How to Hook Two Computers to One Printer

Level of difficulty: Intermediate

Print sharing has become popular in many home networks primarily because it reduces the cost in implementing networking environments as well as maximizing the potential uses of network resources. The process of hooking two computers to a single printer is very much different from connecting two printers to a single computer because unlike computer systems, printing devices normally only have one communication port that can host a connection. To achieve the task of connecting two computers to a single printer, other devices would have to come into the picture to serve as the host for the printer and provide the underlying communication layer for all devices trying to make use of its printing functionality. The Operating System running on both machines that want to make use of the printing device must also support networking and printer sharing features in order to make this task feasible.

Materials Needed:
- Router
- Ethernet cable
- USB switch
- crossover cable
- network card
- print server
- Operating System that supports printer sharing
Step 1
One of the easiest options to share a printer on networked machines is to connect and install it in one of the machines. Simply click on the 'Start' button and choose the 'Control Panel' category.
Step 2
Select the 'Printer and Faxes' option and click on the 'Add a Printer' task. This will bring up the printer installation page. Make sure to install the printer hardware as a local printer. Follow the prompts to complete the installation process.
Step 3
When completely installed, click on the 'Start' button and select the 'Printer and Faxes' category. The icon for the newly installed printer should be there already. Right click on the icon and select sharing.
Step 4
Provide a shared name for the printing device and click on the 'OK' button.
Step 5
On the other computer, repeat Step 1 to Step 2 but this time, choose the network printer option. Type in the name of the printer and follow the prompts. Install the device driver when prompted to do so.
Step 6
A variation of this method which eliminates the use of a router device is to connect the two machines using a crossover cable. Simply insert one end into the NIC of the machine and repeat the process for the other computer.
Step 7
Both machines must be running at least Microsoft Windows XP to allow for the automatic detection of the network connection. This procedure basically functions the same way as a network environment but is limited to two machines and does not require a router.
Step 8
An alternative to this setup is to install a Print Server which will host the printer hardware and connect directly to the network router. In this method, simply connect the printer to the printer server.
Step 9
Proceed by connecting the print server to the network router which will allow the printer hardware to be detected in the network environment as a standalone device. To print using this method, simply use the IP address assigned to the printing device.
Step 10
Another possible solution is to use switching devices. These types of hardware became popular when printers were hosted using parallel and serial cable connections. For USB-based machines, a USB Switch box may be used. Connect the printer directly to the box using the USB cable.
Step 11
Connect the USB cable from each computer to the respective USB ports on the switching device. To use the printer for computer A, simply set the switch to A and do the same for B. In this method, no additional installation is required. All data switching and handling activities are done by the hardware switch.