Q&A: Sharing USB printer

Q My wife keeps pulling the USB cable to our Canon printer from my new iMac, to plug it into her Windows 8 laptop. Both computers are networked wirelessly to a Sky Netgear router, and I have an old AirPort Extreme Base Station in a cupboard. What is the best way to share our printer so that we do not have to fight over the cable?

A Because your printer only has a USB port and cannot be put straight onto a network, somewhere in your network you are going to have to connect the printer to a device that can act as its print server.

One very neat solution, which relies on your iMac being powered up whenever your wife wishes to print, is to connect the printer straight to your iMac and then share it, using the Sharing pane in System Preferences. Ensure that your shared printer name does not contain any space characters, then your wife should be able to add this as a wireless network printer, using its standard driver.

If that proves too fiddly, as it sometimes becomes under Windows, you could add your AirPort Extreme base station to the network, with your printer connected to its USB port. You will need to configure this base station in ‘bridge mode’ using AirPort Utility. The simplest solution though would be to buy a networkable printer with built-in Ethernet support for both Mac OS X and Windows 8.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 26 issue 20, 2010.