Mystic incantations needed to attach Vista laptop to XP printer

By the Amulet of Redmond, I command the Vista laptop to find the XP printer
By the Amulet of Redmond, I command the Vista laptop to find the XP printer

Our printer worked fine in our old place. My Vista laptop printed to a printer attached to Sue’s XP desktop. But when we moved here, it stopped working. The only difference was that we were online via cable modem using a LinkSys router rather than an AT&T DSL modem.

Why that bonked the printer I’ve no idea. After much gnashing of teeth, I finally got it working.

It helps if workgroup names on both are the same. XP defaults to MsHome and Vista to Workgroup. Change them so they match then reboot.

You can add a printer on Vista with Add local printer. Choose Create new port then choose Local port from the dropdown menu. For the locations, put “\\”+ the name of the other computer + “\” + name of the printer. Boy, that’s sure intuitively obvious. This sometimes work. Or, download the printer driver from the manufacturer and follow their instructions for setting up a printer on another computer.

The final problem was the Norton Firewall on Sue’s computer. If I disabled it, the laptop found her computer. After more hunting, I found a Norton configuration screen that listed the networks and set the current network to Trusted. Then everything worked. This only took two hours.

Mac users, feel free to leave annoying comments about the superiority of OS X. You’re probably right.


  1. No offense, but printers on the same workgroup is a no-brainer. I can see how its a pain that two versions of windows default to different groups, but its still a pretty standard setting. As for Norton, that’s the user’s fault for A) not knowing how to properly use a program they had to give permission to run/install (this is important!) and B) using Norton in the first place (it’s awful – I recommend AVG and a router with a built-in hardware firewall).

    Not saying its not frustrating (printers are always a bitch) but the problems you listed are user error, not a flaw in Windows. It’s been my experience that this is the source of the vast majority of so-called Windows problems as well.

    • Except Macs really don’t have that many bizarre config problems. And MSFT defaulting to different workgroup names is decidedly user-unfriendly. Ditto for Norton not asking if an obvious home network should be trusted.

      It just shouldn’t be that complicated. And I bought my first PC in 1984.

  2. I have to disagree, UJ: In XP, the computers DIDN’T have to be on the same workgroup. My wife’s computer is on our home network, but mine (more often than not) is set up to use a client’s workgroup name. And all our printers network just fine. So for long-time Windows users that’s not a no-brainer at all!

    • At our old place, we had different workgroup names and it found the printer fine. In the new place the only thing that changed was a new modem / wireless router, and that borked everything.

      Computers pros I know who routinely work with PCs, Macs, and Unix all day long tell me the the Mac OS is the simplest to use. You just plug devices in and they work.

      Really, it should be like a car, I don’t care how it works and shouldn’t have to spend hours, say, redoing the brakes, just because I moved.

  3. Nice blog about printer. I have a lot of problem with my office printer. I’m IT support and need to solve any problem. Do you have any suggestion about printer troushooting guide site? Thank you very much.

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