AirPort Does Windows
AirPort printer sharing isn’t restricted to Macs: Windows PCs can also use an Air-Port print server. To set this up, you’ll need the AirPort’s IP number. (By default, it’s at 10.0.1.1.) With the PC attached to the AirPort wireless network, open the Add Printer wizard in Printers and Faxes. Following the steps in the wizard, create a local printer, deselecting the Automatically Configure option. Next, click to create a new Standard TCP/IP Port, and enter your AirPort’s IP number in the IP number field. If the IP number is 10.0.1.1, the queue name should automatically fill in as IP_10.0.1.1. In the next screen, select Standard as the device type, and then specify Hewlett Packard Jet Direct. Finally, click on Finish, and then select your printer make and model from the list of available drivers.
If you’re using Windows XP, 2000, or 2003, there’s a simpler solution: Apple’s Bonjour for Windows. Once installed, the included Printer Wizard displays a list of available printers on your subnet; just select your AirPort-shared printer, click on OK, and select the printer make and model from the list.
Printer + Print Server = Network Printer
Some printers are meant to be shared; some aren’t. Network-ready printers can process print jobs on their own. Such printers also typically hold plenty of paper, ink, and toner. Models that aren’t meant to be shared are called host-based printers, meaning that they rely on the attached computer to figure out where to put the ink on the paper.
Host-based printers are also not designed to work with print servers—devices that attach to a printer’s USB or parallel port and make the printer available on a network. The AirPort base station is a very capable print server, too, although it can’t queue jobs internally. (Networking aficionados will be pleased to note that AirPort uses the familiar AppSocket [or JetDirect] protocol on TCP port 9100.)
AirPort is unique among print servers in that it doesn’t care whether the attached printer is host-based or network-ready. Apple’s Remote I/O USB Printing protocol simply extends the USB data stream over the network. But network traffic tends to flow in bursts, not the steady and predictable stream of a USB connection. Therefore, if the printer’s hardware isn’t capable of queuing and buffering incoming data, it may be unreliable when used in a network setting.
Note that when you use a print server, you lose access to whatever utilities your printer has for monitoring its ink supply, paper jams, and the like. These utilities require a direct USB connection and don’t work over network connections. Such limitations are part and parcel of network printing, and are true of any print server.