How to Share a Printer on a Wireless Network

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Wireless Printer Sharing

I have a Windows Vista desktop PC and a Windows XP laptop, both of which are on a secured wireless network in my house. My wife is a college student working on her master’s degree in medical technology, and she primarily uses the laptop so she can do her homework and assignments on the couch in the living room. One day, she asked me if we could set up my printer so that she could print to it from the laptop. I had a time making it work, but I learned a few things in the process.


The first thing I did was make sure both computers were on the same Workgroup. The default setting in Windows is ‘Workgroup’, but you can double check in Vista by going to Control Panel – System and clicking the Change Settings button next to the section labeled ‘Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings’. In Windows XP, go to Control Panel – System, and under the Computer Name tab, click the Change button.

File and Printer Sharing

On my Vista desktop where the printer was installed, I turned on File and Printer Sharing for my wireless network. To do this, I went to the Start – Settings - Network Connections. I then right-clicked on my wireless network and then clicked on Properties. I clicked on the Install button, then chose Service, then File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks. It then showed up under the listing ‘This connection uses the following items’ and had a check mark by it. Your computer may already have it on, so check before you add it.

The next step is to share the printer. To do this, I went to Start – Settings – Printers, then right clicked on my printer and chose Sharing from the menu that popped up. Then I checked the box next to Share This Printer and gave it a short name.


With File and Printer Sharing enabled and my printer shared, I should have been able to add the printer to the XP laptop, but guess what? It didn’t work. When I tried to add the printer on the laptop, it kept asking for a password. I never set any kind of system password on my desktop, yet nothing I tried would work.

I realized that Vista’s security was blocking the laptop from adding the printer. It took me longer than I’d care to admit before I solved the problem. I figured out that I needed to go to Start – Settings – Control Panel – Network and Sharing Center, then change a few more settings.

Under the Network and Sharing Center, I made sure that Printer Sharing was turned on and Password protected sharing was turned off. It turned out that the Password protected sharing was turned on and that was what kept prompting us for a password on the XP laptop. After turning it off, I was able to add the printer to the laptop, and now my wife can print her homework from the couch.