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How to Share Printers Between Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs on a Network

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Windows, Mac, and Linux can all get along together, sharing files with each other on a network. They can also share printers, allowing you to use a single wired printer for all the computers on your home network.

This is only necessary if you have a wired printer connected directly to a computer, such as USB printer. Modern wireless printers connect to networks and share themselves, so you just have to connect to them.

Share a Printer on Windows

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As with file sharing, you’ll need to visit the Network and Sharing Center in the Windows Control Panel, click Change advanced sharing settings, and enable “file and print sharing.” Macs and Linux PCs can’t connect to homegroups and use the more convenient sharing features built into modern versions of Windows, so you’ll have to set up printer sharing the old fashioned way.

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Visit the Printers list in the Control Panel, right-click the printer you want to share, and select Printer properties.

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Click the Sharing tab, enable sharing for the printer, and give it a name. You can also enable printer sharing while setting up a new printer.

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Access a Shared Printer on Windows

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Open Windows Explorer or File Explorer and click the Network option to browse computers on your local network. Double-click a Windows or Linux PC sharing a printer and you’ll see it shared printers. Double-click the printer to add and configure it. It will appear alongside your local printers in standard print dialogs.

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You can also use the Add Printer dialog in the Devices and Printers pane. It will scan for nearby printers and allow you to easily add them.

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If you’ve shared the printer from a Mac, you’ll need to install Apple’s Bonjour Print Services for Windows and use the Bonjour Printer Wizard application to add the printer to your Windows system.

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Share a Printer on Mac OS X

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Mac OS X doesn’t have a way to share printers using the standard Windows print sharing system, so you’ll need to share the printer with Apple’s included Bonjour protocol. Linux does work with Bonjour automatically, so only Windows will need any additional software to access such a printer.

Click the Apple menu, click System Preferences, and click Printers and Scanners. Select the printer you want to share and click the “Share this printer on the network” checkbox.

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Click the Sharing Preferences button and ensure the Printer Sharing service is enabled.

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Access a Shared Printer on Mac OS X

From the Printers & Scanners pane, click the + button and select Add Printer or Scanner. You can also add printers from any application’s Print dialog — just click the Printer box and click Add Printer to access the dialog.

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Click the Windows icon, select your Windows PC’s workgroup, select the Windows PC sharing the printer, and select the printer itself. Add the shared printer to your system and it will appear like any other local printer.

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Printers shared from Linux computers will be automatically detected and provided as options when printing.

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Share a Printer on Linux

We used Ubuntu 14.04 for this, but the process should be similar on other distributions.

Open Ubuntu’s System Settings window by clicking the gear icon on the top bar and selecting System Settings. Click the Printers icon and any printers you’ve added will appear in the list.

Click the Server menu at the top of the screen and select Server Settings.

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Click the “Publish shared printers connected to this system” checkbox to enable network sharing of connected printers.

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Right-click the printer in the list, select Properties, and click Policies. Ensure the Shared box is checked so the printer will be shared.

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Access a Shared Printer on Linux

Open Ubuntu’s System Settings window and click the Printers icon. Click the Add button to add a new printer.

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Expand the Network Printer section, select Windows Printer via SAMBA, and click the Browse button. You’ll be able to browse available network printers connected to different computers on the network. Add the printer to your PC, configure its drivers, and it will appear as an available printer when printing from Linux applications.

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Ubuntu can see printers shared via Bonjour from a Mac and will automatically add them.

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Modern printers often have built in Wi-Fi, so they can make themselves available to all the computers, smartphones, and tablets on a network without any complicated printer-sharing. Wi-Fi printers are ideal if you want to share a printer without the hassle.

Image Credit: William Hook on Flickr

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/21/14