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What to Do if Windows Can’t Connect to Your Printer
Most of the time, Windows automatically sees any printer on the same network as your PC. But what if your computer can’t see the printer, or simply refuses to connect? Adding a printer on a local network is simple in theory, but the reality is that, when the process goes wrong, it can be tricky to unravel.

Running the “Add a printer or scanner” wizard or the printer troubleshooter should fix the problem, in most cases. If this doesn’t work, though, these easy troubleshooting steps can rescue the day.

What to Do if Windows Can't Connect to Your Printer
Find a Connected Printer
Find a Connected Printer
A printer can connect to a network on either an Ethernet or Wi-Fi local area network (LAN), or you can connect it directly via USB to a computer on the network. Either connection type can be shared with other users on the network by enabling print sharing on the server or on the computer to which the USB printer is connected.

Windows’ “Add a printer or scanner” wizard is accessible from the “Printers & scanners” section in the Settings Control Panel. (In Windows 7, it’s the Add Printer wizard accessible from the Devices and Printers Control Panel.) The specific details vary between Windows versions, but the procedure is pretty much the same.

However, unlike earlier versions, Windows 10 doesn’t usually require you to run a wizard in the first place. Instead, when you plug your Ethernet cable into the printer or connect the printer to your wireless network, in most cases the printer will simply show up automatically in the list of installed devices.

Find a Connected Printer
(In Windows 7 and earlier versions, when you click the Add Printer link, Windows will automatically search for printers on the network. The printer name(s) will pop up, and you can select one. Add it, and with any luck, you will be ready to print.)

If your device is not listed here, click “Add a printer or scanner.” Windows starts searching your network for connected printers and lists its findings, as shown below. Simply click the printer you want to connect to, then click “Add device.”

Click “Add a printer or scanner,” and Windows starts searching your LAN for new printers.

Windows will move the printer to the list of installed printers and scanners. From here, when you click the printer name in the list, you can manage the machine as desired.

Troubleshooting a Missing Printer
Of course, a printer doesn’t always install as it should. It may not appear at all in the list of available printers, or you might get a message that Windows can’t connect to it. The first steps would be to make sure of the basics.

That means ensuring the printer is on and connected to the same network as the PC to which you want it added. You should also check that print sharing is enabled on the computer to which it’s attached. For a home network, that would be the computer on which you installed the printer’s software.

From here, you have two options. Either click the option “The printer that I want isn’t listed,” located directly below the list of printers discovered in the connected device search, or run the troubleshooter.

One thing to know: Just because you don’t see a printer doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Some IT departments hide the names of all printers by default. Although IT likely has good reasons for doing so, hidden printers can be an impediment when there is a legitimate need for someone to connect to a particular one. There are other issues that may prevent you from seeing an accessible printer, too.

Adding an Unseen Printer
Close Specific Apps That Use Lots of Power
Close Specific Apps That Use Lots of Power
Choose the manufacturer and device type to install the correct printer driver.
In the “Find a printer by other options” dialog box, you’ll see five ways to find and connect to your printer. (Note that this dialog box has only three options in earlier versions of Windows.)

My printer is a little older. Help me find it: When you choose this option, Windows performs another search. If it finds your printer, it will display a second dialog box. Select your printer, and Windows will install the drivers. If your printer is not listed, try one of the other options in this dialog box (which will probably require another “Add a printer or scanner” search from the Printers & scanners Control Panel).

Select a printer by name: To use this option, you must know the name of the computer that the printer is connected to and the network name of the printer itself. If you’re doing this in an office for a network-attached printer, and you don’t know the printer name, you’ll have to ask another employee who uses it, or get it from your IT department. Notice the naming examples directly below this option in the image above.

Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname: Choosing this option brings up the “Type a printer hostname or IP address” dialog box. Here, again, you’ll need to obtain the hostname or IP address. Enter the address or hostname, and click Next.

On a home network, you can get the printer’s IP address from its control panel by printing a status report or from the printer’s built-in onboard web portal.

Windows will query the printer, and then display a list of compatible devices, allowing you to select your printer by manufacturer and type. After making your selections, click Next, and it should connect your PC to the printer. If not, move on to the Running the Troubleshooter section below.
Add a Bluetooth, wireless or network discoverable printer: With this option, you can add peer-to-peer network devices that are not actually on your LAN. (Windows does a brute search for all available protocols available to your PC.).

Add a local printer or network with manual settings: Choosing this option runs a wizard that walks you through a series of steps for manually creating a printer port and installing the printer, which requires technical expertise beyond the scope of this entry-level guide.

At any point in the process, or if any one of these methods fails, you can run the Windows troubleshooter to try connecting to the printer.