Will a Wireless Router Work As a Print Server?

By Steve McDonnell

Put your printer on the wireless network along with your laptop.
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You can only use a wireless router as a print server if it includes a USB port and has built-in print-server functionality. However, by providing a wireless connection to devices on your network, a wireless router can help you share a printer over the wireless network. You can share a printer attached to a computer, purchase a wireless print server or use a printer with a built-in wired or wireless connection to make printers available to anyone who connects to your network.

Combined Wireless Router and Print Server

A wireless router can work as a print server only if it was designed and manufactured to be both a router and print server. A hint that your router has dual capability is the presence of a USB port for connecting a printer. Such a wireless router includes basic print-server software that allows you to share a printer with anyone on the network. Some routers give you the option of connecting either a printer or an external hard drive to the USB port, so you can share a printer or storage space with anyone on the wireless network.

Sharing a Printer in Windows

If your wireless router doesn't have a built-in print server, it can still help you share a printer on your network. Using the print-sharing features in Windows, you can share a printer connected to any computer with other users. If the computer is connected to the wireless router, you can share its printer with anyone else on the wireless network. However, the printer and the computer that shares the printer must both be powered on when someone on the network wants to use the printer.

Wireless Print Server

Another option to share a printer on a wireless network is to purchase a wireless print server. This device usually includes from one to four USB ports for connecting printers. It connects to your wireless router to share each of the printers with other users on the wireless network. A wireless print server is a more energy-efficient solution for sharing a printer than sharing a printer attached to a computer. It consumes less power than a PC, and many automatically switch to power-saving mode when not being used.

Network-Enabled Printer

Some printers are network-enabled, and include either a wired or wireless network connection so they can be shared over the network. Connect a network-enabled printer to your wireless router using an Ethernet cable or the printer's wireless functionality. The router assigns an IP address to the printer, and users can then add the printer in Windows by specifying the IP address if Windows doesn't automatically detect the printer.