While there are several ways to connect a printer to a computer, most wireless printers today use Wi-Fi® technology. How you connect a laptop to a Wi-Fi printer depends on the printer. Modern Wi-Fi printers can seek out nearby computers all by themselves. If you have an older printer, you can use a Wi-Fi router to connect the printer to your laptop wirelessly. If you are in a pinch, you can usually use a cable to connect a laptop and printer, or you can use your smartphone to create an ad hoc Wi-Fi hot spot.
Wi-Fi Direct Printers
If your Wi-Fi printer comes with Wi-Fi Direct technology, you don't need any additional equipment to connect it to a laptop. Wi-Fi Direct printers connect directly to any certified 802.11a/g/n adapter, including those found in almost all current laptops, smartphones and tablets. Wi-Fi Direct devices use Wi-Fi Protected Setup technology to make it easy to connect your laptop to the printer. Wi-Fi Direct also uses WPA2 encryption, the most secure version of encryption available. If you're not certain if your printer has Wi-Fi Direct, check the user manual or the manufacturer's description.
If your printer does not have Wi-Fi Direct, you need a Wi-Fi access point. In most homes, this is the same Wi-Fi router you use to connect to the Internet with your laptop. Most routers today use either 802.11n or 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is backward compatible with older adapters. If you don't have Wi-Fi in your home, you can connect the printer to your laptop using a cable. Most Wi-Fi printers come with either a USB port or Ethernet port you can use to connect to the laptop.
Just about every laptop made in recent years includes a built-in adapter with 802.11n Wi-Fi, so this shouldn't be a problem unless your laptop is old or the built-in adapter is defective. If needed, you can purchase an external Wi-Fi adapter to attach to a laptop. These adapters go into the laptop's USB port and provide you with Wi-Fi access to a Wi-Fi Direct printer or any Wi-Fi access point including your Internet router.
Using Your Smartphone
Depending on the model, you may be able to use your smartphone to create an ad hoc Wi-Fi hot spot. This feature was originally intended to let you access the Internet from a computer using a smartphone's cellular network. However, the same hot spot can be used to connect a laptop and a printer without accessing the Internet or incurring additional cellular data charges. Depending on the model and who your cellular provider is, this feature may already be enabled. If it isn't, your cellular carrier may be able enable the feature, or you may be able to enable it yourself simply by installing an app.
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