If you are in the market for a new printer – whether it be monochrome or colour, single or multi-function – there is a good chance it will be Wi-Fi enabled as well as having the traditional USB connection and, perhaps, a wired LAN connection too.
If you are not network savvy there is a great temptation to take the simple approach and just plug in the USB connection. You should be aware that this is NOT the recommended solution and, in doing so, you will likely miss out on significant features offered by many of these more modern devices.
Many manufacturers now offer direct access from the Internet to your printer giving you the opportunity to print from anywhere in the World. In addition firmware updates can be performed directly to the printer and, in some cases such as the latest HP Envy devices, the printer can actually request new ink supplies from the manufacturer without your intervention.
None of these features can operate if the USB cable is the sole connection to your PC or Mac.
Another advantage of the Wi-Fi or LAN connection is that the device can be shared by other computers on the same network – something only possible via USB if the host computer is switched on.
If the printer has the wired LAN connector it’s simply a matter of connecting a standard Cat-5 LAN cable between the printer and your router. The Wi-Fi connection can be simple to set up if your router has the WPS facility (usually a button labeled “WPS”) otherwise it’s usually necessary to enter your Wi-Fi security code (also called WEP Password) on the printer to establish the connection to the router.
Once the network connection is established it will usually be necessary then to install the required printer driver on each PC/Mac which requires access to it – remembering to specify that the printer is a NETWORK device.