How to Share a Printer Between Two Computers?

Sharing a printer between two computers in your home or office allows both devices to access the printer over the same network, eliminating the need for two separate printers. Printer sharing saves money and desk space by enabling two or more computers to utilize the same physical printer.

How to Share a Printer Between Two Computers?

Benefits of Sharing a Printer

Setting up printer sharing provides several valuable benefits:

  • Cost savings – Avoid purchasing multiple printers for use with separate devices. Sharing one printer is more economical.
  • Convenience – Send print jobs and access the same printer from different rooms without cables stretching across long distances.
  • Flexibility – Share specialty printers like photo printers between computers as needed instead of buying multiple expensive devices.

Methods for Connecting a Shared Printer

There are two main methods to choose from for setting up a shared printer on Windows – using a physical USB connection with printer sharing software, or connecting wirelessly over a home WiFi network.

USB Printer Sharing

To share a USB printer between a desktop and a laptop, you will need:

  • The USB printer
  • USB printer sharing software on both computers
  • USB printer cables

With a program like PrinterShare running on both the host and client computer, multiple PCs can utilize a printer plugged into the host over USB. This allows you to share a single device without relying on WiFi connectivity.

Wireless Network Printer Sharing

Modern routers allow devices on the same WiFi network to access a shared network printer easily. Benefits of wireless sharing include:

  • No cables required to connect devices
  • Share between computers in different rooms or floors
  • Supports multifunction printers with scanning, faxing, etc over the network

Key Requirements:

  • The printer must connect to the WiFi network via Ethernet or wireless capabilities
  • All devices need to connect to the same wireless network through a router
  • Network discovery or printer sharing features must be enabled on Windows computers

For home networks, installing the printer software on each computer may be required for full functionality. Access privileges can also be set to limit or allow access in public/business network scenarios.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Share a Printer in Windows 10

Follow these instructions to quickly share a USB or wireless network printer between two Windows 10 computers:

1. Set Up the Shared Printer

First, get your printer functioning properly on the host Windows 10 computer before attempting to share it.

  • For USB printers– connect the printer directly to your Windows 10 computer via USB cable and install any required hardware/software drivers.
  • For network printers– connect and set up the printer to your WiFi router by Ethernet or wirelessly by reviewing your printer manufacturer’s software instructions. Connect both the host computer and second computer to the same router network.

2. Designate Printer Sharing Settings

Now you can enable sharing capabilities:

  1. Open Windows 10 Settings
  2. Click Devices then select Printers & scanners
  3. Click your printer under Printers & scanners
  4. Toggle sharing to On to enable it for sharing
  5. Under sharing settings, take note of the Name assigned to your printer on this network

Repeat this process for any other Windows devices on which you want to set up shared printer access. Give the printer the same custom name if asked to make it easier to identify across devices.

3. Access the Shared Printer from Another Computer

With printer sharing enabled, you can now detect and use the shared printer from another Windows 10 computer on the same network.

  1. Go to Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners on the second device
  2. Click Add a printer or scanner to open the printer search menu
  3. Click the shared printer shown under Other devices near the bottom of the list
  4. Select it to install the shared printer driver software/settings

After a few moments, shared printer should appear under Printers & scanners alongside any local printers. Test printing to ensure proper functionality. Enable background printing as well if desired.

Tips for Sharing Printers

Follow these tips for maintaining efficiency and usability when sharing printers between computers:

  • Give the shared printer a descriptive name easy to identify across computers
  • Position wireless routers centrally between devices for best connectivity
  • For wireless networks, test speeds to ensure good WiFi coverage in all usage areas
  • Shared printers may have some mild degradation in responsiveness
  • Upgrade routers if speed is consistently poor in high activity environments
  • Windows includes basic print management utilities for viewing printer use
  • Limit wireless interference by keeping other 2.4 GHz devices away from the router location

Key Takeaway – Sharing printers is a simple process requiring just a few configuration steps and software variances between USB and wireless setup. But with both connection methods in Windows 10, you can easily centralize printing functionality to maximize accessibility with a single device across multiple rooms and computers. Read on for additional details on troubleshooting, security, purchasing recommendations, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Troubleshooting Shared Printer Connections

Issues will commonly occur during initial device setup or if network disruptions take place. Review these troubleshooting tips if you are having problems with a shared printer connection in Windows 10:

  • Use the Windows network diagnostics troubleshooter to automatically detect issues
  • On wireless networks, ensure the router and printer remain powered on
  • Check that paper levels are adequate if the device lacks paper and cannot print
  • Clear print queue jams in Windows for the shared printer if jobs are stalled
  • Disable then re-enable sharing settings for printer access problems
  • For connectivity issues, move computers and the printer closer together for testing
  • Ensure all devices remain on the same network with valid IP addresses
  • Disable firewall and security tools temporarily to isolate software conflicts
  • Check for driver updates or reinstall printer software as needed

Minor tweaks to your network configuration, device positions, or router settings can often resolve most persistent sharing problems.

Security Concerns with Network Printer Sharing

While offering greater efficiency, wireless printers shared over WiFi networks also present potential security risks – especially in business environments. Without adequate protections, outsiders could exploit this access point in your network defenses.

To keep valuable data and network resources protected, consider these deployed safeguards for publicly shared printers:

  • Isolate shared printers from other critical servers/workstations using VLANs
  • Employ mac filtering to limit network access by device IP/MAC addresses
  • Enable robust WPA2 encryption and strong password rules on the wireless router
  • Use a firewall to block unwanted incoming traffic from WAN sources
  • Disable unused network protocols like FTP/Telnet/SNMP if unused
  • Create user groups in Active Directory and assign granular printer permissions for access
  • Setup print auditing to monitor excessive use or suspicious jobs
  • Always install the latest firmware updates for printers and routers

By taking appropriate steps tailored to your environment, home consumers and businesses alike can deter outside hacking attempts and reduce opportunities for printers to be exploited by intruders through sharing.

