How to Scan from a Printer to Your Computer?

Scanning documents and photos to save a digital copy on your computer can be a real time-saver. Fortunately, most modern printers have built-in scanning capabilities, making the process quick and easy. This guide will walk you through all the steps for scanning from your printer to your computer, using your devices’ software.

How to Scan from a Printer to Your Computer?

Overview of the Scanning Process

Scanning from a printer involves a few key steps:

  • Installing scanning software and drivers
  • Connecting the printer to your computer
  • Configuring your scanner settings
  • Placing the document or photo on the scanner surface
  • Initiating the scan from the software controls
  • Saving the scan to your computer in the desired file format

We’ll cover each of these steps in more detail throughout the guide. With a little setup time, you’ll have an efficient system for digitizing paperwork, photos, and other documents.

Benefits of Scanning to Your Computer

There are many good reasons to scan items rather than simply taking photos or making photocopies:

  • Preserves originals – You can store original documents and photos safely after scanning.
  • Digital copies are easier to organize – Name and save files logically on your computer.
  • Digital copies take up less space – Storing scans electronically saves physical storage room.
  • Ability to search scans – You can easily search text content in scanned documents.
  • Portability – Digital copies can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Enhances sharing – Send scans easily via email or cloud storage links.
  • Better for detailed editing – You can OCR and edit scans more easily than physical copies.
  • Environmental benefits – Reduces unnecessary printing and photocopying.

Now let’s go over proper scanner setup and configuration.

Step 1: Install Software and Drivers

The first step is to install the scanner software and drivers that allow your computer to communicate with your printer’s scanner. Here’s an overview of this process:

  1. Check your printer manual or manufacturer website to download the proper scanner software and drivers for your model. These provide the critical interface between scanner and computer.
  2. Open the downloaded software file and work through the installation wizard prompts. This will copy the necessary scanner interface programs to your operating system.
  3. Depending on your printer and OS, you may also need to install additional scanner drivers manually from the printer properties or devices control panel in your operating system. These drivers allow finely customized control over scanning options.
  4. Once the scanner software and drivers are fully installed, restart your computer if prompted to ensure proper integration.

Following manufacturer directions closely for finding, downloading, installing and configuring the scanner software is crucial for establishing a usable scanning system. If you run into trouble, check your printer manual troubleshooting section or contact customer support.

Step 2: Connect Printer to Computer

Before you can perform scans, your printer must have two-way communication established with your computer. Here is an overview of key connection methods:

  • USB – This direct wired connection between printer USB port and computer USB port is quick, simple and reliable. Ensure the USB cable is securely inserted at both ends.
  • Wi-Fi – For wireless connection, connect your Wi-Fi enabled printer to your local network through your router settings. Your computer can then communicate over this wireless connection.
  • Ethernet – Alternatively, connect your printer directly to your computer’s Ethernet network port via Ethernet cable for wired LAN communication between devices.
  • Bluetooth – If your devices support Bluetooth, you can pair your printer and computer to create a direct peer-to-peer connection.

If connecting wirelessly or via Ethernet, check that your printer successfully joins the network by printing a network status report. Also check that your computer lists the printer as an available device.

Once connected, print a test page to confirm two-way communication between your computer and printer for scanning.

Step 3. Configure Scanner Settings

With your scanning software installed and printer connected, you’ll next need to configure your scanner settings and options. Here are some key preferences to check:

  • Select scanner source – Choose your connected printer’s scanner as the image input source within your scanning or imaging software. This sets it as the default scanning device.
  • Resolution – Higher resolution means sharper, more detailed scans. But larger file sizes too. Set an appropriate default resolution like 300 dpi for documents or 600+ dpi for photos depending on your scanning needs.
  • Color mode – Choose black and white mode for simple text documents or grayscale/color for more complex documents with images or photos. This affects scan file size and reproduceability.
  • Format – Select a default file format like JPEG for photos and PNG or PDF for most documents and forms. More on file formats shortly.
  • Scan area – Configure or preview your scanner’s surface area to set appropriate default page sizes for scans.Letter size is common for documents while photos come in various common print sizes.

Tweak other available settings to establish preferences for your most frequent scan types.Having these defaults configured upfront makes actually executing scans quicker down the road.

Step 4. Place Item on Scanner

With software installed and device settings configured, you’re ready to perform actual scans:

  1. Raise your printer scanner lid or open scanner access door / tray.
  2. Place the document, photo or other item face down on the glass scanning surface. Align it squarely and evenly within boundaries.
  3. Gently close the scanner lid without shifting item placement.

