Q

Attaching printers to routers

I have a Compaq printer running Windows XP, and a wireless network that is channeled through a Belkin wireless router. I have no probem getting e-mail, but cannot print from a laptop (equipped with a wireless card) to an HP 950 printer. Any idea how I can accomplish this?
While everybody realizes the benefits of having a wireless system to cut the cords from your desktop and mobile PCs, there are still quite a few people who do not know that a wireless system can also let you share peripherals like printers with user throughout your network. In fact, you can easily set up a system that allows you wirelessly attach multiple printers, with each one serving a specific task -- such as using a black-and-white laser printer for documents, and an ink-jet color printer for more colorful presentations. In fact, we have just such a system installed in our offices and it saves a bundle by directing fast print jobs to less-expensive laser printers rather than to more costly ink-jet devices.

In terms of your more immediate problem, though, you never really specify which Belkin router you are using so I will assume it is the top of the line unit. It doesn't look like this unit has a dedicated port for attaching printers. For example, we use a D-Link device here, and it has a parallel port for attaching a printer directly to the router. In your case, you probably must connect a printer through a host PC attached to the router,...

which must remain on at all times so that wireless uses within your 802.11 bubble can connect to it through the PC. Not a very good situation if you are a small business or an individual who does not want to have a dedicated PC acting as a print server, or have other users circumnavigating through your PC to print a file.

I would suggest either replacing your current router with one that has a dedicated printer server, or purchasing a separate wireless print server that connects to your HP 950 and allows uses to wirelessly access it a client in the network. Most major manufacturers offer such devices (although Belkin may not be in this particular club), with prices ranging from about $90 to $150. You might check out the LinkSys WPS-11, since this particular unit offers 512K bytes of flash memory for future flash updates, and is compatible with most printers in the market. Once connected, you simply install the device drivers and the printer will connect through a virtual wireless port.

This was first published in March 2004

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