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A printer is one kind of computer peripheral, a device that interacts with a computer and receives information from it, in this case, to create a hard copy of documents that exist in electronic form on the computer’s drive or a location accessed by the computer. Like other peripherals, printers can be connected to the computer in various ways. Connection methods have traditionally included printer cables, USB cables, Ethernet cables, and more recently, wireless connections. Printers capable of connecting wirelessly are referred to as wireless printers.
A wireless printer has several advantages over a cable-connected printer. It can be placed farther away from the computer it works with, which can diminish noise, or create centralized access for a printer that is shared by several people. A wireless printer also eliminates the danger of long cables that may cause a tripping hazard. On the other hand, if one doesn’t already have a Wireless Local-Area Network (WLAN), it needs to be put in place. When connecting through a WLAN, a well-secured network with strong encryption is required. Because the encryption in the WLAN can only be as strong as the weakest link allows, unless the wireless printer supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or WPA2 encryption, the printer can compromise the security of the entire system.
Wireless networks are designated by the standard they comply with. The general standard is IEEE 802.11 and the particular enactments that are commonly found include 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. Both 802.11b and 802.11g, or b and g, employ the 2.4 GHz ISM band, and thus may suffer interference from Bluetooth® devices, cordless phones, and microwave ovens. 802.11g is backward compatible with 802.11b. 802.11n employs 5GHz, and while it may have a dual-band network and be able to work compatibly with b and g, it will have to downshift to 2.4 GHz at some loss of performance. Since g and n networks have different performance and distance specifications, these should be considered in choosing the WLAN setup.
A router is often the key component that ties together the elements of a WLAN, including a wireless printer. The set-up of the system is dependent on the particular router manufacturer. Setting up a wireless printer will likely involve a minimum of five steps: unpacking and assembly, ink or toner installation, powering up the printer, loading paper, and installing the printer driver software. The installation of some wireless printers requires that they temporarily be connected by cable to the router in the course of the setup process. When setup is complete, the printer can be positioned as desired.