The objective for this lesson is to explain how to share your printer and external hard drives with others on the network.
We will start by teaching you how to share a printer with the Homegroup and then how to share it with the network. As you will see, the process is different and using the Homegroup makes things easier and faster.
Then we will discuss how to share external hard drives with others on the network as well as any partition from your Windows computer. As you will see, the process involves using Advanced Sharing and you will put the knowledge you gained in Lesson 7 to good use.
Last but not least we will talk a bit about how a good router can help you share a printer and an external hard drive with all the computers and devices that are part of your network.
But enough talk. Let’s get started!
How to Share Your Printer with the Homegroup
Sharing your local printer with the Homegroup is incredibly easy. In Windows 8.x, go to PC Settings and then to “Network > HomeGroup”. There you will find several switches for sharing with the Homegroup.
Find the one named “Printers” and set it to “On”.
Any printer that is connected to your Windows 8.x PC or device is now shared with others on the Homegroup.
In Windows 7, go to the Control Panel and then to “Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center”. In the column on the left, click “HomeGroup”.
In the HomeGroup window check the box for “Printers” and press “Save changes”.
Any printer that is connected to your Windows 7 PC is now shared with others on the Homegroup.
If you need a refresher about the Homegroup and how it can be used for network sharing, don’t hesitate to read Lesson 5.
How to Share Your Printer with the Network
If you have a network with operating systems other than Windows 7 and Windows 8.x, you may want to share your local printer using a different method, so that the printer can be discovered by all the computers in the network.
First, open the Control Panel and then go to “Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers”. Here you will find all the external devices that are connected to your Windows PC or device. Things like webcams, keyboards, external hard drives, printers, etc.
Your local printer is displayed in the “Printers” section alongside virtual printers installed by the software on your PC or device.
Right-click or press and hold the printer you want to share with the network, and select “Printing preferences”.
The “Printer Properties” window is shown. Here you can configure all the important aspects of your printer and you can also share it with the network.
Since we are interested in sharing it with others on the network, go to the “Sharing” tab. You are informed that the printer will not be available when your computer sleeps or it is shut down. Also, if you are using password protected sharing (see Lesson 3 for a refresher), you are informed that only users on your network with a username and password for this computer can print to it.
To share your printer, check the box that says “Share this printer”.
The printer will be shared using its default product name and version. You can customize its share name by typing something else. You can also set whether you would like to render print jobs on client computers.
If this setting is enabled, all the documents that will be printed are rendered on the computers that order the printing process. When this setting is disabled, the documents are rendered on the computer to which the printer is attached.
We recommend enabling this setting so that system performance is not impacted on the computer to which the printer is attached, every time something gets printed.
To share the printer with the network, press “OK”.
Other computers can install the printer you are sharing as a network printer and use it when they need to print something.
The Trouble with Sharing Local Printers or Why You Should Use Wireless Printers
Back in the Windows XP era, local printers were the norm in the consumer space. Only businesses with lots of employees had network printers to which entire offices could print to.
In recent years, wireless printers have become very affordable and commonplace. You can find lots of models at many price points in any decent computer store. We recommend you to purchase and install a wireless printer in your home network. This will help avoid lots of annoyances that are common when using a local printer that is shared with the network.
- Computers on the network can view and use the shared printer only when both the printer and the computer that it is attached to are turned on.
- Installing a shared network printer involves more steps and it is more error prone than installing a modern wireless printer. You can encounter problems with conflicting network sharing settings, permissions and so on.
- The printing process is faster because it doesn’t involve sending data to another computer before getting it printed.
- Printing from local printers can be done only from computers that are part of the network but not from tablets or smartphones.
To make your home networking experience as pleasant as possible, buy a wireless printer that you can afford and which has driver support for all the operating systems in your network. Install it on each PC, Mac, or other device individually and then everyone can print without bothering others and using their computers or devices. You will also have one less cable in your network.
If for some reason you do not want to purchase a wireless printer or you simply cannot afford one, you can connect your local printer to your router, if your router has a USB port available and it can work as a printing server for your network. Setting things up differs from router to router so we recommend that you consult your router’s manual to learn how to set it up as a network print server.
