Tutorial: How to install a USB printer


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We all know the importance of a printer in our home. Whenever we need something from electronic format to paper format, the printer is our friend. Of course, easy installation of the printer is vital, so new printers can be linked to a computer by USB. This is why they are called USB printers. USB provides high transfer speeds, suited to any printer. However, to link it to the personal computer, we will need an USB cable. To make it work, we will need the hardware driver installed.

Physical installation of the USB printer

I have a Canon Pixma iP1500. It is a very good Bubble Jet printer, suited for my personal needs. You can see one in the picture below:

Canon USB printer

It connects to your computer through a USB data transfer cable. This cable should come with your printer, but it can also be found in most IT shops as it is a standard cable. One of the ends is a simple male USB connector, while the other is a special, Type B USB connector. Here is how its ends look like and what they are:

USB printer cable

The USB connector goes into one of the USB ports found on your computer. It should fit in quite easily so don’t force it. Here is how an USB port looks like:

USB port on the computer

It is very easy to find the USB ports. Depending on your interface, you should have at least two (some even have 10). Simply plug the connector in the USB port and the Type B USB connector in the printer’s port. The port is located at the back of the USB printer and looks something like the one below:

USB port on the printer

The connector should slide in fairly easy, so don’t push it too hard. If you see it does not want to enter, it means that you are holding the Type B USB connector wrong. Simply rotate it, until you manage to plug it in the port. Here is how it should look like:

The printer's USB port with the USB cable inserted

Now, after you have connected it to your computer, turn your printer on. Your computer should also be on and the Operating System should be running. When you turn your printer on, Windows should give you a warning about a new hardware being installed and will try to find drivers for it. You can allow Windows to search for drivers, but it will probably find nothing. If you notice, the printer will not work. It will appear as being offline. What can be the problem? You KNOW it is online, yet it does not work!

The problem is from the hardware drivers – what Windows tried to install earlier. You don’t have the drivers installed. But, perhaps, you’ve lost your original CD (the one that came with the printer and that contained the drivers) and the documentation. What can you do? Let’s see!

Installing hardware drivers for the USB printer

Each manufacturer keeps a database of drivers and software, both new and old, on its website. Whenever you need a driver or software, you can be sure to find it there. To find the website, you have a number of options. For example, I simply typed the URL www.canon.com. Usually, the URL is www.name-of-the-manufaturer.com. However, if you don’t find it (some names are spelled differently), search on Google for the manufacturer. The first result is often the webpage you are looking for.

To download drivers or software, here is where you need to go on Canon’s webpage, at www.Canon.com.

The Canon homepage

Let’s say you live in Canada and you click on Canon Canada. A new page will appear. Please note that support from this site is available for Canon products purchased in Canada only. Here is how the webpage should look:

Product options on the Canon webpage

You must choose what model of Canon digital camera you have. Also, if you can’t find your camera model in the list, you can search in the “Other product” category. You can see where to go in the photo above. Below you can take a look at how the list is structured and how to find your model:

Selecting the model number of your Canon device

Click on the model of your printer, and you will be redirected to that printer’s webpage. You will find the “Download Drivers”, “Documentation”, “Product Registration”, “Knowledge Base”, and “Contact Us” sections. We are interested in the “download Drivers section, so click on the “click here” link:

Selecting the right file for the printer

We have reached a page that contains many software products. You should look at each one and see what it does.

The available downloads for the Canon model you selected

By clicking on any of them, you are redirected to a webpage that explains (in most of the cases) what the software products is designed to do. That page contains the actual download link. We just need the driver, so we will click on “iP1500 Windows 2000/XP driver”. We are redirected to the main download page that contains the actual download link. It also contains information about the driver. You should read it, it’s quite interesting. However, you should skip the Disclaimer and Copyright sections (completely useless because you need the driver and you will end up downloading it anyway). The link is found at the bottom of the page:

The correct driver download for our Canon printer

By clicking on it, a download window appears. You need to choose a location where to save the file to. I suggest making a separate folder, name it after your printer and/or manufacturer and burn it on a CD later (it will save you from repeating the process whenever you format your hard drive or install a new version of Windows). After you have saved it, go to that location, and double click on it. It will bring up a warning window and you must choose whether to run it or cancel it. Since we know it is downloaded from the manufacturer’s official website, it does not contain any viruses, spyware, or adware. Click Run:

The security warning that appears when you open the Canon driver

The decompression tool will ask you where to extract the files needed for the installation. Make a new folder and point the tool to it. Click OK and the tool will extract all files in a matter of seconds. Since the driver does not feature an auto-setup option, you must go to the folder and search for the file “setup.exe”. It has a very suggestive icon too. Here is where I found it:

The icon you must double-click on to install your Canon driver

Double click on it and the setup process should start right away. A window will appear, telling you that you should close all running applications, including the antivirus software. Do just that – it is recommended for a smooth install. Click Close, close all running applications and then double click setup again. Click Next and then accept the license agreement (you could read it anyway). The setup tool will copy some files, create a folder, and register your printer. The installation is finished and the tool will try to establish connection to your printer. Make sure it is plugged in and started. Here is how the search for printer port window looks like:

The Canon printer driver installation tool searching for attached Canon devices

The search tool will find your printer relatively fast. The installation is complete. You have just installed the USB printer, both hardware and software. Congratulations!

Of course, if you would have had the original CD in the first place, the process would have been much easier. However, after you burn the USB printer hardware driver software on a CD, you will have the equivalent. Don’t forget to do that!

First print. What to do in case of errors

Now, let’s see if the printer is working properly. The best way to do this is by actually printing something. Before you do this, make sure your printer’s ink cartridges have sufficient ink. Printing without ink could destroy the printing head. Also, make sure that the USB printer has some A4 paper.

Create a new Microsoft Word file and type only a few words (to minimize the ink loss). Go to File and click Print. The printing window should appear. Leave the settings as you find them and click OK. The printer should start printing the one page document. Take the output and see if it printed correctly, if the lines are aligned. Everything should be ok.

If the printer refuses to print, it might be a hardware problem. Check the ink cartridges, check the paper, and check the link to the computer. You can also restart the printer (perhaps a software error). Try restarting your computer or even reinstalling the hardware driver. If nothing works, call Canon’s customer support to obtain some answers. Assuming that your printer is still in warranty, you should return it and receive a new one. Repeat the process for the new on and it should work just fine (although you might be unlucky and receive another broken one – just joking!)