• ARTICLES
SEARCH

How-To Geek

Ask HTG: Adding a PDF Printer, Hiding Windows Logins, and Sharing a USB HDD

Ask-How-To-Geek-Template

Each week we dip into the Ask How-To Geek mailbox and answer your pressing questions. This week we’re looking at installing PDF printers, hiding accounts at the Windows Login Screen, and sharing a USB HDD between computers.

Adding a PDF Printer

2011-05-02_144056

Dear How-To Geek,

In your rant article on Style Sheets, you mention Print to PDF:  “And of course, there’s loads of people that use print-to-PDF to save articles for later without wasting paper.”

Being basically CHEAP, I liked this idea so decided to try it out this morning.  I don’t have a Print to PDF option when I go to print.  How do I get this option?

Sincerely,

Looking for PDFs in St. Louis

Dear Looking,

There isn’t a default PDF printer built into Windows, so you’ll need to add one. It’s really simple to do so and once you’re done you’ll have easy-peasy access to a PDF printer for all your future print-to-file needs. While you could go the official route and pay for Adobe Acrobat, that’s overkill for simple access to a PDF printer. Instead we suggest you follow our guide to installing CutePDF under Windows Vista (the guide will work fine for Windows 7, also). You’ll be PDF printing in a matter of minutes.

Tidying Up the Windows Login Screen

image

Dear How-to Geek,

Today I was wondering why I had to select my username on my laptop that’s only being used by me. Every time I need to click on the same icon after starting my computer. If you have one account on Windows Vista/7 you can just type in the password and start. But when you have 2 accounts (one is the administrator and one is the normal user) you need to select one. I don’t use the administrator-account, at least not in my daily use. I would like to have Windows 7 to ask directly for my normal account. I know it’s just one single click but it’s an useless click. What can I do?

Sincerely,

Give Me One Click or Give Me Death

Dear One Click,

It certainly would be nice if Windows had a built-in setting which allowed you to hide logins, wouldn’t it? While we’re sitting around waiting for that setting to appear, however, we can achieve the same end with a simple registry edit. You can check out our guide to removing user accounts from the login screen in Windows Vista/7 here. Other readers might be interested in our similar guide for Windows XP here.

Connecting Multiples Computers to One USB HDD

2011-05-02_144359

Dear How-To Geek,

I would like to give four computers access to a single USB hard drive. There’s a big catch, though. None of the computers are networked and I would like to share the hard drive with all of them via USB at the same time. Is this possible?

Sharing USB in San Diego

Dear Sharing,

We’re sorry to inform you that there’s really no way to accomplish what you’re asking, at least not without some concessions that essentially amount to building a simple network. USB cannot be split in the fashion in which you desire. USB connects to a host computer via one controller and that controller handles everything. You can’t split a USB connection between multiple locations and have the HDD simultaneously mounted.

That said, you can easily accomplish the kind of connectivity you need very cheaply. Since you wanted to share the drive among non-networked computers we’ll go out on a limb and assume that they are close to each other (close enough for a USB cord to reach). With the computers that close together it will be absolutely trivial to set up a simple network. You’ll need a router, but not a very fancy one. Ask around to see if any of your friends have an old router laying around (you’ll probably find at least one or two friends with an old Wi-Fi B router they’d be happy to get rid of). Barring that, you can find plenty of cheap but dependable refurbished routers online like this Linksys router.

In addition to the router you’ll need four lengths of Ethernet cable to hook the PCs to the router. Once everything is hooked together you need to plug the drive into one of the PCs (pick the one that will be turned on the most) and share the drive with the network. Read how to share files between XP and Windows 7 here and how to set up simple sharing under Vista/7 here. Once you’ve shared the folder/drive on the network all the other machines will be able to access it with the host computer acting as the controller.

We know that’s not quite the answer you’re looking for but it’s the fastest and most functional solution to your problem.


Have a burning tech question? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and you might just see your question on the front page.

 

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/2/11

Comments (18)

  1. KB Prez

    I first heard about CutePDF on this site. Been using it ever since and LOVE it!

  2. LordGodEric

    Wow thanks for the CutePDF, I’ve wanted something like this for quite a while. I never new one existed.

