What Kind of Cord Can I Use to Connect a Printer to My Computer?

By Nick Davis

The type of cord you need to connect your printer to your computer depends on the printer's age. Printers manufactured within the last 10 years contain a USB connection that interfaces with any Windows or Mac system. Printers older than 10 years old contain a parallel connection that's not present on all computers. Parallel-to-USB converters are available for changing connection types though from a variety of cable manufacturers.


To determine if your printer contains a USB or parallel connection, turn your printer around and look for a small box-shaped connector; this is a USB connector. If you see a long rectangular connector on the pack of your printer, your printer contains a parallel connector. You cannot directly plug a USB cable into a parallel port nor can you plug a parallel cable directly into a USB port.

Parallel Connections

A parallel cable contains one 25-pin connector with pins on one end that plug into your computer's parallel port and a 25-pin connector on the other end that doesn't contain pins that plugs into your printer. You cannot swap the cable's ends, since the cable's ends fit in only one way. Parallel cables are available in various lengths, including 10 and 25 feet, and the cables are available at computer, electronics and office supply stores as well as online electronics outlets.

USB Connections

A USB cable contains one flat connector on one end that plugs into your computer's USB port and one square-shaped connector on the other end that plugs into the printer's USB port. The cable fits into the ports only one way and you can't swap the connectors. USB cables are also available in varying lengths and are also available at electronics stores.

Software Installation

When installing a printer, insert the printer's installation CD first and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the installation wizard. The wizard will prompt you to connect the printer to your computer, via a USB or parallel connection, halfway through the installation process. Don't connect the printer to your computer until directed or before running the printer's installation wizard.