Printer sharing in a home network :  using network printer or print server


I have a plan to create a home network because I still have to attach my printer directly to one of my computers every time I want to print something from it. I learn that printer can be shared by all computers in a network. How can I share printers in my home network?


There are basically three solutions for sharing printer(s) in a home network, i.e. dedicating a computer (desktop PC or laptop) to a printer, adding a print server, or using a network printer.

network printer sharing via a computer

First Solution: printer sharing in a home wireless network
Computers B, C, D send print jobs to a printer through computer A.

In a typical home network installation, attaching a printer to one of the computers and turning on printer sharing on that particular computer is the most practical solution. Using this solution, the printer is connected to the network via this computer, therefore it uses this computer resources (e.g. memory, processing power) when handling any printing instruction from any computer in the home network. You can use any type of printer having parallel or USB port. This solution has the potential to clog the computer to which the shared printer connects if it handles too many print jobs and this computer is also used for working with many applications.

network printer sharing via a print server

Second Solution: printer sharing in a home wireless network
Computers B, C, D send print jobs to a printer through print server A.

If you have or plan to add more printer to your home network, then using a print server is your best solution. Print server is a device that has memory, processing power, and interfaces to handle all printer connections in a network. It takes over the function of a dedicated computer in the first solution above. A print server has network interfaces (Ethernet/Wi-Fi), antenna (in case of wireless), and connectors (LPT or USB) for printers. A print server usually can be configured through a web browser. A print server is not necessarily a separate device, it is integrated with broadband routers in many products. However, for the best network and printing performance, it would be better to use a separate print server.

using network-ready printer

Third Solution: printer sharing in a home wireless network
Computers B, C, D send print jobs to network printer A.

If you plan to replace your old printer with the new one, and come across a printer of your choice which is network-ready (i.e. having Ethernet/Wi-Fi or other network interface), then you can connect this printer directly to a hub/switch/access point/router. You don't have to dedicate a computer or a print server to this printer because your home network sees it like other computers, that's as one of network devices. The drawback is this type of printer is usually more expensive and limited in models than average printers.
You might be able to network-enable your ordinary printer using a printer adapter. Printer adapters for Ethernet and Wi-Fi are available now in the market. But a specific printer adapter product is usually only compatible with certain printer models.

Which solution is the best? It depends on your requirements and budget. The first solution is the cheapest because it doesn't need additional hardware but it requires a computer to be always on to handle all print jobs. The second solution gives flexibility, better printing management, and network resources allocation, but you have to buy additional equipment. While the third solution is the simplest and in most cases  supports ad-hoc mode for direct connection without networking hardware (e.g. hub/switch/access point/router).