  3. Kirk

    I just want to ask if there’s an easy way to take a screen shot using google chrome. I cant seem to figure it out.

  4. Yoshiyah

    I used to love CutePDF until I saw that it cut most of the content from the actual document. Been using PDFCreator ever since. PDFCreator is Open Source and available for many distributions of Linux as well as Mac OS X.

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/pdfcreator/

  5. JC

    @Kirk

    to take a screen shot using google chrome,use this (awesome screenshot capture):
    https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/alelhddbbhepgpmgidjdcjakblofbmce

  6. Don

    On sharing the usb drive between computors. You can use a usb switch which is the opposite of a usb hub. The switch allows you share a usb device among multiple computors. This can be utilized with a usb drive, however you must remember to eject the drive before every switch or risk losing data.
    Some examples of switches are: IOGear’s GUB401, coolgear USBDataSwitch etc

  7. SatoMew

    Or if you’re using Chrome, try out the Dev or Canary builds. Print Preview will allow you to print-to-PDF directly ;-)

  8. furqan

    i need a laptop at the in between the range of $500-600 , which can allow me to play high requirement and high quality games , and it should be good enough for my family so plz can u help me out any requirements or any laptops u can prefer to me , and i have heard that we can not play games for a longer time on laptops and if we will play it then it will get hotter or its board will might blow up so plz suggest me asap

  9. tommy2rs

    For the extremely rare occasions I save a whole webpage I just use the printpdf extension for Firefox. Most of the time I just copy the particular piece of text to a txt file or use Abduction to make a png of it. I can’t see wasting ink and paper to save something that’s already digital.

  10. Johan

    @Kirk

    Print Screen?

    works regardless of the app.

  11. Ernie

    You don’t need a router to accomplish the small simple network that you described above. You can set up 4 computers in a network with either a switch or even a hub for that matter. The only reason I can think of to use a router would be to enable DHCP which would simplify the setting if you were unfamiliar with IPs and such. Of course you would need one if you also wanted to share the internet, but that didn’t seem like a requirement.

  12. alpha

    @furqan
    at that price range i suggest that you give these laptops a look:

    -Toshiba Satellite L655-S5161x

    -MSI CR650

    -MSI X370

    -HP Pavilion DM1z

    -Asus Eee PC 1215N

  13. yenagade

    @ kirk…

    easy way to take a screen shot in any application, is to:

    hold the alt key and press the print screen key.

    this will copy a screen shot of the apps with, and add it to your clipboard.

    paste into paint, gimp, photoshop, or any of your favourite design apps save, happy days… =p

  14. grigore

    @:Connecting Multiples Computers to One USB HDD

    you could always buy a router that has a USB port and you could share the external HDD trough that to multiple computers. But be careful, I have a ASUS WL-500g Premium V2 and an external SAMSUNG Story drive (1 tb) it’s formated NTFS (so that it can take up large files) and the router only supports FAT or FAT32. If you hit this problem you could try http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/index for a new firmware. I haven’t tried it yet but i will soon inough… just home i wown’t brick it….

    good luck

  15. Peter

    I am not sure why you would need a router or a hub or a switch. A simple crossover cable will do the trick. One cable, not 4, and no box.

  16. BennyBeat

    Bravo, HowTheGeek, Nice article!!!

    Just curious, Why CutePDF instead PDFCreator? CutePDF is free, but the final PDF size is TOO big!!! PDdfCreator is Open Source and free too (and works fine under Ubuntu and Wine :P) and the final PDF size is less than CutePDF (because PdfCreator install the GhostScript dependences on your computer, a better option IMHO. This is why PDFCreator is 16MB installer and CutePDF only 5MB, but I prefer to install the ghostScript files instead a bigger PDF impossible-to-send-by-email).

    Finally, You know something like this for GNU/Linux? I’m using PDFCreator through Wine on Ubuntu 11.04, but I wanna something better…

    THANKS A LOT for your fantastic tutorials!!!
    Benny ^_^”.

  17. Luc Schots

    I’m a big fan of Nitro PDF – it’s even possible to edit PDFs with this one

  18. Xps

    Nitro PDF’s free counterpart, PrimoPDF, for the win!
    http://www.primopdf.com/index.aspx

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!