How to Connect a Handheld Symbol Scanner to a Laptop

By Ken Burnside

Scanners take a lot of the tedium out of inventory tracking if everything is bar-coded properly.
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Bar code scanners are common business tools for point of sale transactions and inventory management. Motorola makes a bar code scanner under the Symbol brand that plugs into computers via USB ports, making it a useful accessory for a laptop. The maturation of USB as a connection port technology means that adding scanners (and other USB devices) is usually a matter of plug and play – the device gets plugged in, and it's ready to go.

Insert the interface cable into the back of the scanner. There are two interface cables available -- one that ends in a USB plug and one that ends in an RS-232 serial cable plug. Unless your laptop is very old, you probably want the USB cable. The plug has a shim-catch, the same way that telephone cables or Ethernet cables do. You'll hear a soft "click" when the cable has seated itself into the back of the scanner. If needed, adjust the cable to make sure that the cable is securely fastened.

Plug the USB cable into a USB port in your computer.

Press the scanning trigger on the scanner (this may be a button on some models), and scan the test bar code in the manual that came with the scanner. This is a test to make sure the scanner is working. For USB scanners, scan the barcode labeled "HID Keyboard Emulation." If the scanner isn't working, unplug it from the computer and plug it in again to reload the driver.

Start your bar code tracking software. Scan bar codes on your products and check the results. If there are any errors, use a lint-free cloth to wipe the scanner-head. Further troubleshooting tips can be found in the product manual provided by Motorola for your model of scanner.