Add Your Own Folders to Favorites (Quick Access) in Windows 7, 8, or 10

When you open Explorer in Windows 7 you’ll see a list of Favorites in the Navigation Pane. Microsoft has already put some there, but today we show you how to remove them and add your own favorite folders including Search Connectors.
In Windows 10 it’s called Quick Access instead of Favorites, but it works exactly the same way



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Remove Folders from Favorites or Quick Access

By default Microsoft has included some favorite locations for you that you may not want. The default locations are Desktop, Downloads, Recent Places, and Recorded TV if you’ve set up Live TV in Windows Media Center.

To delete the locations from Favorites, simply right-click on the location and select Remove from the context menu.

Add Folders to Favorites or Quick Access

Adding you favorite locations that you visit often is easy. While you’re in the folder you want to add, right-click on Favorites and select Add current location to Favorites.
If you’re in Windows 10 it’ll be called Quick Access instead of Favorites but it works the same way.

You can also drag a folder over to Favorites to link it there as well.

In this example we removed all of the default locations and added four locations…a FLAC folder from a home server, My Documents, My Videos, and our Dropbox folder.

If you want to get the default locations back just right-click Favorites and select Restore favorite links. It won’t delete the locations you added, but will just restore the originals.

Search Connectors in Windows 7

You can’t add Internet Explorer Favorites or files to your favorites in Windows Explorer. However, you can add Search Connectors which allow you to search a favorite website and view it in Windows Explorer. This is a neat trick we covered in a previous article.

This should help make navigating through your favorite locations a bit easier and allow you to add Search Connectors as well. Make sure to check out our links below that will help better understand Search Connectors and why they might come in handy.
Search Websites from Your Desktop in Windows 7 with Search Connectors
Download the How-To Geek Search Connector

How to Set Up a Shared Network Printer in Windows 7, 8, or 10

Over the years, Windows has gotten much better about how it handles networked printers. But if you want to share a printer over the network, you may still need to do a little legwork to get it all up and running. Here’s how it all works.
Setting up a printer on your network involves two steps. The first step is getting the printer connected to the network, and there are three ways you can do that:

  • Connect the printer to the network directly. This is the easiest way to set up a network printer.  It doesn’t require that another PC be turned on to print (like the below methods do), and you don’t have to go through the hassle of setting up sharing. And, since most printers made within the last few years have networking built in, there’s a good chance your printer supports this option.
  • Connect the printer to one of your PCs and share it with the network over Homegroup. If connecting a printer directly to the network isn’t an option, you can connect it to a PC on the network and share it with Windows Homegroup. It’s easy to set up, and is optimal for networks that are made up of mostly Windows computers. This method, however, requires that the computer its connected to be up and running in order for you to use the printer.
  • Connect the printer to one of your PCs and share it without Homegroup. This is ideal if your network has other computers running different operating systems, if you want more control over file and printer sharing, or if Homegroup just isn’t working very well. Like the Homegroup method, this requires that the computer its connected to be up and running in order for you to use the printer.

The second step, once you’ve hooked up your printer, will be connecting other PCs to the network printer…which depends a lot on how you hooked it up. Confused yet? Don’t worry. We’re about to go over all of this.

Step One: Connect Your Printer to the Network

First, let’s talk about getting that printer connected to your network. As we mentioned above, you have three options here. You can connect it directly to the network, you can connect it to a PC and share it through a Homegroup, or you can connect it to a PC and share it without using Homegroup.

Connect Your Printer Directly to the Network

Most printers these days have networking built in. Some come equipped with Wi-Fi, some with Ethernet, and many have both options available. Unfortunately, we can’t give you precise instructions for getting this done, since how you do it depends on the type of printer you have. If your printer has an LCD display, chances are you can find the network settings somewhere in the Settings or Tools portion of the menus. If your printer has no display, you’ll probably have to rely on some series of physical button presses to tell it whether it should use its Wi-Fi or Ethernet network adapter. Some printers even have a dedicated easy connect button that can set up the Wi-Fi for you.
If you’re having trouble setting up a printer that connects directly to the network, the manufacturer should have instructions for making it happen. Check the manual that came with your printer or the manufacturer’s web site for information on hooking it up.

Share a Printer Connected to a PC by Using a Homegroup

Sharing a printer with Homegroup is super easy. First, of course, you’ll want to make sure that the printer is connected to one of the PCs on the network and set up properly. If that PC can print to the printer, then you’re good to go.
Start by firing up the Homegroup control panel app. Click Start, type “homegroup,” and then click the selection or hit Enter.