More expensive printers also have an Ethernet port and you can connect them directly to your router with a network cable and without setting up the router to act as a print server. Setting them up on each PC in your network is just as easy as setting up wireless printers.
How to Stop Sharing the Printer with the Homegroup
The steps involved when you want to stop sharing your printer with the Homegroup are the same as when you start sharing it.
In Windows 8.x, go to PC Settings and then to “Network > HomeGroup.” Set the switch for “Printers” to “Off”.
All the local printers attached to your PC or device are no longer shared with the Homegroup.
In Windows 7, go to the Control Panel and then to “Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Center”. In the “Network and Sharing Center” go to the column on the left and click “HomeGroup”.
In the “HomeGroup” window clear the box for “Printers” and press “Save changes”.
All the local printers attached to your PC are no longer shared with the Homegroup.
How to Stop Sharing the Printer with the Network
The steps involved when you no longer want to share a printer with the network are the same as when sharing it. Follow the instructions in the “How to Share Your Printer with the Network” section, found earlier in this article. Then, in the “Printer Properties” window, go to the “Sharing” tab, clear the box for “Share this printer” and press “OK”.
Your local printer is no longer shared with others on the network.
How to Share Partitions or External Hard Drives with the Network
Sharing entire partitions or external hard drives with others on the network is done only through “Advanced Sharing”. If you need a refresher about this concept, please read Lesson 7. In this section we won’t spend time explaining all the available sharing options and we will only take you through the procedure that’s involved when sharing a drive.
If you are using Windows 8.x, open File Explorer and go to This PC. If you are using Windows 7, open Windows Explorer and go to Computer.
Find the partition or the external hard drive you want to share with others on the network and right-click or press and hold on it. In the right-click menu go to “Share with > Advanced sharing”.
The “Properties” window is shown for the selected drive. In the “Network File and Folder” sharing section of the “Share” tab you can view if it is already shared or not. Press the “Advanced Sharing” button.
In the “Advanced Sharing” window, check the box that says “Share this folder”. By default, drives are shared using their letter.
You can type a more descriptive share name. You can also limit the number of simultaneous users connecting to it over the network. To edit who received permissions for accessing this share drive, press the “Permissions” button.
In the “Permissions” window you will see that the drive is shared with the “Everyone” user group. If you don’t want to share your printer with everyone on your network, then “Remove” this user group and press “Add” to give access to someone else.
The “Select Users or Groups” window is now shown. Press the “Advanced” button.
Then, click or tap “Find Now”.
Windows displays a list with all the user accounts and user groups existing on your computer. Select the user account or the user group you want to share the printer with. If you want to share it with the Homegroup, you need to select the “HomeUsers” group, then click or tap “OK”.
Click or tap “OK” in the Select Users or Groups window.
You are back to the “Permissions” window. Here you can modify the permissions assigned to all the user accounts or user groups you have added. If you would like to learn more about all the available permission levels and what they do, please read Lesson 7.
When you are done setting things up, press “OK”.
The selected drive is now shared with the network and you can see its network path in the “Network File and Folder Sharing” section.
Press “Close” and you are done.
Each time you view the shared drive in File Explorer or Windows Explorer, it will see a small icon on its bottom-left corner, signaling that the drive is shared with others.
If you will stop sharing this drive, the icon will be no longer displayed.
How to Stop Sharing a Partition or an External Hard Drive
To stop sharing a drive from your computer, you need to follow the same steps as for sharing it. When you get to the Advanced Sharing window, clear the box that says “Share this folder”.
Press “OK” and then “Close”.
Attaching External Hard Drives to Your Router
If you need to use the same external hard drive from multiple computers and devices on your network, then it is best to attach it to your router, if it has a USB port available. Modern routers can be set to share your hard drive with everyone on the network and make it available for all the computers and devices that are part of it.
However, the setup of this feature is different from router to router and we can’t create a guide that applies to all of them. Please consult your router’s manual and learn whether it can use your external hard drives and share them with others on the network.
Coming up Next …
In the next and final lesson of this series you will learn how to view and access what is shared on the network: libraries, folders, printers or shared drives.