printer that you then plug in onto this USB connection. So this allows you to connect the computer as you normally would through a USB. But instead of plugging that USB connection into your computer you’re plugging it into this print server that everyone on the network would have access to.
Just as there are many interfaces used for printing on a wired computer, there’s also many ways to print wirelessly. One legacy method of wireless printing is infrared. This is commonly seen as IrDA which stands for the Infrared Data Association. This used a line of sight between your mobile device or your computer to the printer itself. And although it was used for a short period of time, the infrared had too many limitations associated with it, drivers that had to be loaded, printers that needed to support it, and eventually it was a technology that was phased out.
If you have a mobile device that can communicate via Bluetooth you might want to look at connecting to a Bluetooth enabled printer. A Bluetooth printer is using this personal area network. It’s not a huge network. Once you get a number of yards away, the network is not accessible any longer. Those two devices can’t communicate to each other.
But generally when you’re printing to a printer that might be in your office, it’s in a relatively short distance from you. That way you don’t have to have any wires going to the printer. You could be relatively mobile. And the speed and connectivity to the printer is somewhere between one to three megabits per second so you still get very good throughput even though you’re using a wireless network.
But perhaps the most common wireless printing technology available today is 802.11. That is the standard that we tend to use for everything. For our mobile devices, for our laptop machines, and also for our printers. Our printers might have an antenna right on the side of them that’s able to communicate via standard 802.11a, b, g, or n. And that way we’re able to use standards that we already have in our laptops and our desktops to be able to naturally communicate directly to the printer without having any type of wire or any type of print server in between.
If you have installed a printer and you’ve connected it to your computer you still have the option in Microsoft Windows to share that printer with everybody else who might be on the network. That way you can connect your printer to your device, but anybody else in the office would be able to print to that printer.
In Windows XP you would do this through the control panel. You would choose printers and faxes. You would right click the printer, choose the properties for the printer, and inside of that will be a sharing tab that you can enable the sharing capabilities for that printer.
Here’s our Windows XP desktop. To find that particular setting you can go either to the control panel and then go to all of your printers and faxes. Or you can simply start at the Start menu and choose printers and faxes and go to the same place.
If I right mouse click the printer you will see the properties option at the very bottom. And inside that properties option is the sharing tab. And this is what allows you to share that printer. You can give that printer a name. And then everyone on the network would be able to see that printer and be able to use it just by browsing through it on the network and connecting to it through a network link.
In Windows 7 it’s a similar configuration. Almost in the same exact place. It’s under control panel, devices and printers. You would right click the printer and choose printer properties and that’s where you will find the sharing tab.
Let’s see how this looks. We’ll start at the Start menu. There is a control panel. Notice Devices and Printers is also in that Start menu. But to show you everything we’ll go into the control panel under Devices and Printers, one extra step. Under Devices and Printers you’ll see everything including all of the printers that you have installed.
This is where we take a little bit of a deviation from the Windows XP config. If we right mouse click the printer, the option that will be available to you is Printer Properties. If you go all the way down to Properties you will not get a sharing tab. Instead you will right mouse click and choose Printer Properties. And inside of the Printer Properties will be that sharing tab. And it looks almost identical to the sharing tab you have in Windows XP.
It’s very common in large environments for many different kinds of operating systems to need access to different resources. And one of the things that can make things a little bit easier for everyone else in the office is that if you load the printer drivers for your printer right onto your computer for all of those different operating systems. That way when a 64-bit operating system connects they’ll be able to download the drivers directly from your computer rather than having to go out to a Windows site or the manufacturer’s site to find out where there’s drivers might be.