What you do next depends on what you see in the Homegroup window. If the PC you have the printer connected to is already part of a Homegroup, you’ll see something like the following screen. If it shows that you’re already sharing printers, then you’re done. You can skip on to step two, where you connect other PCs on the network. If you’re not already sharing printers, click the “Change what you’re sharing with the homegroup” link.

On the “Printers & Devices” drop-down menu, choose the “Shared” option. Click Next and then you can close the Homegroup options and move on to step two.

If there is already a Homegroup created for other PCs on the network, but the PC you’ve got your printer connected to isn’t a member, the main screen when you start the Homegroup control panel app will look something like the one below. Click the “Join now” button and then click “Next” on the following screen that just tells you a bit about Homegroups.

Set your sharing options, making sure that “Printers and devices” is set to “Shared,” and then click “Next.”

Type the password for the Homegroup and then click “Next.” If you don’t know the password, go to one of the other PCs on the network that is already a member of the Homegroup, launch the Homegroup control panel app, and you can look it up there.
If you’re connecting from another PC that you’ve signed onto using the same Microsoft account as the PC that’s already a member of the Homegroup, Windows 8 and 10 won’t ask for your password. Instead, Windows will authorize you automatically.

On the final screen, click the “Finish” button and then you can move on to step two and get your other PCs on the network connected to the printer.

And finally, if there is no Homegroup at all on your network, you’ll see something like the following screen when you open the Homegroup control panel window. To create a new homegroup, click the “Create a homegroup” button.

The following screen just tells you a little about Homegroups. Go ahead and click “Next.”

Choose whatever libraries and folders you want to share with the network from the PC you’re on. Just make sure that you select the “Shared” option for “Printers & Devices.” Click “Next” when you’re done making your selections.

The final screen shows the password you’ll need for other PCs on your network to connect to the Homegroup. Write it down and then click the “Finish” button.

Now that you’ve got your Homegroup set up and your PC is sharing its printers with it, you can skip down to step two and get those other PCs on the network connected to the printer.

Share a Printer Connected to a PC Without Using a Homegroup

If you have computers or mobile devices on your network that run an OS other than Windows 7, 8, or 10–or you just don’t want to use Homegroup for some reason–you can always use the sharing tools that have always been a part of Windows to share a printer with the network. Again, your first step is making sure the printer is connected to a PC and that you can print to it.
Click Start, type “devices and printers,” and then hit Enter or click the result.

Right-click the printer you want to share with the network and then select “Printer properties”.

The “Printer Properties” window shows you all kinds of things you can configure about the printer. For now, click the “Sharing” tab.

RELATED ARTICLECustomizing Your Network Sharing Settings
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, you are informed that only users on your network with a username and password for this computer can print to it. Credentials are a one-time thing you’ll have to enter the first time you connect another PC to the shared printer; you won’t have to do it each time you print. If you’d prefer, you can make sharing available to guests so that passwords aren’t necessary, but that setting will also apply to any files you have shared. We suggest you read up on customizing your network sharing settings before making that decision.
To proceed, enable the “Share this printer” option and, if you want, give the printer a friendlier name so that others on the network can more easily identify the printer.
The other option you can set here is 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 where people are doing the printing. When this setting is disabled, the documents are rendered on the computer to which the printer is attached. If it’s a PC that someone uses actively, we recommend enabling this setting so that system performance is not impacted every time something gets printed.
When you’re done setting things up, go ahead and click “OK.”

Now that you’ve shared the printer, other PCs on your network should be able to connect to it. So, you’re ready to move on to step two.

Step Two: Connect to Your Printer from Any PC on the Network

Now that you’ve got your printer connected to the network using one of the above methods, it’s time to turn your attention to the second part of the process: connecting other PCs on the network to that printer. How you do that really just depends on whether you’re using Homegroup or not.

Connect to a Printer That’s Shared by a PC Using a Homegroup

This is probably the easiest step in this whole tutorial. If you’ve got the printer connected to a PC and that PC is sharing the printer as part of a Homegroup, all you have to do is make sure that other PCs on the network are also joined to the Homegroup. You can use the same process we went over in Step One to get them joined. When PCs are part of the same Homegroup, Windows will automatically connect to any printers shared from other PCs. They’ll just show up in your Devices and Printers window automatically and any PC in the Homegroup can print to them. Super simple.

