Multifunction Printer and Wireless Print Server and more...

My dear brother was lamenting the other day how he and his wife rarely ever use their desktop computer anymore, but always use the laptop. The only issue is that they would like to be able to use the laptop to print, which they don’t do right now because their multifunction printer is connected directly to the desktop PC.

At first, I thought that a wireless print server would be the ultimate solution to this (and a good christmas present), because then he could print over the wireless connection, and scan using the desktop (I knew off the bat that the scanning functions could not be shared via the WPS).

Turns out, though, that’s not how it works. If you connect the printer to a wireless print server, you pretty much give up the other (non-standalone, such as copying) functions of the multifunction printer. Hell, with most of them, you even lose the ability for the printer to send info (such as low ink or paper out warnings) back over the wireless network.


Determined to come up with a solution to this, I thought, OK, well, he could simply unplug the printer from the WPS if he wanted to scan stuff…that would work, right? This has not been a recommended solution from the people I talked to.

(said people are the tech support dude at the local computer store and a couple other computer geek dudes here at work…they seem to think that this would be bad for the print server)

Now, I know my way around when it comes to computers, but not much about networking, so I am out of my element here. Is it a bad idea to unplug the printer from the WPS when scanning is wanted? Is this going to “burn it out” or something? Is the only solution for my brother to leave his desktop computer on all the time and simply share the printer functions over the wireless network?

thanks for the help from those with experience.

Unplugging the printer shouldn’t cause any harm if the WPS and printer are turned off. Should be safe, if turned on, assuming it’s a USB connection, but I can’t guarantee this.

FWIW, I’ve got a multifunction printer shared via an always-on desktop, and all that the wireless users can do with it is print. No scanning, faxing or using the camera memory card reader slots. The host PC can certainly communicate the laptops, but the printer’s drivers aren’t network-aware. Drivers for other computers are worse, as I can only use a generic print-only driver for a different printer that doesn’t even have the ability to select draft or photo quality - the laptops can only print in “best” mode.

To attempt enabling full functionality of the printer on the laptops would require plugging the printer into each laptop and installing the full application suite, then jiggering the printer port manually from local USB to a virtual port via Ethernet. It was difficult enough to find how to share the thing with generic drivers as HP doesn’t support sharing this model. I also didn’t want to burden the laptops with a huge, resource-consuming application suite just so they can print.

If they don’t do much scanning, have some thought to replacing the printer with one of the new personal color laser printers - some are available for less than $400, and the per-page costs are less than inkjets. Quite a few of them come with Ethernet ports built in, so you can plug it into a wireless broadband router and wireless users will be able to use it with minimal configuration pain.

Thanks for all the info. Somehow, though, the idea of “Here’s a christmas present, now go out and spend 300 bucks on a new printer in order to use it” sounds like a bad idea :slight_smile:

But all the other info about printing was pretty handy.