Can anyone help me with printing over a wireless home network?

Here’s the situation:

We have a main desktop PC downstairs with a cable broadband connection.

My wife often works upstairs on her laptop, which is owned by the school where she teaches.

At the weekend I bought a wireless router. The desktop PC is connected to that, and the wireless network works fine - I can get online from my iPod Touch all round the house, and the laptop also picks up the network. So far so good.

The original idea was that my wife would also be able to access the internet from her laptop upstairs, but the school says that is strictly verboten and she must only access the internet via the school firewall. Fair enough, but she still wanted to be able to print from the laptop without carting it (or the printer) round the house.

Here’s where I earned my place in the doghouse: the work laptop is in a domain at the school. I wanted to add it to a workgroup at home. So I went into the settings, selected the workgroup, saw the warning on the screen about “this computer’s account on the domain will be deleted” yeah blah blah blah, and clicked OK anyway. Restarted the laptop and… oops. Locked out of the laptop. Get the administrator password and I can get on to the laptop, but my wife’s “school” folder, which gets synced with the school network, is not there. Ah - so that’s what it meant by “the account will be deleted”. :rolleyes:

Anyway, her school IT people will be sorting that out this week, but I need advice. As I have demonstrated above, I’m pretty clueless. So…

  1. To share a printer over a wireless network, do I need a wireless print server? Or can I have the printer directly connected to the main PC and access it that way? (I’m pretty sure the “Add Printer” dialogue has an option for "printer connected to another computer.)

  2. How can I add the laptop to the home workgroup without it being removed from the school domain?

  3. How long will it be before my wife finds it funny that I screwed up a whole weekend’s worth of her work?
    Edited to add: both PCs run Windows XP (the laptop is XP Professional)

My recommendation would be to go with a wireless print server. You could probably do the trick of sharing the printer on your other computer but this has the downsides 1) the other computer will have to be “on” all the time (all the time she may want to print), and 2) you will probably have to deal with the domain issue.

I got a wireless USB print server from Netgear:
and it works pretty well. Every once in a while it will lose the end of a document, but that is pretty infrequent. You can have multiple (USB) printers attached to the server, so she can access different printers. The (remote) printers appear/act as if they were attached to the computer/laptop - so no domain-networking issues to sort out.

I have encountered the domain/home use issue before, and I have it best not to mess with and to simply leave the laptop as it was originally set up. What I ended up doing to transfer files is I just ended up e-mailing them to myself (via an account that was accessible from both). Since it sounds like the school doesn’t want her accessing the internet without going through their firewall, it sounds like even this won’t be possible.

I have a similar setup - my work laptop is in my company domain, and my home computer is in its own workgroup. I have a printer connected to the home computer, and I print to it from either computer without changing domains or having a print server.

All you need to do is share the printer. On the computer with the printer attached, open the Printers and Faxes window, right-click the printer and select Sharing. Select “Share this printer” and enter a share name. Then click to the Security tab and grant access to Print to the appropriate user or group (as long as you have wireless security, you can probably get away with adding Everyone unless you are really concerned about someone doing rogue printing).

Now on the laptop, add a printer connected to another computer. If you put in the computer name and it can’t be found, you might have to use the IP address of the computer instead.

Good luck.

Depending on how the school’s VPN and remote access is set up, what you want to do will be anywhere from painfully hard to completely impossible.

If the school is willing to enable something called split tunneling on their VPN, it will be theoretically possible to have the laptop access the school’s network and also be able to see the printer on your local network. Lots of luck on this. The setup verges on voodoo, and most administrators won’t even waste their time to explain saying “No.”

The only practical anwer will be a printer plugged into her laptop. If she usually works from that upstairs location, it shouldn’t be too burdensome.

That seems to go against what TroutMan said.

To clarify - she doesn’t need to access the school network while at home. The laptop syncs with the school network while she is there, and any files in the shared area are copied over to the laptop so she can also access them at home when away from the network. Does that make sense?

TroutMan - do you have to add the laptop to the home workgroup in order to access the printer? I set the printer up as shared on the main PC but I couldn’t find it using Add Printer on the laptop, which is why I took the laptop off the domain. If I grant access to “everyone” on the printer would that get round the workgroup issue?

Oh one more thing - I seem to remember I couldn’t find the computer by name when going through Add Printer. You said I might need to enter the IP address rather than the computer name. Where do I find my main PC’s IP address?

I might have oversimplified things. I didn’t catch that there was a restriction that the laptop must go through the school firewall to connect to the internet. Depending on how that is configured, it might prevent you from seeing anything on your home workgroup.

See if you can ping your home computer from the laptop. Try first by name, then by IP. You can find the IP by right-clicking on the network connection (either in the Connections window or in the task bar if it’s shown there) and select Status, then click to the Support tab. Another way is type ipconfig from the command prompt.

Note that you probably have your home network set up with DHCP, which assigns IP addresses automatically. This means it can change, but if you turn the computer on at least once a day, it will *probably * keep the same IP. [If that becomes a problem, post another question about setting up a static IP.]

If you can’t ping the computer by either means, then gotpasswords is probably right that this is much more difficult. If you can ping it, then in the Add Printer dialog where you choose the printer, select “Connect to this printer” and enter the server name or IP address as \computerName or \ (for example). In the next page, you’ll be able to choose the specific printer. Searching for the computer name in the directory won’t work.

Thanks for your help.

When I said she can’t use the internet without going through the firewall, I meant she is not allowed to under the school policy, not that she physically can’t access it. She has asked and they say accessing a home network is fine, but no web surfing. I’ll have a play around with it in the week, once she’s got her laptop back (and if she’ll let me!)