Connect to a Printer Without Using Homegroup

If your printer is connected directly to a network, or is shared from a PC without using Homegroup, you’ll have to do a little more work to connect to it from other PCs on the network. It’s still pretty straightforward, though. Click Start, type “devices and printers,” and then hit Enter or click the result.

The Devices and Printers window shows a collection of devices on your PC. Click the “Add a printer” link to get started adding your network printer.

Windows will perform a quick scan of your network for discoverable devices that are not yet installed on your PC and display them in the “Add a device” window. Chances are high that you’ll see your printer on the list, whether it’s directly connected to the network or shared from another PC. If you see the printer you’re looking for, then your job just got super easy. Click the printer you want to install. Windows will handle the installation, download drivers if needed, and ask you to provide a name for the printer. That’s all you have to do.

If you don’t see the printer you want to install–and you’re sure you’ve got it properly connected to the network–click the “The printer that I want isn’t listed” link. The next window will present you with several options for helping you find it:

  • My printer is a little older. If you select this option, Windows will perform a more thorough scan of your network looking for the printer. In our experience, though, it rarely finds anything that it didn’t already find during its initial scan. It’s an easy enough option to try, but it may take a few minutes.
  • Select a shared printer by name. If the network computer is shared from another PC, this is the best option for finding it. If you know the exact network name of the computer and printer, you can type it here. Or you can click the “Browse” button to look through the PCs on your network that have sharing enabled and see if you can find the printer that way.
  • Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname. If your printer is attached directly to the network and you know its IP address, this is probably the simplest and surest option. Most network printers have a function that lets you determine their IP address. If your printer has an LCD display, you may be able to find the IP address by scrolling through the printer settings. For printers without a display, you can usually perform some sequence of button presses that will print the settings for you. If all else fails, you can always use an IP scanning app like Wireless Network Watcher to locate devices on your network. Check out the last section of this guide for more information on how to do that.
  • Add a Bluetooth, wireless, or network discoverable printer. If you choose this option, Windows will scan for those types of devices. Again, we’ve rarely seen it pick up a device that it didn’t find during the initial scan. But, it still may be worth a try.
  • Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings. This option may help you get a printer added if nothing else works. It’s mostly for configuring a local printer by specifying exact port information, but there is one setting in particular that can help with network printers if you know the model. When asked to specify a port, you can choose a Windows Self Discovery option, which is listed toward the bottom of the available ports as “WSD” followed by a string of numbers and letters. When you choose that, Windows will ask you to specify a model so that it can install drivers. When you’re done, Windows will then monitor the network for that printer. It’s a longshot, but it’s worth a try if all else fails.

You’ll find all these options are pretty straightforward and feature short wizards for walking you through the process. Since TCP/IP is the surest way to get a printer added, we’re going to continue with that as our example.  Select “Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname” and then click “Next.”

Type the IP address for the printer into the “Hostname or IP address” box. Make sure the “Query the printer and automatically select the driver to use” check box is selected and then click “Next.”

Type a new name for printer if the default name doesn’t suit you and then click “Next.”

Choose whether to set the new printer as the default, print a test page if you want to make sure everything’s working, and then click “Finish” when you’re done.

Hopefully, you never need to bother with most of this stuff. If your network printer is properly connected to the network, the chances are high that Windows will pick it up and install it for you right off the bat. And if your network is mostly Windows machines and you use Homegroup for sharing files and printers, things should also happen mostly automatically. If it doesn’t–or if you have a more complicated setup–at least you know you have some options.

Remove the Lock Icon from a Folder in Windows 7, 8, or 10

If you’ve been playing around with folder sharing or security options, then you might have ended up with an unsightly lock icon on a folder. We’ll show you how to get rid of that icon without over-sharing it.

The lock icon in Windows indicates that the file or folder can only be accessed by you, and not any other user on your computer. If this is desired, then the lock icon is a good way to ensure that those settings are in place. If this isn’t your intention, then it’s an eyesore.
To remove the lock icon, we have to change the security settings on the folder to allow the Users group to, at the very least, read from the folder.
Right-click on the folder with the lock icon and select Properties. Switch to the Security tab, and then press the Edit… button.

A list of groups and users that have access to the folder appears. Missing from the list will be the “Users” group. Click the Add… button.

The next window is a bit confusing, but all you need to do is enter “Users” into the text field near the bottom of the window. Click the Check Names button.

