How to install a wireless printer

How to install a wireless printer

Setting up a printer to share over Wi-Fi isn't difficult, but it does require some preparation

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Wireless printers are increasingly popular, because such printers are easy to share and can reside just about anywhere you wish, within reach of the Wi-Fi signal, of course. The vast majority of wireless printer installations will run smoothly if you are armed with the details of your wireless network, and if you follow the printer's installation procedure attentively. If the process stalls, however, we have some tips for getting back onto the right track.

Prep Work

Assuming that your network is up and running, the two pieces of information that you must have before you start installing a printer are the name or SSID, of your network, and the password if the network is secured (as most are). If you need help with finding these items, see "Tracking Down Your SSID and Password" below.


You may have to place the printer temporarily near a PC that's already part of your network, so that you can attach it via a USB cable for software installation.

Longer term, your placement options are far more flexible, with these caveats: Place the printer within range of the wireless router or repeater. Any large metal objects, including building elements such as girders and even screen doors or windows, will interfere with the wireless signal. Even too many closed doors or walls will degrade the signal. If your wireless signal is weak or intermittent, move the printer closer to your wireless router and avoid obstructions.

Automated Installation (More or Less)

Printers with LCD control panels usually let you configure the wireless connection directly from them. The printer will detect networks within range; you then select your network and enter the password, and you're good to go.

You may also enter the network information during the traditional, CD-based automated installation. If you attach the printer to the router via ethernet, you can configure the wireless using a Web browser.

Manual Installation: Tips for Success

Normally, your printer's installation software will take care of the IP address and firewall settings. However, if you have to install a printer manually, here's what you need to know.

Setting the IP address: Each network resource, such as a storage device or a printer, has an IP address, a group of four numbers of one to three digits (for instance, 192.168.1.120). By default, your router (or server) generally assigns IP addresses by DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). The addresses may stay the same, but if your network uses DHCP, they might be reassigned when you attach new devices to the network. In most cases, if your printer's IP address changes, your network will lose track of the printer and you won't be able to print.

How to install a wireless printerYou have two ways to ensure that your printer (or any other device) always gets the same IP address. The first is to assign a static IP address via the printer's control panel or Web-based configuration pages. Try to assign an address that's well below or above the range of addresses that your router is using for DHCP. You may have to limit the range. Note the static IP address for future reference, as you will no longer find it in the DHCP table.

Some routers (and all servers) let you reserve the IP address for the printer based on its MAC address (Media Access Code), a string of hexadecimal numbers unique to each network device. You may find the MAC address in the router's DHCP table, in the printer's system menu, or on the device itself; check for a label that may also include the product's serial number and other identifiers. The advantage to this approach is that you can see the IP address of the printer when you view the DHCP table.

Adjusting your firewall security setting: If a firewall's security is set too high, it may prevent your printer from talking to your router or PC. Disable the firewall to see if it's the problem. If it is, try adjusting its security settings to a lower level.

Checking the wireless security protocol: Your router's security protocol could be the old-fashioned WEP (Wireless Ethernet Protocol), the newer WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), or one of a few other flavors and versions. If the printer installation routine asks for the wireless security type, you will need to look it up on your router's configuration pages or in your router's documentation.

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