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I've currently got an old but decent non-network-capable laser printer connected to one of my Windows 7 PC's, and shared over the network (a plain Windows workgroup.)

Other PCs in the house, my Mac mini, and my MacBook Air can access the printer, which has both Mac and PC drivers available (it's an HP LaserJet), and the printing setup is working perfectly right now. I know, I know, ain't broke? don't fix!

However, I need to keep that Windows 7 PC on in order to use the printer, and that PC is an energy-vampire. My Mac mini is much better with respect to power consumption, and I'm therefore considering promoting it to always-on instead of the Windows box.

I've seen questions about accessing PC-shared printers from a Mac, but not going the other way. My questions are:

  • If I wanted to connect a printer to my Mac mini instead, what do I need to do in order to share this printer on the network so both my other Mac and my Windows PCs can continue to print? Is a good reference for this procedure available online?

  • Can OS X share a printer on a network using the exact same protocol that Windows uses to share a printer, or is it necessarily different? If there are protocol choices, how to choose?

  • If the sharing protocol is necessarily different, are Windows clients still able to mount Mac-shared printers? Are there specific gotchas or caveats, say, about credentials or otherwise? Job management?

Thank you.

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Have you considered a print server? I've used print servers like the Linksys PSUS4 to hook up USB printers for sharing in a home network. One other thing to check - your local router might be able to hook up printers (via USB) and share them too. –  JW8 Mar 30 '12 at 19:30
    
I have an Airport Extreme, but it's in a wiring area in a storage room, not where the printer is. The printer would be at the other end. –  Chris W. Rea Mar 30 '12 at 19:39

1 Answer 1

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If I wanted to connect a printer to my Mac mini instead, what do I need to do in order to share this printer on the network so both my other Mac and my Windows PCs can continue to print? Is a good reference for this procedure available online?

Share the printer, and install Bonjour on your Windows 7 PCs. It's likely already installed if they run iTunes.

Can OS X share a printer on a network using the exact same protocol that Windows uses to share a printer, or is it necessarily different? If there are protocol choices, how to choose?

No, it will use it's own protocols, and they are basically Bonjour, or nothing

If the sharing protocol is necessarily different, are Windows clients still able to mount Mac-shared printers? Are there specific gotchas or caveats, say, about credentials or otherwise? Job management?

Operationally a shared Mac printer should present no gotchas that a Windows one won't, for example it may struggle to report Ink Levels as a shared printer rather than over USB etc, you may only be able to print to a multifunction printer, and not scan etc.

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