“Users” will change to the location of the Users group on your particular computer. In our case, this is PHOENIX\Users (PHOENIX is the name of our test machine). Click OK.

The Users group should now appear in the list of Groups and Users with access to the folder. You can modify the specific permissions that the Users group has if you’d like – at the minimum, it must have Read access. Click OK.

Keep clicking OK until you’re back at the Explorer window. You should now see that the lock icon is gone from your folder!

It may be a small aesthetic nuance, but having that one folder stick out in a group of other folders is needlessly distracting. Fortunately, the fix is quick and easy, and does not compromise the security of the folder!

How to Create a System Image in Windows 7, 8, or 10

The new backup utilities in Windows are actually pretty impressive and creating an image will be possible in all versions. Today we take a look at creating a backup image of your machine without the need for a third party utility like Ghost or True Image.
You just just finished installing a fresh copy of Windows on your computer and have it set up to your liking. One of the first things you should do now is create an image of the disc so in the event of a crash you will be able to restore it to its current state. An image is an exact copy of everything on the drive and will restore it back to its current state. It’s probably best to create an image when everything is clean and organized on your system. This will make the image file smaller and allows you to restore the system with a smooth running set up.
The process of finding the System Image Backup tool is different in Windows 7 and 8 or 10, so we’ll show you both of them, and then explain how to create and use the system image, which is basically the same in either.

Create a System Image Backup the Easy Way

Microsoft might include backup tools in Windows, but they only do the bare minimum and they are confusing. If you want to back up your entire computer the easy way, Acronis True Image 2016 is the way to go.
Acronis True Image 2016 can back up your entire computer, including your operating system, applications, and data, and then restore it to the existing computer, or even a completely separate computer.
And if you upgrade to Acronis True Image Cloud, you can optionally store a complete backup of your entire computer in the cloud as well as on a local drive.
Back Up Your PC or Mac the Easy Way with True Image

Opening System Image Backup in Windows 8.x or 10

For Windows 8.1 or 10 (if you are still on Windows 8 you should really do the upgrade to 8.1, it’s free, and very important), they’ve moved the system image function under the File History section. You can search for it in the Start Screen search.
If you’re using Windows 10 you can search the Start Menu instead, but the same item will show up either way.

Then you can click the System Image Backup in the lower left-hand corner. (Note that it’ll take a bit for this screen to show anything).

Opening System Image Backup in Windows 7

Click on Start go to Getting Started and then select Back up your files.

Next click on the Create a system image hyperlink.

Creating a System Image Backup in Windows 7, 8, or 10

Decide where you want to save the image. You can choose an external drive, burn to multiple DVD’s, or store it on a network location.

You can include other drives if you want as well but remember that will add to the size of the final image.

At the confirmation screen notice the amount of space the image may take. If something doesn’t look right you can still go back from this point and make adjustments.

A progress meter is displayed while the images is created and backed up. In this example a disk of about 15GB in size took under 20 minutes backed up to an external drive. Times will vary depending on your system and where you’re backing it up to.

After the process is complete you get the option to create a system repair disc which you should do and make sure to save it in a secure location.

When it comes time to restore the image, you will be able to use the System Recovery Options to get the system back.

Image in Windows Vista
Vista Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise allow you to create an image, but Vista Home and Home Premium users do not have the option. The process is similar in Vista, type backup into the search bar and click on Backup and Restore Center.

Then click on Back up computer and the wizard will guide you through the process.

Conclusion
This is a extremely handy feature and it actually works well. It is also nice that the feature will be available in each edition of Windows 7 instead of just the higher end versions. This will save you some money in not having to spend $50-80 on a third party utility. You should create an image when everything is fresh on your system so the image is not too large and the essentials of you machine can quickly be restored. For instance I created an image after a fresh install and putting Office 2007 and a few of my most commonly used programs. The entire image came in around 10 GB which is easily stored on an external drive or a few DVD’s.

