Connect a 64-bit Windows PC to a Shared Printer on a 32-bit Windows PC

I ran into this problem the other day. A customer who had only XP computers in his office had a PC go out on him. He bought a new PC with Windows 7 64-bit installed. His office printer is shared off of a PC running Windows XP 32-bit. He could see the PC and the printer, and could even connect to the printer, but he could not install the printer driver. When he described the dialog choices to me, I should have known something was up. He was following the steps to connect to the printer, but instead of asking for a driver first the PC would go to Windows Update for the driver, then it would look for an inf file to provide the driver. I downloaded an HP Universal driver (the only driver available for 64-bit Windows for his HP Laserjet 4100) and burned it to a CD. I tried walking him through it over the phone but he would receive an error that a suitable driver could not be found even when he pointed Windows to the CD. I went to his office and tried it myself but still had no luck. I checked his workgroup and it was different from the rest (the rest were using the MSHOME default workgroup instead of WORKGROUP). I changed the workgroup, but still could not load the driver. I finally installed the HP Universal driver and pointed it to the shared printer, but I received a communication error.

After Googling a bit, I found the steps to connect the PC to the printer. Apparently you can’t just connect a 64-bit PC to a printer on a 32-bit PC. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. In Devices and Printers, click Add a Printer.
  2. Click Add a Local Printer.
  3. Click Create a New Port.
  4. Choose Local Port, then click Next.
  5. In the “Enter a Port Name” box, type in the UNC path to the shared printer (\\server\printer), then click OK.

You should now be presented with the choose a driver window. Either choose a Windows printer driver or go to a different location through “Have Disk” to find the driver.

In his case, Windows had a driver for an HP Laserjet 4100. I loaded the driver and he was good to go.

I guess this is another example of Microsoft goofing up an easy to use process everyone has used since Windows 95. I’m sure there is some technical reason they make you load the driver this way, but I feel sorry for all of the small businesses who are still running XP with shared printers who will have to deal with this problem as they replace computers with 64-bit Windows.

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