How to Share a Local Printer in Windows Vista

I am a divorced single mom, and I am currently taking college classes in the evenings. My parents usually watch the kids for me, so most evenings I end up doing homework at their house. I work off of a six-month old HP laptop connected to their wireless network. For the most part this setup works very well, until I need to print. Anything I print needs to either be e-mailed or copied to a USB flash drive so I can print it from my parents system.

Now I know this doesn’t sound like a big deal, but somehow it always turns out to be a problem. Either the e-mail doesn’t show up immediately or the system doesn’t recognize the USB flash drive, the file is in the wrong format, or any number of possible issues. I thought about trying to connect the printer directly to my laptop, but my Dad’s desk is so cluttered that it just isn’t worth the effort. Especially at 11 o’clock at night when I’m rushing to get home. Other then getting a second printer, is there anything I could do to make this process less of a chore?

Fortunately there is a very simple solution to all of your woes. In fact it’s so simple that you’ll never have to worry about file compatibility or an unrecognized USB flash drive again. Since your folks already have a working printer connected to their PC and there is a wireless network in the house that both PCs are connected to, then the easiest and most efficient thing you can do is just print directly to your parent’s printer from your laptop via Windows Vista’s file and print sharing service.

File and print sharing is a service that has been part of the Windows operating system for decades now. This service allows Windows PCs to share resources with other PCs on the network. Computer resources can include a variety of things, but most commonly refers to files, folders, drives and of course, printers. Configuring file and print services is a very simple and straightforward process and consists of two components; a host PC and a client. The host is the PC with the resources, i.e., the printer. The client is the computer that needs access to those resources. In this case, your parent’s PC is the host and your laptop is the client.

Before we begin configuring file and print services there are a few items we first need to verify. For starters, your laptop and your parents’ PC (from here on in known as the Host) need to be part of the same network. As such they should both have similar IP addresses (ex. 192.168.0.x) and should be members of the same workgroup. In Vista the default workgroup is Workgroup. In XP it was MSHOME.

It really doesn’t matter what the actual name of the workgroup is as long as they are the same on both systems.  In regards to the IP addresses, personally, I would assign a static IP to the PC with the printer attached to it. It’s not absolutely necessary, but in my experience I’ve found that it makes the connection more reliable.

Something else to keep in mind is that by default Vista uses “Password protected sharing”. This means that in order to access any resources on the Host PC you’ll need to have a valid user account on the host system. The simplest thing to do is to just setup an account on the Host system with the same credentials (username and password) as those on your laptop. And of course make sure the printer is properly configured and working on the host PC. Once that’s complete, we’re ready to begin.

The first part involves configuring the printer on the host system as a shared resource. To do that, just follow these steps:

  1. Log into the Host PC using an account with administrative privileges and click Start > Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center.

  2. Go to the Sharing and Discovery section and click on the down arrow next to the word Printer sharing

  3. Select Turn on printer sharing and press Apply. At this point the following options should now all be set to on; Network discovery, File sharing, Printer sharing and Password protected sharing

  4. Now click Start > Control Panel >Printers and right-click on the printer you’d like to print to and select Sharing

  5. Verify that the options Share this printer and Render print jobs on client computers are checked

  6. Assign the printer a Share name. For our example we’ll call it HPINKJET.

  7. Now click on the Security tab and verify that the group Everyone has the Print Allow option checked.  Click OK when finished.

  8. Make a note of the printer’s share name and the host computer name because you’ll need it later. You can find the host computer’s name by clicking Start > Control Panel >System and Maintenance and select System. It can be found under the section Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings. For our example we’ll say the host computer name is OFFICE_PC.

We’re now ready to complete the second part of this task which is installing the printer to your laptop (a.k.a. the client PC). Before you start the installation, make sure you have the computer name of the host PC and the share name you assigned to the printer.

  1. On the laptop (client PC) go to Start > Control Panel > Printers

  2. At the top of the window press the Add a printer button.

  3. At the Add Printer dialog box select Add a network, wireless or Bluetooth printer and press Next.

  4. You should see a message that says No printers were found. Select the option The printer that I want isn’t listed.

  5. On the next screen click Select a shared printer by name and enter the name of the host PC and the printer using the following syntax computernameprintername. Using the names from our example the syntax would be OFFICE_PCHPINKJET. Press Next.

  6. At this point the computer will automatically go out to the network to retrieve the printer driver and configure it for use with your system. The system will probably prompt you for a username and password. If it does, enter the account credentials you use when logging into your parent’s PC (a.k.a. Host). Also be sure to check the box that says Remember my password and press OK.

  7. Next it will ask you to name the printer, give you the option of setting this printer as the default and to print a test page. Once completed, click Finished. Your printer is now set up and ready to go.

While this solution should provide you with the relief that you’re looking for, it’s not without its problems. Reliability has a tendency to be an issue, but typically it’s nothing that a reboot couldn’t resolve. Secondly, in order for you to maintain access to that printer, the host PC will need to remain on all the time. So make sure the host isn’t configured to go to sleep or into hibernation. If it does, you will lose access to the printer until the host PC is turned back on.

I hope you found this information helpful, and I wish you all the best with your studies.

Ronald Pacchiano is a contributing writer for

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