How to Set a Custom Logon Screen Background on Windows 7, 8, or 10

Windows makes it possible to change the welcome screens that appear when you start your computer to just about any image you want to use. It’s easy to do in Windows 8 and 10, but fairly well-hidden in Windows 7.
In Windows 8 and 10, you actually see two different screens at sign in. The first is the lock screen—the one you have to click or swipe to get out of the way so you can sign in. The second is the sign in screen itself where you enter your password, PIN, or picture password. You can change the lock screen background through a simple setting, but you’ll have to dive into the Registry to change the sign in screen background. In Windows 7, there’s only one sign in screen and you’ll have to enable a custom background for it in the Registry (or through Group Policy) before you can select a new background.
RELATED ARTICLESHow to Add a PIN to Your Account in Windows 10How to Set Up a Picture Password in Windows 10

Windows 8 and 10 Users: Set Custom Lock Screen and Sign In Backgrounds

RELATED ARTICLEHow to Customize the Lock Screen on Windows 8 or 10
Windows 8 and Windows 10 make customizing your lock screen easy—all you have to do is head to Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen. The screens look slightly different in Windows 8 than they do in Windows 10, but they’re the same settings.

RELATED ARTICLEHow to Change the Login Screen Background on Windows 10
Unfortunately, there’s no equally simple, built-in way to change your sign in screen background in Windows 8 and 10. Instead, you’ll have to rely on a few workarounds. We encourage you to check out our full guide for details, but in short you have a few options:

  • To change the sign in background to a solid color, you’ll need make a quick edit the Windows Registry.
  • To change the sign in background to a custom image, you’ll need to grab a third-party tool named Windows 10 Login Image Changer.

And again, we suggest reading our guide for the full instructions.

Windows 7 Users: Set a Custom Login Background

To use a custom login background in Windows 7, you’ll need to take two steps. First, you’ll make a Registry edit that enabled custom backgrounds, and then you’ll store the image you want in a special Windows folder. We’ll also show you a third-party tool you can use as an easier alternative.

Step One: Enable Custom Backgrounds in Windows 7

For Windows 7, the ability to set a custom logon background is intended for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to customize their systems, but there’s nothing stopping you from using this feature yourself. All you have to do is change a single Registry value and then put an image file in the correct location.
This feature is disabled by default, so you’ll have to enable it from the Registry Editor. You can also use the Group Policy Editor if you have a Professional version of Windows—we’ll cover that a bit later in this section.
Launch Registry Editor by hitting Start, typing “regedit,” and then pressing Enter.

In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background

In the right pane, you’ll see a value named OEMBackground. If you don’t see that value, you’ll need to create it by right-clicking the Background key, choosing New > DWORD (32-bit) Value, and then naming the new value “OEMBackground.”
Double-click the OEMBackground value to open its properties window, set its value to 1 in the “Value data” box, and then click “OK.”

Note: If you at any point select a new theme in the Appearance and Personalization window, this will reset this registry value. Selecting a theme will change the value of the key to the value stored in the theme’s .ini file—which is probably 0. If you change your theme, you’ll have to perform this Registry tweak again.

If you have a Professional or Enterprise edition of Windows, you can make this change using the Local Group Policy Editor instead of in the Registry. As an added bonus, changing the setting in group policy allows it to persist even when you change your theme.
Launch Local Group Policy Editor by pressing Start, typing “gpedit.msc,” and then hitting Enter.

On the left-hand side of the Local Group Policy Editor window, drill down to the following location:
Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Logon

On the right, you’ll find a setting named “Always use custom login background.” Double-click that setting and, in the setting’s properties window, select “Enabled” and then click “OK.”

Whether you enabled custom background images by editing the Registry or using Local Group Policy Editor, your next step is to actually set the image you want to use.

Step Two: Set A Custom Background Image

You can use any image you like, but there are two things you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Your image must be less than 256 KB in size. You may need to convert your image to something like JPG format to make that happen.
  • Try to find an image that matches the resolution of your monitor so it doesn’t look stretched.

Windows looks for the custom logon screen background image in the following directory:
C:\Windows\System32\oobe\info\backgrounds

By default, the “info” and “backgrounds” folders don’t exist, so you’ll need to navigate to C:\Windows\System32\oobe folder and create the subfolders yourself.

After creating the folders, copy your desired background image to the backgrounds folder and rename the image file to “backgroundDefault.jpg.”

Note: If you’re interested, the image we’re using comes from here.
The change should take effect immediately—no need to restart your PC. The first time you log out or lock your screen, you’ll see your new background.

Alternative: Use a Third-Party Tool Instead

RELATED ARTICLECustomize the Windows 7 Logon Screen
You don’t have to do this by hand. There are a variety of third-party tools that automate this process for you, like Windows Logon Background Changer, which we’ve covered in the past. Windows Logon Background Changer and other utilities just change this registry value and put the image file in the correct location for you.

