Printer sharing is one of the handiest features of both the Mac OS and Windows. By sharing an existing printer between multiple computers, regardless of the operating system in use, you not only save the cost of additional printers, you also get to wear a networking guru hat and show off your technical skills to your friends and family.
You’re going to need that hat when it comes to sharing a printer that’s connected to a computer running Windows Vista. Getting Vista to share a printer with Mac or Linux computers can be a bit of a challenge, but you’re up to it. Put on your networking hat and we’ll get started.
Samba and Vista
When the host computer runs Vista, printer sharing is a bit more work than if it runs Windows XP, because Vista disables the default authentication that Samba (Server Message Block) uses to establish a connection when sharing a printer with a Mac or Unix computer. With authentication disabled, all you’ll see when you try to print from your Mac to a Vista-hosted printer is a “Waiting for authentication” status message.
There are two methods of enabling authentication, depending on whether you’re using Vista Home Edition or one of the Business/Enterprise/Ultimate Editions. I’ll cover both methods.
In addition, getting your OS 10.4.x-based Mac to print to a Vista shared printer involves turning on an older Unix printing protocol in Vista. This isn’t required for Macs running 10.5; for some reason, Vista and 10.4 just don’t seem to get along.
What You Need
- A working network, either wired or wireless Ethernet.
- A printer that’s directly connected to a PC running Vista.
- A common workgroup name for the PCs and the Mac network.
- About half an hour of your time.