The purpose of this lesson is to explain how to share your printer and external hard drives with other users on the network.
We’ll start by teaching you how to share a printer with your homegroup and then how to share it with a network. As you will see, the process is different and using Homegroup makes things easier and faster.
Then we will discuss how to share external hard drives with other users on the network, as well as with any partition on your Windows computer. As you’ll see, the process involves using advanced sharing, and you’ll put the knowledge you learned in Lesson 7 to good use.
Last but not least, we’ll talk a little about how a good router can help you share your printer and external hard drive with all the computers and devices that are part of your network.
But enough talk. Let’s start!
How to share your printer with your homegroup
Sharing a home printer with Homegroup is incredibly easy. On Windows 8.x, go to PC Settings and then Network > Homegroup. There you will find several switches for sharing with your homegroup.
Find the one called «Printers» and set it to «On».
Any printer connected to a computer or device running Windows 8.x is now available to other users in the homegroup.
In Windows 7, go to Control Panel and then to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center. In the column on the left, click HomeGroup.
In the HomeGroup window, check the Printers box and click Save Changes.
Any printer connected to a Windows 7 PC is now available to other users in the homegroup.
If you need a refresher on homegroup and how it can be used for network sharing, feel free to read Lesson 5.
How to share your printer with the network
If you have a network with operating systems other than Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, you can use a local printer using a different method so that the printer can be discovered by all computers on the network.
First, open the Control Panel and then go to Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers. Here you will find all external devices that are connected to your PC or Windows device. Things like webcams, keyboards, external hard drives, printers, etc.
Your local printer appears in the Printers section next to the virtual printers installed by the software on your PC or device.
Right-click or press and hold the printer you want to share with the network and select Print Options.
The Printer Properties window opens. Here you can set up all the important aspects of your printer as well as share it with the network.
Since we are interested in sharing it with other users on the network, please go to the «Sharing» tab. You are told that the printer will not be available when your computer is asleep or turned off. Also, if you use password-protected sharing (see Lesson 3 for a refresher), you are told that only users on your network with the username and password for that computer can print to it.
To share your printer, check the «Share this printer» box.
The printer will be shared using the default product name and version. You can customize its name by typing something else. You can also specify whether you want to display print jobs on client computers.
If this setting is enabled, all documents that will be printed are displayed on the computers that order the printing process. If this setting is disabled, documents are displayed on the computer to which the printer is connected.
We recommend that you enable this setting so that the computer’s performance is not affected by the computer that the printer is connected to every time you print.
To share the printer with the network, click OK.
Other computers can set up the printer you are sharing as a network printer and use it when they need to print something.
The problem with sharing local printers or why you should use wireless printers
Back in the Windows XP era, local printers were the norm in the consumer space. Only companies with large numbers of employees had network printers that entire offices could print to.
In recent years, wireless printers have become very affordable and commonplace. You can find many models at various prices at any decent computer store. We recommend that you purchase and install a wireless printer on your home network. This will help avoid many of the annoyances that often occur when using a local printer that is shared with a network.
- Computers on the network can view and use the shared printer only when both the printer and the computer to which it is connected are turned on.
- Installing a shared network printer involves more steps and is more error-prone than installing a modern wireless printer. You may run into issues with conflicting network sharing settings, permissions, and so on.
- The printing process is faster because it does not involve sending the data to another computer before printing it.
- Printing from local printers can only be done from computers on the network, not from tablets or smartphones.
To make your home networking experience as enjoyable as possible, get a wireless printer that you can afford that supports drivers for all operating systems on your network. Install it on each PC, Mac or other device individually, and then everyone can print without disturbing others and without using their computers or devices. Your network will also have one less cable.
If for some reason you don’t want to get a wireless printer, or just can’t afford one, you can connect a local printer to your router, as long as your router has a USB port and can act as a print server for your network. The setup differs from router to router, so we recommend that you refer to your router’s manual to learn how to set it up as a network print server.
More expensive printers also have an Ethernet port, and you can connect them directly to your router with a network cable and without configuring your router as a print server. Setting them up on every PC on your network is as easy as setting up wireless printers.
How to stop sharing a printer with a homegroup
The steps to follow when you want to stop sharing your printer with a homegroup are the same as when you start sharing.
On Windows 8.x, go to PC Settings and then Network > Homegroup. Set the «Printers» switch to the «Off» position.
All local printers connected to your computer or device are no longer available to the homegroup.
In Windows 7, go to Control Panel and then to Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center. In the «Network and Sharing Center», go to the column on the left and click on «HomeGroup».
In the HomeGroup window, uncheck Printers and click Save Changes.
All local printers connected to your PC are no longer shared with the homegroup.
How to stop sharing a printer with a network
The steps for when you no longer want to use the printer on the network are the same as when you use it. Follow the instructions in the How to Share Your Printer on the Network section earlier in this article. Then, in the Printer Properties window, go to the Sharing tab, uncheck «Share this printer» and click OK.
Your local printer is no longer available to other users on the network.
How to share partitions or external hard drives with a network
Sharing entire partitions or external hard drives with other users on the network is only possible through «Advanced Sharing». If you need a refresher on this concept, read Lesson 7. In this section, we won’t waste time explaining all of the available sharing options, and we’ll only walk you through the procedure that is used when sharing a drive.