To get the default logon screen back, just delete the backgroundDefault.jpg file. Windows will use the default background if no custom background image is available.

Restore Missing Desktop Icons in Windows 7, 8, or 10

If you’ve removed your recycle bin icon, or you previously added the some of the “special” icons like Computer, User or Control Panel to the desktop and they are now missing, you might want to know how to add them back.



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Adding Icons to the Desktop in Windows 10

If you want to add Computer, Recycle Bin, Control Panel, or your User folder icon to the desktop in Windows 10, there’s an extra step you’ll need to know how to do.
First, right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize.

Now select Themes on the left-hand menu, and then once you are there, you can select Desktop icon settings under the “Related Settings” section.

And now you can click the checkboxes for the icons that you want back.

You should see the icons show up as soon as you click Apply.



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Adding the Desktop Icons Back for Windows 7 or 8

Go to Control Panel \ Personalize (or right-click on the desktop and select Personalize), and then choose the link for “Change Desktop Icons” on the left-hand side.

Now you can chose the icons you want back on the desktop by checking the box next to the name:

Click the Apply button, and you should see the icon show up on the desktop immediately.

How to Hide or Delete the Recycle Bin Icon in Windows 7, 8, or 10

I’ve never found the recycle bin on the desktop very useful, so I almost always disable it as one of the first things that I do. The only problem is that every new version of Windows makes it take more steps to get rid of it, and Windows 10 is even more confusing than the rest. Here’s how to hide it in any version of Windows.
Why they couldn’t let people just right-click and choose Delete like they did back in Vista I’ll never know.



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Deleting the Recycle Bin Icon in Windows 10

Unfortunately Windows 10 makes getting rid of that Recycle Bin a lot more confusing for the average user — in fact, they’ve changed the location of the screen entirely. Thankfully we’ve figured it out for you.
First, right-click on the desktop and choose Personalize.

Now select Themes on the left-hand menu, and then once you are there, you can select Desktop icon settings under the “Related Settings” section.

And now you can uncheck the box for Recycle Bin and then click Apply at the bottom of the window to finally hide that Recycle Bin icon.

Alternatively you can just hide all of your desktop icons by right-clicking on the desktop and clicking View -> Show desktop icons.

Deleting the Recycle Bin from Windows 7 or Windows 8

Right-click on the desktop, choose Personalize, then choose Desktop Icon settings on the left-hand side.

Then simply remove the check from the box:

Note that you can also configure this from the Desktop Icon Settings in Personalization.

Deleting in Vista

Just right-click on the icon and select delete from the menu. It’s as simple as that.

If you’ve removed or lost system icons on your desktop, you can restore them easily.

How to Set Up a Shared Network Printer in Windows 7, 8, or 10

Over the years, Windows has gotten much better about how it handles networked printers. But if you want to share a printer over the network, you may still need to do a little legwork to get it all up and running. Here’s how it all works.
Setting up a printer on your network involves two steps. The first step is getting the printer connected to the network, and there are three ways you can do that:

  • Connect the printer to the network directly. This is the easiest way to set up a network printer.  It doesn’t require that another PC be turned on to print (like the below methods do), and you don’t have to go through the hassle of setting up sharing. And, since most printers made within the last few years have networking built in, there’s a good chance your printer supports this option.
  • Connect the printer to one of your PCs and share it with the network over Homegroup. If connecting a printer directly to the network isn’t an option, you can connect it to a PC on the network and share it with Windows Homegroup. It’s easy to set up, and is optimal for networks that are made up of mostly Windows computers. This method, however, requires that the computer its connected to be up and running in order for you to use the printer.
  • Connect the printer to one of your PCs and share it without Homegroup. This is ideal if your network has other computers running different operating systems, if you want more control over file and printer sharing, or if Homegroup just isn’t working very well. Like the Homegroup method, this requires that the computer its connected to be up and running in order for you to use the printer.

The second step, once you’ve hooked up your printer, will be connecting other PCs to the network printer…which depends a lot on how you hooked it up. Confused yet? Don’t worry. We’re about to go over all of this.

Step One: Connect Your Printer to the Network

First, let’s talk about getting that printer connected to your network. As we mentioned above, you have three options here. You can connect it directly to the network, you can connect it to a PC and share it through a Homegroup, or you can connect it to a PC and share it without using Homegroup.