Having the item perfectly straight and centered optimizes scan quality. Ensure there are no folds, wrinkles or curvature that could interfere with the scanning light sweep.

For documents over 1 pages, you may need scan one page at a time depending on your scanner surface size. Or use special document feeder mechanisms some scanners support.

Step 5. Initialize Scan Process

The final step is simple – initiate the actual scan process using your scanning software!

  • Within Windows, MacOS or other OS imaging programs, click the Scan button or start icon.
  • Alternatively, many printer control panels have onboard Scan buttons to start scans directly.

In most software, you’ll be prompted to confirm your desired scan settings like output format, file name, destination folder to save into, etc. Make selections to override any defaults if needed, then finalize the scan initialization.

The printer scanner light assembly will sweep below the scanning surface, digitizing the physical item into an image file. You’ll then find this scan file saved on your computer for convenient access going forward.

Scanning Software, File Formats and Compression

Now that you understand the basic scanning process, let’s dig a little deeper into recommended software, output file formats, and compression:


Your printer manufacturer will generally recommend using its own branded scanning utility for best compatibility. However, the native scanning and imaging tools in operating systems like Windows, MacOS and Linux often work very well too.

Third party scanning tools like VueScan also provide enhanced options. It really comes down to personal preferences – test different options to see which scanning software interface you find most intuitive.

File Formats

You’ll want to choose an appropriate output file format depending on your target use for scans:

  • JPEG – This is a great general purpose image format suitable for most photo scans. JPEG uses lossy compression to achieve smaller files sizes, with some tradeoff in quality at high compression.
  • PNG – PNG is better than JPEG for document scans with fine text and drawings. Its lossless compression preserves all detail accurately. Great for forms, notes, signage, etc.
  • PDF – The PDF format stores perfect digital replicas of documents or forms, with selectable compression levels. It also supports scanned text search and selection. PDF is versatile for many document scanning purposes.
  • TIFF – TIFF outputs lossless, uncompressed image files. This results in maximum preserveability for archival purposes, but very large file sizes relative to compressed formats.
  • JPEG 2000 – JPEG 2000 is a newer format with advanced “wavelet” based compression abilities for photos and complex documents. It features multiple tunable compression tiers for balancing quality and size.

We’d recommend JPEG for photos, PNG for simpler documents, and PDF for important documents or forms by default. But do choose the format that best aligns with your specific scanning needs.


Within JPEG and PDF formats, you’ll be able to configure varying levels of compression. Higher compression leads to smaller files sizes, but some gradual quality loss depending on complexity of images:

  • For JPEG files, aim for 80-90% quality levels for good balance. Digital photos can handle more compression than scanned docs in most cases.
  • PDF quality is measured on a scale of 0 – low (high compression) up to 9 – high (low compression). Start around level 7 quality; if files get too large with complex scans then decrease level.

Test different compression levels while scanning representative documents to settle on optimal settings for your needs and scanner capabilities.

That covers the essentials for configuring your scanner software for productive scanning to your desktop or laptop!

Key Takeaways for Scanning from Printer to Computer

  • Install scanner software and drivers first for system compatibility
  • Connect printer to computer via USB, Wi-Fi or Ethernet communication
  • In scanning program preferences, set resolution, color mode, file format, scan area
  • Lift scanner lid, align item squarely on scanning surface, gently close lid
  • Initiate scan choosing appropriate format and compression
  • JPEG for photos; PNG for simple docs; PDF for complex forms
  • Lossless compression preserves all quality – lossy compression makes smaller files
  • Scan directly or use OS imaging tools like Windows Fax & Scan or Mac Image Capture


After following this complete guide, you should now feel equipped to handle all aspects of scanning hard copy documents, photos and more from your printer directly into digital files on your computer.

Taking time to properly install scanner drivers, configure your scanning software fully, and selecting optimal output options will lead to satisfying scan results. Test compression levels to find ideal balance of quality vs file size for your various scanning purposes.

With a refined scanning process, you can backup and digitize old printed photos for enhanced preservation, declutter by reducing paper document storage needs, and eliminate the hassles of faxing or photocopying important forms to share. As you being scanning more frequently, your customized scanner settings will save repetitive steps for each job.

Now put your new scanning know-how into action – fire up that printer scanner and start digitizing today! Having quick access to electronic copies of your documents brings time-saving convenience and practical benefits to home office and personal needs alike.

FAQs: Scanner to Computer Processes

Why does my scanner not communicate properly with my computer?

