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Connecting A Scanner To Your PC

written by: MD Weems•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 8/27/2008

Selecting the right scanner and using it are just two parts to a process when you are dealing with scanner technology. Here is your guide to connecting your new scanner to your computer and getting it to work properly.

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    What you should know...

    So you checked around, you found the right type of scanner, and you found a great one for a great price. But before you head out and purchase that new scanner, you want to check on the type of physical connection that you will have from your computer to the scanner. It's just a wire that goes from one to the other right? Wrong. The type of physical connection that your computer and scanner share will determine the speed that your scanned images are transferred and how good the scanned image will be.

    Why should the physical connection matter to you? well the data that a scanner generates can be huge, like the size of a 9"X11" piece of paper. Some uncompressed images can actually take up over 100 megabytes of data between transfer and storage on the computer, and therefore, eat up a ton of your memory if you aren't careful. Of course, those are only a couple of reasons why you need to worry about the physical connection. It isn't just as simple as a cord from the scanner to the computer... there are actually a few different types of physical connections that go from the scanner to the computer and here are the main four that you will find on some of the scanners on the market today:

    A parallel connection is one that will connect the scanner to the computer through a parallel port. But, this is actually the slowest type of physical connection and one of the earliest methods used. These usually don't transfer data very quickly at all, and some only transfer data at around 70 kilobytes a second. But, this is one of the most economic ways to connect your scanner and computer, as it avoids having an interface card in your computer. Most modern scanners don't use these types of physical connections any longer, and only in extremely older models will you find these. So, before you buy a used scanner, check to make sure that it doesn't have this type of connection.

    Next, we move on to the Small Computer System Interface, or SCSI. These are supported by just about all of the computers out there with an SCSI interface card. Of course, some of these scanners usually come with an SCSI card just in case. When these scanners and cards first started to appear on the scene, the steadily increased in speed and performance, so that the data transfer was better all the time. But, these types of physical connections have mostly been replaced by USB and Firewires. So, again, you might only see these in certain types of scanners and older scanners.

    And now to the Universal Serial Bus, or USB cable. Pretty much anyone with a computer in today's world will have heard of, or use a USB cable in some form. These can transfer data so much faster now than when they first came out, but they are now able to transfer a great amount of data and information quickly and efficiently so that you don't lose anything in the middle. Most scanners today will come with a USB cord that will physically connect them to your computer and are really simple to hook up.

    The last type of physical connection that we'll talk about is Firewire. These are a step up from the USB cables and move information and data at a much faster speed per second than any other connection. Of course, this is a newer way to physically connect your scanner and your computer, so you may need to find out if your computer will support this type of connection before you try to use it.

    And there you have it – the four main types of physical connections that you will find in scanners and computers today. Make sure that you check to see which types your computer can use before you spend the money on a brand new scanner so that you don't end up with a sweet scanner that you can't use.

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    Related Reading:

    >>> Types of Scanners

    >>> The Basics of Choosing a Scanner

    >>> Top Five Budget-Friendly Scanners