Recently, I added a MacBook Pro to my home - all PC - network. I had setup the network using a wireless router and an old Windows XP PC as a print server to share a Canon MP780 multifunction printer. After setting up the Mac, I tried to get it to print to the shared printer. I followed the tech note that I found on the Apple support site. I couldn’t get it to work. I searched the net and found a bunch of suggestions. Some didn’t work. Some were ridiculously complex. All said and tried, I couldn’t get the Mac to print on my Windows network.
So, I decided to take a different approach and consider using a wireless print server. I looked at the product offerings from the key network hardware players. I was genuinely surprised that I couldn’t find a PC and Mac compatible solution that would support a multifunction printer. I started to think that it would be far easier and less expensive to purchase another printer to connect to the Mac. That was a good and bad solution - I don’t need another printer, nor do I have space for it.
So, I decided to take a different approach and consider using a wireless router with USB printer support. Again I looked to the key network hardware players. Again, I couldn’t find a solution that would support both PCs and Macs and multifunction printers. I then looked at the Apple Airport Extreme. The Apple site says, “The same USB port does double duty by letting you share a printer throughout the network.” This sounded too simple, so I set off looking for a printer compatibility list. I couldn’t find one on the Apple website. I headed over to the local Apple store and ask about printer compatibility. After a bit of confusion, I was told that the Airport works well with most Canon printers and that I have 14 days to return the Airport should it not work. So, I paid double what I’d pay for any other wireless router and headed home with another Apple product.
Setup was simple and quick. I configured the Airport from my Mac. I setup the router, then the printer. It worked first try. Next I setup the PCs. All I had to do was install Bonjour for Windows on the PCs and run the Bonjour Printer Wizard. I setup 4 PCs – each saw the printer first try and printed without a problem! In fact, on of the PCs is a Parallels virtual machine running on my MacBook Pro.
I setup PCs and networks for a living. Usually, there are a number of problems I encounter with each network and I have some insider magic that I do to get things working. This wasn’t the case here at all. The Airport works as advertised – setup is a breeze and its performance and range so far has been fine. I suspect that I’ll be recommending the Airport Extreme to my clients with a mixed PC/Mac environments going forward.
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