Printer setup problems? There’s got to be a better way.

It’s not always easy to get a printer connected to your network and working reliably. So why are printer makers complicating things now by requiring smartphone apps to even get started?

angry face emoji on mobile phone
Freestocks (CC0)

Dear vendors, lately I’ve noticed you’ve gotten into the habit of requiring a smartphone or tablet to install many devices, including printers. Once upon a time, devices shipped with instruction manuals. Now, they come with instructions to download an app. Only then do you get information about the device. And then these devices demand that they be set up on my wireless network with a smartphone a necessary part of the process.

Initially, it was very easy to set up devices this way. But as phones have added more restrictions and selections to improve privacy, connecting devices has become more complicated.

Recently, I tried to help someone set up a printer (that, of course, needed a phone for access). We first had to ensure that Bluetooth was enabled. Then we had to ensure that the vendor app had rights to location services. Even then, it failed to connect to the printer and I was unable to help him with the set up. I’m going to have to visit him in person to figure out what’s going on (and I’m going to bring an older Android tablet that I’ve often used to get technologies connected).

For this particular printer, we couldn’t find a way around using the phone app to join the device to Wi-Fi. Normally, there is some way to manually join hardware to your network. But in this case, if I can’t get the printer connected wirelessly, I may have to use a network cable as a workaround. Recently on the Askwoody forum, PK Cano assisted a user in setting up a similar printer and an HP 8025e.  

“I uninstalled everything they installed in both the Control Panel\Programs & Features + Devices & Printers and in Settings\Apps (including the Smart App),” Cano said in a post. “Then I disallowed MS controlling Printing in Settings. I set a static IP address and other IP info in the Printer’s menu. In this case Used the Router’s IP as Gateway and DNS server. Don’t connect via USB until after installing the HP software – it will ask you to connect in the process.

“On the website, I downloaded the Full software for Win8.1 (that’s right, NOT Win10, you will have to change OS in the pulldown) and installed it. That gets around the necessity of installing the Smart App from the MS Store. If you choose a wireless connection during the install, it should ask you to connect the USB first and will retrieve the network ID and password. Refuse any Web Printing options.”

printer WSD port Microsoft

Set up printers with an IP address, not a web address, for more reliable printing.

I also recommend setting up printers with IP addresses, not a web address. To review how a printer has been set up, click on Start, go to Settings, then devices and printers, and choose the printer. Click on manage, then on printer properties. Review the port tab in the resulting properties screen. I find that printers work more consistently when they are not set up using Web Services for Devices (WSD) but rather as true TCP/IP printers. WSD is not a type of connection; it’s somply a way for connected devices to advertise their presence on the network. An IP address is still required before WSD can function.

I recommend that you manually set up a printer with a static IP address in the range of your home network. Generally speaking, most home WiFi networks are in the range of 192.168.1.x. To determine what your IP range is, go to your computer and launch a command prompt. Type in ipconfig/all.

The resulting window will let you know the IP address your router is handing out. You’ll then want to set up your wireless printer by picking an IP address in the range of something above and below If you have access to your router, you should be able to browse to a list of the devices on your network. Pick a number not used by other devices. Once you get the printer on your Wi-Fi network, you should be able to go into all of your computers, find that printer, and add the device via IP address.

If your printer shows a WSD address on your computer, go to the printer, print out the printer configuration and find the IP address in use. Then set up the printer on your computer with an IP address. To do so, while you are in printer properties, click on ports, then on add port and select  standard TCP-IP port. Add the IP address of the printer and assign this TCP/IP port to the printer. Your  printer will work more reliably this way.

As for the earlier issue with smartphone requirements, my recommendation is to stick with printer manufacturers such as Lexmark or Brother; their printers tend to be easier to set up — especially if you don’t have a smartphone.

And remember, you can always set up a printer with a wired connection. If a printer has a network cable, plug it into the back of the printer and then into the router; it should then pick up an IP address. Find the print menu to print out a configuration page. This will print out the IP address the printer is using. Then go to your computer and click on Start, Settings, Printers and scanners, and add a printer or scanner. If it doesn’t find the printer immediately, click on “The printer I want isn’t listed” then “Add a printer using TCP/IP address or host name.” Enter the IP address from the print configuration and the printer should add itself to your computer and find the driver it needs. Even if your printer is now in another room next to the router, at least you can print.

Printer setups can get complicated fast. Requiring smartphone apps for the process just adds insult to injury. We’re having to find all sorts of workarounds to get printers installed. Stop trying to be helpful with these apps; they just make it harder.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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