Network Printer Tips and Tricks

Quickly installing shared printers in Windows

When adding or installing a network printer to Windows, you may not have to go through the Add a printer wizard. To save some time—and clicks of the mouse—perhaps first try adding the printer via browsing the Network.

Simply open Computer or Network, browse the Network, find the computer sharing the printer or the shared printer itself, and right-click the printer and select Connect. Windows will then attempt to install the printer.

Figure 1: Right-clicking a printer in the Network is an easy way to install it in Windows.

Adding a network printer as a local printer in Windows

If you run into issues adding a network printer, you can actually try adding it as a Local Printer in Windows. You just need to know the IP address or UNC name that’s assigned to the printer. One of multiple ways to get the IP or UNC name is to access the controls on the printer itself if it has a display screen: go into the network settings and you can usually print a network or wireless status page, which typically includes the addressing details on the network.

Here’s how to add the printer in Windows:

  1. Open the “Devices and Printers” window, either from the Start menu shortcut in Windows 7 or by searching from the Start screen in Windows 8.
  2. Click “Add a Printer” on the top toolbar.
  3. Select “Add a local printer”.
  4. Select “Create a new port”, select “Local Port” for the Port Type, and click Next.

Figure 2: Adding a network printer as a local printer is possible when creating a port with the printers IP address or UNC name.

  1. For Port Name, enter the network path to the printer by typing two slashes and then the UNC name or IP address of the network printer: “\\hpprinter” or “\\” If the printer isn’t connected directly to the network (for instance shared via a computer or print server) then you’d enter the UNC name or IP of the computer or server first and then the UNC name of the printer: “\\dellpc\hpprinter” or “\\\hpprinter”.
  2. Select the printer and click Next. If the exact model isn’t listed, try the closest model number or a generic printer.
  3. Follow the rest of the wizard to finish adding the printer and then test it out.

Utilizing location-aware printing of Windows

If you use your laptop on different multiple networks, location-aware printing can be a great timesaving feature. It allows you to specify a default printer for each network and then automatically changes between them based upon the network you are currently connected to. So if you take your laptop home it will use your default home printer, while using the default printer at work when connected there. This is even better if you visit multiple sites for work; you can configure each with the desired default printer.

Keep in mind, the native location-aware printing in Windows 7 is only available in the Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise editions. For Windows 8, the native location-aware printing is supported in the Pro and Enterprise editions. Additionally, location-aware printing is only supported for laptops and portable computers that use a battery. It’s not supported even in these editions when Windows is installed on a desktop.

As you’ll see in the next section, you can also get location-aware printing via third-party software if you aren’t running a professional edition of Windows.

Here’s how to get started using location-aware printing on your laptop, using a supported Windows 7 or 8 edition:

  1. Open the “Devices and Printers” window, either from the Start menu shortcut in Windows 7 or by searching from the Start screen in Windows 8.
  2. Select any printer and then click the “Manage default printers” button on the top toolbar.

Figure 3: The configuration of the location-aware printing in Windows is simple and straightforward as you see from the GUI.

  1. Select “Change my default printer when I change networks”
  2. Now for each network, choose the network name from the “Select network” list and then specify the desired default printer from the “Select printer” list, and click the Update or Add button.

If you don’t see the “Manage default printers” button on the top toolbar of the “Devices and Printers” window, ensure you’re using a laptop or portable computer with a supported edition of Windows 7 or 8. If you’re still having issues, ensure both the “Network Location Awareness” and “Network List” Windows services are enabled and running.

Using a third-party utility for location-aware printing

Some utilities designed for managing general network or IP configurations across multiple networks also support management of default printers. Perhaps check out Free IP Switcher or NetSetMan for other network configuration needs, such as changing static IP or DNS addresses, in addition to the printer management.

Printing from smartphones and tablets

It’s possible to print from smartphones and tablets, though the process of configuring the printers on the mobile devices varies.

For sending print jobs from Apple iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) it’s easiest when using an AirPrint capable printer. However, you can also use third-party apps on the device to printer to virtually any printer regardless if it’s not Apple friendly.

For printing on Android phones or tablets, consider using Google Cloud Print. Some device manufactures and most printer manufactures also have their own printing functionality as well, usually powered by using their app.

Keep in mind, many mobile printing apps and solutions also support printing via the Internet. Thus you can be out and about and iniate a print job when connected to another Wi-Fi network or the 4G mobile Internet. Simply hit print and later grab the copy when you get back to home or work.


Remember, when configuring Windows with a network printer you may try adding via a simple right-click of the printer in the Network instead of following the Add a Printer wizard. If you run into issues installing network printers, try adding it as a local printer but with a new local port pointing to the UNC path of the printer.

Remember, even if you’re using a Home edition of Windows, you can still get location-aware printing via third-party utilities.

For mobile printing from smartphones and tablets, check the printer and phone for vendor specific solutions or find a third-party app that supports your printer.

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