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Sharing printers through a wireless router

I have a new wireless router at home. Connected to the router is a Windows XP machine and a Windows ME machine. These each have a printer and which we would like to share between the two machines. In addition, I have a laptop for work that should have access to these printers. What do I need to do in order to let these PCs share these printers through the wireless router?

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To accomplish this... ...you must verify network connectivity between these devices, enable printer sharing on "server" PCs, and then add printers on client PCs.

 

  1. I assume that your PCs and laptop all have wireless PC cards or USB adapters and are already associated with your wireless router. On your WinXP PC, use the Start menu, pick Run, and type in "cmd". On your WinME PC, use Start/Run to enter "command." On your WinXP PC, type "ipconfig" into the command window and note the IP Address of your wireless adapter. On your WinME PC, type "ping " (for example, ping 192.168.1.2) into the command window. If ping results say "0% loss" then you have verified reachability and can repeat this test with your laptop. If results indicate loss, then you must debug connectivity before you can go further. Possible problems include (a) the target PC is running personal firewall software that blocks incoming traffic, (b) the wireless router is configured to block traffic between LAN peers, or (c) one or both of the PCs is not associated to the wireless router.
  2. Next, you must enable printer sharing on your WinXP and WinME PCs. On WinXP, open the Network Connections control panel, right-click on your wireless connection, and choose Properties. Check the boxes next to "Client for Microsoft Networks" and "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" and save settings. Next, right-click on My Computer, choose Properties, and select the Computer Name tab. Click the Change button, enter a unique Computer Name for your PC and a Workgroup Name that you want to use for your home network, and save. On WinME, open the Network control panel and verify that "Client for Microsoft Networks" and "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" are both in the list. Click the "File and Printer Sharing" button and make sure that "I want to be able to allow others to print to my printer(s)" is checked. Select the Identification tab on the Network control panel, enter a unique Computer Name for this PC and the same Workgroup Name. You may need to reboot your PCs after saving these changes.
  3. Now it's time to share printers. On WinME, open the Printers control panel, select the local printer you want to share, right-click, and choose Sharing. Choose the "Shared As" button and give your printer a unique name and (if you want) a password. Repeat this on WinXP, giving that printer a different name. Click on "Additional Drivers" and check the "Windows 95/98/ME" box if one is shown there. You may be prompted for your Windows or printer driver CD to supply missing drivers. At this point, both printers should be available to other PCs in the Workgroup.
  4. Finally, it's time to access shared printers from client PCs. For example, on WinME, launch the Add Printer wizard from the Printers control panel. Select Network Printer and then Browse for the entire network for the desired printer -- for example \MYXPMYXPPRINTER. Choose the type of printer, and supply your printer driver CD if necessary. Give the destination printer a name and you're all done. Steps are similar to add your WinME's shared printer to your WinXP PC's list of printers. Repeat this last step on your Win32 laptop, adding both your WinME and WinXP printers. Note that you do not need to share printers from your laptop -- you only need to add printers shared by your PCs.
If your PCs are using personal firewalls, you can probably still share printers by allowing NetBIOS (ports 137-139) to other hosts on the same subnet. If your wireless router is capable of being a print server, you may want to consider connecting the printer you use most often to your router so that one PC does not have to be on in order for the other PC and laptop to use that printer.

This was first published in October 2003

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