Can you print via an Apple guest network?

A reader wants to use his guest network to print. However, that's one of the things it can't do.

printer button ts
Credit: Thinkstock

Oscar Medellin writes in with a reasonable request. After setting up a guest network using his Apple Wi-Fi base station that was paired with using Timed Access Control to limit his kids’ access to the Internet, he found that they couldn’t print via Wi-Fi.

How can I configure their computers or my AirPort Extreme to print wirelessly using my Wi-Fi network while still using the Guest Network?

Unfortunately, this is one of the tradeoffs with guest networking. Not all companies’ Wi-Fi routers restrict printer access, but Apple only allows a kind of tunnel-to-the-Internet. Those connected to the guest network when you have Wi-Fi security enabled also can’t view each other’s network traffic, even with tools designed to sniff around.

As Apple notes, “Your primary network, including your printer, attached drives, or other devices remains secure,” by which they mean, nothing on the local network is accessible. There’s no workaround to put the printer on the guest network, either: it won’t be reachable by other guests nor from your main network. (Brother has a note about that here.)

Depending on your printer, however, you can make it reachable over the Internet! So even though local network discovery won’t work, it can still be reached: guests will print to its Internet address, which might require a round trip out through a coordinating server run by the printer maker, but will still work. Brother Connect lets you set up some printers this way; HP and others offer similar options that are typically not set up by default.

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