Wireless printing center

Wireless basics

Networks and routers

What is a wireless network?

HP printers

A wireless network includes a device called a wireless router or access point that sends and receives radio signals similar to a cordless phone base station. Other wireless devices on the network, like computers and printers, are like the cordless handsets. All communication on the wireless network runs through the wireless router, allowing the connected devices to talk to each other as well as share an internet connection provided by an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

This type of network is called an "infrastructure network". If you have a wireless router with wireless devices connected to it, you have a wireless infrastructure network.

Most wireless routers provide physical connection points for wired network devices such as computers and printers. A special cable called an Ethernet cable is used. This wired connection is known as an Ethernet connection.

All devices that connect to your wireless router, whether wirelessly or through an Ethernet cable, have access to the same network. These devices can communicate with each other regardless of how they connect to the network. For example, a desktop computer connected by Ethernet can print to a wireless printer as long as they are connected to the same wireless router.

What is an IP address?

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical label assigned to each connected network device such as computers, printers. An IP address is usually assigned by the local wireless router (network) using its DHCP service. A device is given an IP address that is similar to the wireless router's IP address. For example, if the wireless router's IP address is, a printer may be given an IP address of The “192.168.1” portion of the address identifies the network (also called the subnet) and the “5” is the location of the printer and is unique. Each network device on the network will have a unique location identifier.

What is a MAC address?

MAC stands for Media Access Control. Every device capable of networking (computers, printers, routers, etc.) is given a unique identifier, called a MAC address, by its manufacturer for use in network communication. Devices which have more than one network adapter will have a MAC address assigned to each adapter. For example some printers provide both an Ethernet connection and wireless. The Ethernet adapter will have a MAC address which is unique as will the wireless adapter.

What is a network name, or SSID?

The network name (also called the SSID) identifies your network to other wireless devices trying to connect. To communicate over a wireless network, each wireless device must know the name of the wireless network and any security settings the network uses. This information must be programmed into each wireless network device. There may be several wireless networks in your neighborhood, and your device needs to know which one is yours. This is why it is important that you set your wireless network name to be something unique. Do not use the network name that is set by default from the manufacturer.

What is encryption?

Knowing the name of the network you want to connect is usually only the first step before you can actually connect to the network. Most wireless networks are encrypted using a password (also referred to as a passphrase or key). When encryption is used, each device on the wireless network must know the password in order to decode the information and use the network. This is what prevents unwelcome outsiders from accessing your wireless network and from being able to see data transmissions.

The most common types of encryption are WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA/WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access). If your wireless network uses one of these, then your device will need to know which one and the password (also known as the WEP key or WPA/WPA2 passphrase) in order to join your network. WPA2 is considered the most secure.

If your network does not use an encryption password, your device will only need to know the name of your network to connect. However, anyone can access the network, including unwanted outsiders, who can also watch everything that happens on your network.

What is a WEP key or WPA/WPA2 passphrase?

WEP and WPA/WPA2 are types of encryption that are used to protect wireless networks (see What is Encryption?). A WEP key is a password used by a wireless network to code and decode any wireless network communication. A WPA/WPA2 passphrase works very much like a WEP key except that it is significantly more secure than WEP. There are two types of encryption methods associated with WPA: TKIP and AES. AES is the newest and most secure method and should always be your first choice if it's available. WPA2 always uses AES whereas WPA may use either TKIP or AES.

Any device that wants to communicate over a wireless network needs to know the wireless network name (SSID) and the encryption key or passphrase (if the network is secured).

What is the difference between an ad-hoc network and an infrastructure network?

A wireless ad-hoc network is a decentralized type of wireless network that does not rely on a pre-existing infrastructure such as a wireless router or access point. Each device participates by forwarding data for other devices.


What is a wireless printer?

A wireless printer contains a wireless adapter that can connect to a wireless network and allows computers and smart devices connected to that network to use the printer. Because the connection is wireless, you can place the printer in any convenient location in your home. It is important to make sure the location you chose for the printer provides a strong signal between the printer and the wireless router.

Why would I want wireless printer?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of a wireless printer is that it doesn't have to be placed next to a computer or wireless router, but can be placed anywhere in your home where you have a power outlet available. Another benefit is that any of the computers connected to your network by either a wired or wireless connection can use the printer, after you have installed the printer software on each computer.

Is using a wireless printer secure?

Your printer will use the same wireless security methods as the wireless computers on your wireless network, and is no less secure. Also, the presence of your wireless printer on the network does not make the network less secure.

Are wireless printers expensive?

No. There are a variety of models to choose from, and several are quite inexpensive. Compare and shop for HP wireless printers

How does a wireless printer connect to my wireless network?

There are several methods used to connect HP printers to wireless networks. Printers which have displays typically provide a front panel Wireless Setup Wizard accessible from the Wireless Menu. The Wireless Setup Wizard will display a list of wireless networks detected. After you select the network you want the printer to connect to, you will be prompted to enter the wireless password (if the network is using security). Printers without displays will use a software driven process called USB Setup of Wireless which uses a temporary USB cable connection between the printer and computer to configure the printer. You will run the printer software on the computer and follow the software instructions which will guide you through getting the printer connected. Note the computer must be also connected to the wireless network. Another method common to printers with and without displays is Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). There are two methods available. The pushbutton method requires you to first initiate WPS on the printer and then push the WPS button on the router (if supported). If the PIN method is used, the printer will provide a PIN code which will be entered into the router.

Why not just share a USB-connected printer from one of my computers?

Sharing a USB printer only allows sharing the print function. If the printer also has scanning or fax capabilities, only the computer directly connected to the printer can scan or fax. Also, the computer which the printer is attached to must be powered on and not in sleep mode for other computers to share the printer. It can be complicated to set up sharing of a printer that is connected by a USB cable to a computer. The ability to share the printer can also become unreliable after you update the computer's operating system or security system.

Why not just add a wireless adapter to my current USB printer?

A wireless adapter (sometimes called wireless printer adapter or USB adapter) is often about the same price as a new wireless printer and can be difficult to install. A wireless adapter provides only printing functionality. If your printer has a scanning or fax capabilities, these cannot be accessed.

Should I use the USB port on my wireless router for my printer?

USB ports, available on some wireless routers, allow printing from computers on a network, but do not allow scanning or faxing, if your printer has those capabilities.