Make Any Printer a Wireless Printer

Your current printer is perfect: it produces sharp text for documents, and vivid colors for photos. Your only gripe is that it does not come with built-in Wi-Fi, so there appears to be no way you can do wireless printing. But with a little ingenuity and the right gear, there are a few ways to accomplish just that.

Share the Printer

For this method to work, you first need to have a computer that’s connected wirelessly over the local network. Next, connect the printer to your computer using a USB cable, and install the printer driver if you’ve not already done so.
Your next step involves enabling printer sharing on the “host” computer. On Windows 7, under Devices and Printers, locate your printer. Right click on it to open the context menu, and choose Printer properties. Under the Sharing tab, tick the checkbox to allow sharing of the printer, and give it a name.

To see this printer on another Windows 7 machine, go to the Devices and Printers panel to add a printer. You can have the OS search for the printer; but since you know the name of the printer, you can enter that directly (the string goes something like \\computername\ printername). Remember to also turn on the file and printer sharing option (under Network and Sharing Center > Advanced sharing settings).The steps are similar for Windows XP and Vista, if you’re on a Mac, just go to System Preferences, select Print & Fax, choose the printer, and choose the option to share the printer on the network. Also turn on Printer Sharing under the Sharing Menu inside System Preferences.

The downside of using this method is that the host computer needs to be switched on and connected to the network whenever you want to print from another computer.

Use the Network Port

You can bypass the host computer method described above if your printer comes with a network port. Simply plug one end of the Ethernet cable to the network port on the printer, and the other end to one of the LAN ports on your wireless router.

What follows may require a quick dive into your router’s user manual, because you now need to fire up the router’s software (or browser interface) to add the printer to the network. To avoid any conflicts, we recommend reserving an IP address for the printer.

On the computer side of things, you may need to reinstall the printer software and tell it that you want to use the printer over the network, if not, it may still think that it’s connected via USB.

Use a Print Server

Some newer wireless routers come with onboard USB ports that allow you to connect and share USB devices such as external hard drives and printers over the local network. In the case of a printer, you’re effectively using the router as a print server. D-Link calls its implementation SharePort, and Netgear calls its ReadyShare.

If your router doesn’t have a USB port that can do the above, then you can consider getting an actual print server. It usually has multiple USB ports so that you can connect more than one printer to it. For the office, this is particularly useful for sharing several multifunction printers.

Our recommendation is to get a wireless print server for freedom of placement. Typically, the Ethernet cable is used only during initial setup. Once the wireless configuration is done, the printer server is able to communicate to your router wirelessly. In other words, you can now have the router and the print server (connected to the printers via USB) located in different corners of the room.

Go Bluetooth

Who says wireless printing can only be done over a wireless LAN? You can accomplish that too using Bluetooth technology. With Bluetooth, there’s no complicated network setup to worry about, and certainly no cables to tangle with. You can even print from mobile devices such as laptops and mobile phones. This is excellent for mobile professionals who need to print on the move, say in their cars.

If you already have a printer, there’s a chance that its manufacturer has a Bluetooth wireless USB printer adapter that works with it. If that’s the case, your task is made much simpler. Just buy the dongle; connect it to the USB port on your printer; install the software that comes with it; turn on Bluetooth on your computer (via the Control Panel on a PC or System Preferences on a Mac); have it discover the dongle, and pair them up. And voila, you can now print wirelessly via Bluetooth.

It gets a little tricky if your printer’s maker doesn’t sell an adapter designed for the printer model you have. Your next best option is to find one from a third party, such as Belkin. Admittedly, due to the increased popularity of Wi-Fi printing, Bluetooth printing isn’t gaining many fans for the last couple of years. So getting a third party adapter that works for your printer today can be a challenge. The slower speed of Bluetooth and its limited range compared to Wi-Fi are a couple of things that you should also take note of.