Q

Accessing printers on a LAN while connected to a WLAN

Learn how to connect printers on a LAN to users on a WLAN and IP address assignment problems between networks from wireless expert Lisa Phifer.

We have a wireless router connected to the server so that all other laptops and wireless devices can access the internet and share printers. The server is on a LAN while the laptops are on WLAN. There's a printer connected to a computer on the LAN but the laptops cannot seem to connect to the printer.

Is possible for the WLAN laptops to connect with the printer on the LAN computer?

There are four ingredients in network printing: a printer, a print server, a print client, and the network that connects them. Any IP network of any type or complexity can be used to connect a print server and client. I suspect that your problem lies in one of two places.

First, routing can be a problem when a WLAN is tacked onto an existing LAN using a wireless router instead of a wireless access point. A wireless access point (AP) just makes the LAN accessible to wireless clients -- wireless and wired hosts get IP addresses from the same subnet and have access to the same LAN resources.

However, wireless routers embed AP in a firewall that does network address translation (NAT). Clients connected to a wireless router get IP addresses from their own subnet, and wired systems cannot send unsolicited messages to clients "behind" the router.

If this is your problem, your wireless clients will not discover the network printer when browsing their network neighborhood, but should be able to directly connect to the LAN printer using its IP address (see below.)

Second, if clients still cannot access the printer, check to see if your LAN is configured to provide print clients with network acces to one of its local printers. On a Windows network you'll need to follow three steps:

  1. You'll need to enable both the "Client for Microsoft Networks" and "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" on your server's LAN connection and on every client's WLAN connection.

  2. Next, configure your server by using "Printers and Faxes" to select the printer to be shared – just choose "Sharing," click "Share this printer," and type the name that you want clients to use for this printer.

  3. Then configure each client to use that printer by using "Printers and Faxes" to add the printer -- just specify network printer and combine the print server's IP address with the printer's name (e.g., \\10.0.0.5\d3000). Using a static IP address to reach the server should work even for clients connected to a wireless router.

To learn more about sharing printers, read this Digital Landing how-to article.

This was first published in July 2008

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