Buying Considerations for Shared Printers

If purchasing a new printer intended specifically for multi-computer functionality, look for models designed with sharing in mind. Ideal shared printer features include:

  • Wireless networking already built-in for WiFi connectivity
  • Auto-duplexing to print double-sided pages more efficiently
  • Expandable paper trays to manage higher activity use
  • Large ink/toner supplies to avoid constantly replacing
  • Security features like PIN codes or badge release mechanisms
  • Centralized administration tools for applying usage restrictions
  • Support for various mobile printing protocols
  • High maximum monthly duty cycle ratings

Investing in a printer with built-for-sharing engineering, robust printing capacity, and wireless capabilities will deliver better long term results and easier interfacing with multiple devices.

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Is a dedicated print server required for sharing printers?
    No, standalone servers are optional. Windows 10 has integrated printer sharing protocols that allow direct connections. 
  2. Can I share a printer connected by USB?
    Yes, USB printers can also be shared by installing virtual printer port software to interface locally over the network. 
  3. Do all devices need the printer software and drivers installed?
    Usually the host computer only needs the local printer software. Other devices primarily just interface through network connections. 
  4. Does WiFi printing reduce speed?
    Potentially yes – connect via wired Ethernet whenever possible for fastest reliability, if the printer supports it. 
  5. Why does my shared printer disconnect intermittently?
    Constant disconnections usually indicate poor router signal coverage. Move the printer physically closer to the WiFi router if possible to maintain a strong connection. 
  6. Can I share a printer connected to my desktop with my laptop?
    Yes, this printer sharing setup between two Windows 10 computers works perfectly fine. Enable sharing on the desktop hosting the locally-connected printer. 
  7. I enabled sharing but still cannot detect the printer from other devices?
    Several common problems can prevent visibility – ensure all devices are on the same network subnet, check the device’s firewall service, and confirm discovery/sharing protocols are active in Windows. 
  8. Does printer sharing reduce speed?
    Potentially. Connected over wireless connections, multiple devices demanding jobs may slow printing times slightly. Reduce timeouts, enable background printing, or connect locally via USB instead of WiFi. 
  9. Can iOS and Android phones access a shared Windows printer?
    Setting up mobile phone printing varies by model. Some printers offer dedicated apps or network printing standards compatible with phones. AirPrint, Mopria etc enable sending print jobs wirelessly. 
  10. Where can I manage permissions for the shared printer?
    In Windows, navigate to Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners and select the shared printer. Here you can view users, set permissions, allow/deny access, and enable administrator privileges. 
  11. Why does my shared printer show offline?
    A printer status showing offline usually indicates network connectivity issues. On wireless models, ensure the router signal coverage extends properly to the printer’s installed location – otherwise reconnect/relocate as needed. 
  12. Can I plug a shared network printer into an Ethernet wall outlet?
    Yes, network printers with onboard Ethernet ports are often designed to be plugged directly into open wall outlets connected back to centralized network switches or routers. 
  13. What is the maximum number of users that can share a printer?
    Most consumer models support 5-10 devices depending on hardware memory allocations. Some business printers boast 50+ device capacity. Overall Windows printer sharing protocol technically supports hundreds simultaneously. 
  14. Is printer sharing bad for security?
    Network-exposed devices always increase attack surfaces. Use wireless router security protections, create user groups with strict printer permissions, disable unused services, and consider placing shared printers on isolated network VLANs or subnets if security is a concern. 
  15. Can I remotely access my home computer’s shared printer while away?
    Yes, using a VPN service will tunnel your remote connection directly into the home network – allowing you to connect to a shared printer hosted on a home computer as if locally accessing it directly from home while traveling or working remotely. 
  16. How can I monitor jobs on a shared network printer?
    The Print Management console built into Windows provides visibility into all printer activity – both local and shared network devices. Here you can view current jobs, create quotas, apply Administrator permissions, and delete problem documents which become stalled. 
  17. Why does my shared printer lag over WiFi with multiple users?
    Excessive demands from many wireless devices can congest router capacity – causing delayed printing times. For best performance minimize radio interference by moving other wireless electronics away from your router, or upgrade to a high-powered dual-band WiFi router model to expand bandwidth. 
  18. Can I connect a shared printer to my guest WiFi network?
    Yes, connect the printer to the guest WiFi SSID instead of your private home network. This keeps the device accessible but on an isolated network segment through the router away from other sensitive devices, while still allowing guest sharing privileges. 
  19. What permissions do I need to setup sharing on Windows 10?
    Printer configuration requires Administrator privileges typically. However for general use, standard user accounts can still access a shared network printer – provided the Admin enables network discovery and sharing rights are granted explicitly. 
  20. How many shared printers can I enable in Windows 10?
    There is no pre-defined limit to the number of network printers you can make available from Windows desktops or devices. Limited only by hardware resources like router capacity, WiFi congestion, etc – feel free to share dozens of printers if the networking environment supports reliable connectivity at that scale. 

Conclusion

In closing, establishing printer access between multiple computers offers simpler management by consolidating devices down to specialized models with enhanced features. Savvy home users can economize further through buying multifunction printers for copying, scanning, faxing etc while small businesses maintain leaner budgets reducing redundancies. Configuring sharing requires just a few basic software configuration steps differencing the connections like USB or wireless. However, both setup processes integrate seamlessly once applied – granting all Windows 10 computers on that network reliable access. Revisit the instructions in this guide whenever adding another employee computer or wireless gadget to quickly extend printing functionality remotely to any authorized person that needs it.

 

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