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CompTIA A+ Rapid Review: Printers

Objective 4.2: Given a scenario, install, and configure printers

A common task with printers is to install and configure them. This objective expects you to know common methods used to connect printers to a computer or a network. Additionally, you should understand how printers are shared across a network and how to connect to a shared printer.

Exam need to know...

  • Use appropriate printer drivers for a given operating system

    For example: When should you install a printer driver? What steps are required to install a USB printer?

  • Print device sharing

    For example: What wired methods are used for printer connections? What wireless methods are supported for printer connections?

  • Printer sharing

    For example: What comes after the “\\” in a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) name? What comes after the “\” in a UNC name?

Use appropriate printer drivers for a given operating system

All hardware devices require specific drivers so that the operating system can communicate with them. A software driver is one or more files that give the operating system the details it needs to send and receive information to and from the device.

True or false? When installing a USB printer, you should always install the print driver after inserting the USB cable.

Answer: False. When installing any device, you should follow the directions provided by the manufacturer, and manufacturers often indicate that the print driver should be installed before inserting the cable.

As a general guideline, it’s usually best to install the provided driver before installing a device. Manufacturers include the drivers on a CD with directions for how to install the drivers and in what order.

When the device is installed, the operating system uses plug and play technology to automatically install the driver it identifies as the best choice. In many cases, this works fine even if the driver wasn’t installed first. However, in some cases, the device won’t work correctly or won’t support all the features. It requires additional troubleshooting steps to uninstall the device, install the recommended drivers, and then reinstall the device.

True or false? You should install 64-bit print drivers on an x86-based system.

Answer: False. You should install 32-bit print drivers on x86-based systems and 64-bit drivers on x64 based systems.

Print drivers are specific to the operating system, such as Windows XP or Windows 7. Additionally, different print drivers are used for 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions.

Print device sharing

It’s common to share a printer among several users. There are multiple ways this can be done, depending on how the printer is connected.

True or false? A single printer with an Ethernet connection can be shared in a wired network.

Answer: True. If the printer has an Ethernet connection, it can be added to the network, and all users within the network can use it.

It’s also possible to share a printer that is connected directly to a computer. For example, a printer connected to a computer with a USB or parallel connection can be shared on that computer, and other users in the network can print to it.

True or false? A printer can be connected directly to a computer by using a USB port as long as the printer has a USB connection.

Answer: True. USB connections are very common with printers.

The printer typically has a USB Type B port, and a USB cable goes from the printer to a common USB Type A port on a computer. Methods used to connect a printer directly to a computer include the following:

  • USB. This is the most common direct connection method used with printers today.

  • Parallel. This is an older method used before USB became popular. The cable connects to a DB-25 connection on the computer and to a Centronics or other type of parallel connection on the printer. Parallel ports are designated as LPT1 through LPT4.

  • Serial. A serial cable connects from the printer to a DB-9 or DB-25 connection on the computer. This is not common at all for current printers. Serial ports are designated as COM1 through COM4.

True or false? Wireless printers can be shared by multiple computers within a wireless network.

Answer: True. Wireless printers are becoming very popular and most often use one of the 802.11x protocols (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n).

A wireless printer connects to a wireless network just like any other wireless device. When connected, it is available to all other users on the network.

True or false? Printers using infrared have a shorter wireless range than printers using 802.11g.

Answer: True. Infrared wireless ranges are very short, with a maximum distance of 5 meters (about 16 feet). Wireless printers using 802.11g have a range of about 38 meters (about 125 feet).

Some wireless printers can use Bluetooth or infrared technologies in the following scenarios:

  • Bluetooth. Printers that support Bluetooth connections typically use Class 2 Bluetooth, allowing the printer to be as far as 10 meters (33 feet) away.

  • Infrared (IR). If the printer has a clear line of sight from the computer, an IR connection can be used. This is the same type of IR used in TV remote controls. The drawback is that the connection is lost if the line of sight is broken. That is, if anything is placed between the computer and the printer, the printer will no longer print.

Printer sharing

After connecting a printer to a computer, it’s possible to share it with other network users. A computer sharing a printer is referred to as a print server, although it could be running Windows XP, Windows 7, or some other desktop operating system. That is, a print server isn’t necessarily running a server operating system.

Sharing a printer is similar in concept to sharing a folder on a computer. After a folder is shared, users with permissions can access the folder. Similarly, after sharing a printer, users with permissions can print to the printer.

True or false? Network printers are accessible by using a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path similar to \\ShareName\ServerName.

Answer: False. Network printers are accessible by using a UNC path, but the UNC path has the format of \\ServerName\ShareName. The server name must be placed first in the UNC name, or the connection will fail.

For example, if you have a computer named Win7, sharing a printer named ClrLaser, other users can connect to it with the UNC path of \\Win7\ClrLaser. If users try to connect with \\ClrLaser\Win7, their systems will look for a computer named ClrLaser and the connections will fail.

True or false? Printers can be shared from Devices and Printers in Windows 7.

Answer: True. This is accessible from the Start menu, and the Printers And Faxes section includes all of the printers installed on the computer.

You can share a printer in Windows 7 with the following steps:

  1. Right-click the printer icon in Devices And Printers, and select Printer Properties.

  2. Click the Sharing tab.

  3. Select the Share This Printer check box. Optionally, change the name of the shared printer in the Share Name text box.

By default, the Everyone group can print to a printer when it is shared. You can modify this by using the Security tab of the Printer Properties dialog box.

If you are unable to share a printer, verify that print sharing is enabled on the computer. On Windows 7–based systems, this is accessed on the Networking tab of the network interface card’s properties page and is called File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks.

True or false? You can add drivers for multiple operating systems when sharing a printer from a Windows-based system.

Answer: True. When sharing a printer, an Additional Drivers button is available on the Sharing tab. You can click this to add drivers for different operating systems.

When users connect to a shared printer by using the UNC path, the correct driver is automatically downloaded from the print server if it is available. If you need to update the driver, you need to update it only on the print server. The updated driver is automatically downloaded to clients the next time they connect.

True or false? Print jobs sent to a printer via a print server will not print if the print server loses network connectivity.

Answer: True. If the print server is not accessible on the network, users will not be able to send print jobs to it.

Can you answer these questions?

You can find the answers to these questions at the end of this chapter.

  1. What is the most common method used to connect a printer directly to a computer?

  2. What is a primary concern with networked printers to ensure that users can continue to access them even after the printer is turned off and back on?

  3. What information do network users need for connecting to a shared network printer?