Connect Your Printer Directly to the Network

Most printers these days have networking built in. Some come equipped with Wi-Fi, some with Ethernet, and many have both options available. Unfortunately, we can’t give you precise instructions for getting this done, since how you do it depends on the type of printer you have. If your printer has an LCD display, chances are you can find the network settings somewhere in the Settings or Tools portion of the menus. If your printer has no display, you’ll probably have to rely on some series of physical button presses to tell it whether it should use its Wi-Fi or Ethernet network adapter. Some printers even have a dedicated easy connect button that can set up the Wi-Fi for you.
If you’re having trouble setting up a printer that connects directly to the network, the manufacturer should have instructions for making it happen. Check the manual that came with your printer or the manufacturer’s web site for information on hooking it up.

Share a Printer Connected to a PC by Using a Homegroup

Sharing a printer with Homegroup is super easy. First, of course, you’ll want to make sure that the printer is connected to one of the PCs on the network and set up properly. If that PC can print to the printer, then you’re good to go.
Start by firing up the Homegroup control panel app. Click Start, type “homegroup,” and then click the selection or hit Enter.

What you do next depends on what you see in the Homegroup window. If the PC you have the printer connected to is already part of a Homegroup, you’ll see something like the following screen. If it shows that you’re already sharing printers, then you’re done. You can skip on to step two, where you connect other PCs on the network. If you’re not already sharing printers, click the “Change what you’re sharing with the homegroup” link.

On the “Printers & Devices” drop-down menu, choose the “Shared” option. Click Next and then you can close the Homegroup options and move on to step two.

If there is already a Homegroup created for other PCs on the network, but the PC you’ve got your printer connected to isn’t a member, the main screen when you start the Homegroup control panel app will look something like the one below. Click the “Join now” button and then click “Next” on the following screen that just tells you a bit about Homegroups.

Set your sharing options, making sure that “Printers and devices” is set to “Shared,” and then click “Next.”

Type the password for the Homegroup and then click “Next.” If you don’t know the password, go to one of the other PCs on the network that is already a member of the Homegroup, launch the Homegroup control panel app, and you can look it up there.
If you’re connecting from another PC that you’ve signed onto using the same Microsoft account as the PC that’s already a member of the Homegroup, Windows 8 and 10 won’t ask for your password. Instead, Windows will authorize you automatically.

On the final screen, click the “Finish” button and then you can move on to step two and get your other PCs on the network connected to the printer.

And finally, if there is no Homegroup at all on your network, you’ll see something like the following screen when you open the Homegroup control panel window. To create a new homegroup, click the “Create a homegroup” button.

The following screen just tells you a little about Homegroups. Go ahead and click “Next.”

Choose whatever libraries and folders you want to share with the network from the PC you’re on. Just make sure that you select the “Shared” option for “Printers & Devices.” Click “Next” when you’re done making your selections.

The final screen shows the password you’ll need for other PCs on your network to connect to the Homegroup. Write it down and then click the “Finish” button.

Now that you’ve got your Homegroup set up and your PC is sharing its printers with it, you can skip down to step two and get those other PCs on the network connected to the printer.

Share a Printer Connected to a PC Without Using a Homegroup

If you have computers or mobile devices on your network that run an OS other than Windows 7, 8, or 10–or you just don’t want to use Homegroup for some reason–you can always use the sharing tools that have always been a part of Windows to share a printer with the network. Again, your first step is making sure the printer is connected to a PC and that you can print to it.
Click Start, type “devices and printers,” and then hit Enter or click the result.

Right-click the printer you want to share with the network and then select “Printer properties”.

The “Printer Properties” window shows you all kinds of things you can configure about the printer. For now, click the “Sharing” tab.

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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, you are informed that only users on your network with a username and password for this computer can print to it. Credentials are a one-time thing you’ll have to enter the first time you connect another PC to the shared printer; you won’t have to do it each time you print. If you’d prefer, you can make sharing available to guests so that passwords aren’t necessary, but that setting will also apply to any files you have shared. We suggest you read up on customizing your network sharing settings before making that decision.
To proceed, enable the “Share this printer” option and, if you want, give the printer a friendlier name so that others on the network can more easily identify the printer.
The other option you can set here is 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 where people are doing the printing. When this setting is disabled, the documents are rendered on the computer to which the printer is attached. If it’s a PC that someone uses actively, we recommend enabling this setting so that system performance is not impacted every time something gets printed.
When you’re done setting things up, go ahead and click “OK.”

