How do I get my printer online? Here's 3 easy steps to show you how

Man and boy plugging a printer into a computer.
(Image credit: Getty)

In our modern digital age setting up a new device should be simple, but it's still easy to find yourself searching 'how do I get my printer online?' 

Whether you're struggling to connect it to a computer, WiFi, or even your smartphone, we've got some quick steps to simplify the process. In this article we’ll look at how to get setup and overcome common issues that prevent you from setting up your printer. 

One thing to note is that if you’ve recently upgraded to a new router and your printer has stopped working, this could be because some older printers are incompatible with newer 5G routers. Be sure to check if your new router is 5G and the compatibility of your printer as if it has stopped working this is likely the cause. If so, you’ll either need to revert back to your old router or upgrade to a new printer that is compatible with 5G. You’ll also want to make sure that your printing apps and OS are up to date.

1. Connect to your computer and install the drivers

The first step is to connect your printer to your laptop or desktop computer using its provided USB cable. This should then allow you to download and install the proprietary drivers on your computer to get it all set up correctly, though be sure to check your owner's manual as this may change slightly from the manufacturer.

With our HP Deskjet, we connected it to a PC via the cable and switched it on. This then automatically prompted the plug-and-play drivers on the printer to install the HP Easy Start app allowing us to connect wired or wirelessly to the printer. We advise choosing the wireless option as this will set it up to allow you to use other smart devices via AirPrint in the future, just make sure that both your printer and computer are connected to the same WiFi network. You may also need to turn off a VPN in this initial setup phase. 

2. Connect to your smartphone

If your printer has the AirPrint capability, which many modern printers have, you'll have some basic functionality. However, this is rather rudimentary and the best way to print will be through a dedicated printing app. 

Consult your printer’s owners manual to find out which specific app you need to download for your smart device, such as the HP Smart Print app for HP printers. Not only will this give you more printing options, you’ll have full functionality of any extra features like scanning and copying.

What if my printer doesn't have WiFi? 

For older printers that don’t have WiFi or AirPrint functionality, you may still be able to get them online. You might need to connect your printer’s wired connection to the back of your internet router and many modern routers have a USB port you can plug your printer directly into. This will give your printer wireless functionality and allow you to find it on your network. You can then send your documents or images wirelessly to your router to print them.

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Dan Mold

Dan is Technique Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine magazine. With over a decade writing about all things tech he’s written for a variety of publications before joining Future in April 2019 in that time working across Top Ten Reviews, Digital Camera World, PhotoPlus, NPhoto, Digital Camera and Digital Photographer.