This is likely an issue of missing scanner drivers or software. Uninstall/reinstall your scanner software package completely to fully integrate it with your OS. Consult printer support resources for proper driver installation assistance.

Do I need an internet connection to scan from my printer?

No internet is required – scanning leverages your local connection between printer and computer only. Wireless internet is only needed indirectly for downloading scanner driver updates.

Can I edit scans after saving to my computer?

Yes, one advantage of scanning over photocopying is the ability to digitally edit your scans. Use any image editing software to alter scans like photos. Use OCR tools to make typed or handwritten text in documents selectable and editable on your computer too.

Does scanning quality depend on printer or computer hardware ?

It can. Scanner resolution and color capabilities determine fundamental scan quality capabilities. Some scanners do better with photos vs text documents. Your computer’s processor speed, disk speed and available memory can affect scanning speeds or ability to handle very high resolution scans. Balanced modern printer and computer specs work best.

Why are my scans saving only in black and white when I want color or grayscale?

Check your scanner software preferences to confirm color mode is NOT set to black and white only. Also try cleaning scanner glass, refreshing calibration and checking that your original has color actually (not just faded black ink).

How can I scan both sides of pages through my single-sided home scanner?

Consult your printer manual – many support auto document feeding mechanisms to flip pages after scanning side one. Alternatively you may be able to enable a setting to manually prompt for second sides. Otherwise you’ll need scan odd pages in one batch, flip and reload pages to scan evens.

What resolution should I scan photos at?

For decent photo printing quality aim for 300 to 600 dpi. Default scanner software settings for photos are often in this range. Higher resolution means larger files with diminishing visible improvements – find the balance suitable to your photo scan output needs.

Can I improve the quality of old faded photos when scanning?

Yes, most scanning software includes image correction filters and editing tools for restoring color, reducing blemishes and enhancing faded photos during or after scanning them. This can hugely improve scan digital copies of aged printed originals.

How can I reduce large scan file sizes for email sharing?

Use JPEG format for photos rather than TIFF to enable compression – aim for 80% quality level. Lower resolution can help too but reduces detail. For document scans, choose a lower PDF quality level around 5-7 rather than max 9 to apply compression. Or consider converting very large scans to multi-page PDFs.

Is scanning over Wi-Fi slower than USB?

In most cases direct USB connection provides faster data transfer speeds than wireless printing. But modern Wi-Fi routers keep this difference minimal in small home offices. If many large high resolution scans are slowing down, switch to USB cable or boost your router capacity.

Can I improve scan speeds for very long documents?

Some all-in-one printers have auto document feeder mechanisms on top for rapid sequence scanning without pausing. Otherwise for manual glass bed scanning, aim to only scan 5-10 pages per batch to avoid data congestion issues slowing transfer or crashing scanning software.

How do I delete scans from computer after saving from my printer scan?

Locate the scan files in your Pictures/My Scans folder or custom save location. Right click each scan file, choose Delete, then confirm file deletion. Empty the folder recycle bin to completely remove. Follow this process to manually clear unneeded scan files over time.

Should I subscribe to my printer manufacturer cloud scan services?

Paid cloud scanning storage subscription services now exist with many printer brands to automatically upload scans from your printer to online accounts. Evaluate costs vs benefits for your frequency and typical scan uses. Local storage may still be preferable unless advanced scan share collaboration features are critical.

Can I improve my home office workflow using scan-to-email functions?

Yes, definitely take advantage of scan-to-email capabilities common on modern connected printers. Set up address book contacts once. Then scanning any physical document to directly email digital copies to others saves huge time versus traditional mailing hard copies around offices.

What scanner settings should I use to optimize digitizing my filing cabinets of old documents?

For mass document digitization projects, use black & white mode, lower 200-300dpi resolution and PDF format. Focus on legibility rather than retention of subtle tones or high faithful detail. Pick level 7-8 PDF quality compression to optimize reasonably small file sizes without losing critical visibility.

Can I network connect two computers to the same scanner?

In most home or small offices, connecting your scanner directly via USB to the primary desktop PC is recommended. But for advanced users, it is possible to attach a scanner locally to one networked computer then configure scanner sharing to allow a second connected computer to access that scanner as a remote device by authenticating through the network.

How should I name my scanner files for better organization?

Leverage your scanning software’s prompts for custom file names on saving. Use naming prefixes related to project, document type or date as the scan is saved. Avoid excessively long or complex names. Then organize scans into logically named folders by topic or month batches. Applying tag keywords further helps surface document scans when searching later.


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