Now that you’ve shared the printer, other PCs on your network should be able to connect to it. So, you’re ready to move on to step two.

Step Two: Connect to Your Printer from Any PC on the Network

Now that you’ve got your printer connected to the network using one of the above methods, it’s time to turn your attention to the second part of the process: connecting other PCs on the network to that printer. How you do that really just depends on whether you’re using Homegroup or not.

Connect to a Printer That’s Shared by a PC Using a Homegroup

This is probably the easiest step in this whole tutorial. If you’ve got the printer connected to a PC and that PC is sharing the printer as part of a Homegroup, all you have to do is make sure that other PCs on the network are also joined to the Homegroup. You can use the same process we went over in Step One to get them joined. When PCs are part of the same Homegroup, Windows will automatically connect to any printers shared from other PCs. They’ll just show up in your Devices and Printers window automatically and any PC in the Homegroup can print to them. Super simple.

Connect to a Printer Without Using Homegroup

If your printer is connected directly to a network, or is shared from a PC without using Homegroup, you’ll have to do a little more work to connect to it from other PCs on the network. It’s still pretty straightforward, though. Click Start, type “devices and printers,” and then hit Enter or click the result.

The Devices and Printers window shows a collection of devices on your PC. Click the “Add a printer” link to get started adding your network printer.

Windows will perform a quick scan of your network for discoverable devices that are not yet installed on your PC and display them in the “Add a device” window. Chances are high that you’ll see your printer on the list, whether it’s directly connected to the network or shared from another PC. If you see the printer you’re looking for, then your job just got super easy. Click the printer you want to install. Windows will handle the installation, download drivers if needed, and ask you to provide a name for the printer. That’s all you have to do.

If you don’t see the printer you want to install–and you’re sure you’ve got it properly connected to the network–click the “The printer that I want isn’t listed” link. The next window will present you with several options for helping you find it:

  • My printer is a little older. If you select this option, Windows will perform a more thorough scan of your network looking for the printer. In our experience, though, it rarely finds anything that it didn’t already find during its initial scan. It’s an easy enough option to try, but it may take a few minutes.
  • Select a shared printer by name. If the network computer is shared from another PC, this is the best option for finding it. If you know the exact network name of the computer and printer, you can type it here. Or you can click the “Browse” button to look through the PCs on your network that have sharing enabled and see if you can find the printer that way.
  • Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname. If your printer is attached directly to the network and you know its IP address, this is probably the simplest and surest option. Most network printers have a function that lets you determine their IP address. If your printer has an LCD display, you may be able to find the IP address by scrolling through the printer settings. For printers without a display, you can usually perform some sequence of button presses that will print the settings for you. If all else fails, you can always use an IP scanning app like Wireless Network Watcher to locate devices on your network. Check out the last section of this guide for more information on how to do that.
  • Add a Bluetooth, wireless, or network discoverable printer. If you choose this option, Windows will scan for those types of devices. Again, we’ve rarely seen it pick up a device that it didn’t find during the initial scan. But, it still may be worth a try.
  • Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings. This option may help you get a printer added if nothing else works. It’s mostly for configuring a local printer by specifying exact port information, but there is one setting in particular that can help with network printers if you know the model. When asked to specify a port, you can choose a Windows Self Discovery option, which is listed toward the bottom of the available ports as “WSD” followed by a string of numbers and letters. When you choose that, Windows will ask you to specify a model so that it can install drivers. When you’re done, Windows will then monitor the network for that printer. It’s a longshot, but it’s worth a try if all else fails.

You’ll find all these options are pretty straightforward and feature short wizards for walking you through the process. Since TCP/IP is the surest way to get a printer added, we’re going to continue with that as our example.  Select “Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname” and then click “Next.”

Type the IP address for the printer into the “Hostname or IP address” box. Make sure the “Query the printer and automatically select the driver to use” check box is selected and then click “Next.”

Type a new name for printer if the default name doesn’t suit you and then click “Next.”

Choose whether to set the new printer as the default, print a test page if you want to make sure everything’s working, and then click “Finish” when you’re done.

Hopefully, you never need to bother with most of this stuff. If your network printer is properly connected to the network, the chances are high that Windows will pick it up and install it for you right off the bat. And if your network is mostly Windows machines and you use Homegroup for sharing files and printers, things should also happen mostly automatically. If it doesn’t–or if you have a more complicated setup–at least you know you have some options.