Sharing a USB printer between two computers allows both systems to print to the same device without needing additional hardware. This convenient setup uses the host computer’s print sharing features to provide access over a local network. With just a few configuration steps, you can have a seamless printing experience from multiple computers.
Benefits of Sharing a USB Printer
Printer sharing provides several advantages:
- Saves money by avoiding purchase of extra hardware
- Conserves desk space instead of connecting two printers
- Utilizes existing USB printer for two computers
- Allows flexible printing access from both systems
Requirements for Sharing
To share your USB printer, you will need:
- A USB printer compatible with Windows, Mac or Linux
- Two computers on the same local network
- Print sharing enabled on the host computer
- Proper USB printer driver installed on both systems
Enabling Print Sharing on Windows
Windows contains built-in print sharing options under Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers:
- Right-click on the printer you want to share
- Select Printer Properties > Sharing tab
- Check Share this printer
- Enter a Share name for easy identification
- Click OK to save settings
You can also share a printer from the command line with net use and net share commands.
Configuring Print Sharing on Mac
On Mac OS:
- Open System Preferences > Printers & Scanners
- Select your USB printer and click Options & Supplies
- Go to the Sharing tab
- Check the Share this printer on the network option
- Give your printer a Shared name and optional Location
- Click OK to confirm
Use the cupsctl command in Terminal to modify additional sharing settings.
Locating Shared Printers on Windows and Mac
Once set up for sharing, the USB printer will appear under the network printers section:
- Windows: View shared printers under Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers > Add a printer
- Mac: Discover network printers in the Add menu while adding a new printer
Alternatively, enter the path in Windows (\\computer name\shared printer) or the SMB address on Mac (smb://computer_name/shared_printer) to connect.
Installing Printer Drivers
In order for both computers to fully access printing functionality:
- The necessary printer drivers must be installed on each system
- Download drivers from manufacturer website if not included
Follow prompts after locating shared printer to install drivers before printing. USB printer sharing will not work properly without the correct drivers set up on both computers.
Sharing USB printers over Wi-Fi requires a few additional steps but provides greater placement flexibility:
- Connect printer to wireless bridge or access point on host computer
- Configure adapter to distribute an internet connection
- Connect second computer to same wireless network
- Follow print sharing steps above on host device
- Locate shared printer on second computer from Wi-Fi network
This allows printer placement anywhere within wireless range instead of using USB cables.
Managing Shared USB Printing
To avoid issues when sharing, implement these print management guidelines:
- Schedule large print jobs so both computers do not access simultaneously
- Prioritize documents so important tasks print first
- Coordinate with other users before printing large projects
- Check supply status periodically to avoid shortages
- Restart systems if odd printing errors occur
Careful organization prevents problems with concurrent printing. Use built-in queue management options as well.
Troubleshooting Shared USB Printers
Some common sharing troubles:
|Access denied errors
|Temporarily disable firewalls/security suites, ensure file/print sharing enabled
|Check power and USB connections, reboot host computer
|Missing printer drivers
|Download and install latest printer drivers
|Documents fail to print
|Clear print queue then restart printer and computers
|Incorrect printer settings
|Modify options like paper size orientation on both systems
Rectify minor technical problems quickly with these targeted troubleshooting techniques.
Sharing a USB printer maximizes a single device so both computers can print conveniently. With print sharing enabled and the correct drivers installed, locate your printer on the network then optimize workflow with smart management. This affordable arrangement boosts productivity and accessibility without an external print server.
Setting up printer sharing only takes a few configuration adjustments. Transform an ordinary USB printer into a practical networked model to meet the printing needs of multiple computers simultaneously. Centralizing tasks to a shared device makes the most of existing equipment. Carefully structuring a print schedule also prevents conflicts so work flows smoothly. With the right setup, a basic USB printer can become a versatile printing solution for an entire home or small office.
Frequently Asked Questions About Sharing a USB Printer
- How do I check if a USB printer is compatible for sharing?
Most modern printers will have sharing capabilities through Windows, Mac or Linux settings. Consult printer manuals or manufacturer websites for compatibility.
- Can I share a wireless printer with USB?
No, a printer must connect directly via USB to share from the host computer. For wireless printers, enable Wi-Fi sharing options instead.
- Do both computers need the printer drivers installed?
Yes, the correct drivers ensure full print functionality from each connected computer.
- What is the easiest way to find a shared network printer?
Under Windows, view shared printers in Devices and Printers after enabling network discovery. On Mac, check the Add Printer menu.
- Why does my shared printer show an error?
Common sharing errors relate to security settings, drivers, or cable connections. See the troubleshooting section for resolving most issues.
- Can I share a printer connected to my desktop with my laptop?
Yes, laptops and desktops can share USB printers as long as they reside on the same local network. Enable print sharing on the host desktop system.
- How many computers can share a single USB printer?
Typically only 2-5 systems reliably share a printer directly attached via USB. Higher demands may require a dedicated external print server device.
- What is the best way to manage multiple print jobs?
Coordinate with other users, prioritize critical jobs, and schedule large batches for best multi-computer workflow. Enable print queue options as well.
- Does printer sharing work for any model or brand?
While most printers technically can share, some may have limited compatibility. Check manufacturer guidelines to ensure complete support.
- Can I access my share USB printer remotely?
Remote printer access requires an intermediary server connection using a VPN or remote desktop protocol. For direct remote USB printing, attach printer to a networked-enabled computer accessible through the internet.
- How can I increase my printer security when sharing?
Enable password authentication requirements for accessing the shared printer and only provide details to selected users. Restrict unused printing protocols as well under sharing preferences.
- What if only one computer shows the shared USB printer?
Ensure print sharing fully enabled on host system, verify the same workgroup and proper network discovery settings to locate shared devices on clients, then reboot.
- Is a USB printer hub required for sharing multiple devices?
No, connecting printers to a hub only allows a single host to access multiple USB devices directly. For true networked sharing, use ethernet or wireless adapters.
- Can I share a printer connected to my router USB port?
Yes, routers with USB ports act as basic print servers, allowing users on the same network to access an attached printer. Enable the print server settings.
- How do I resolve issues with incorrect characters printing?
This common problem relates to missing proper printer drivers installed. Download the exact driver matching your USB printer model and reinstall on both computers.
- Why does my Mac say the printer is in use when trying to share?
By default, Macs have a feature called printer proxy software that auto-converts documents. Disable this functionality under print settings when sharing USB printers directly.
- Can I share a printer with devices like tablets or phones?
Yes, items like tablets and phones can print to shared network printers as long as they connect to the same Wi-Fi network as your computers. Apps may require setup.
- Is a USB print server the same as a shared printer?
No. A printer plugged directly into a USB port utilizes the connected computer’s own sharing functions. USB print servers are external hardware devices for connecting USB printers.
- What troubleshooting should I try for unresponsive shared printers?
Start by checking USB and power connections, then reboot routers, host PCs, and the printer itself. Also uninstall/reinstall the USB printer drivers and double check sharing settings enabled.
- Why does my shared printer work then stop mid-print?
Intermittent failures while printing often stem from print spooler issues or network conflicts from multiple connections. Restart computer print spoolers and disable then re-enable print sharing.