I recently received an e-mail message from a woman in Fort Lauderdale who was setting up her first Windows NT Server. She planned to have a shared printer directly attached to the server’s parallel port, and she was concerned that other types of clients wouldn’t be able to print to it.

Obviously, mixing platforms can be a scary thing if you’re not used to it. However, printing from other versions of Windows to a printer that’s shared by Windows NT is no big deal. There are two ways that you can work it out.

The first method involves manually setting up a driver on each client. Windows NT makes the printer available as a share to any type of computer that’s capable of recognizing the universal naming conventions associated with it. You can load the driver on the PC and let it take care of the platform specific aspect of printing.

To perform this method in Windows 98, select Start | Settings | Printers. When you do, you’ll see the Printers window. Now, double-click the Add Printer icon to launch the Add Printer Wizard. One of the first things the Add Printer Wizard asks is whether you’re printing to a local printer or to a network printer. Since the printer is attached to the server, select Network printer. Next, the wizard asks for the location of the printer. Provide the printer’s universal naming convention. For example, if the printer were shared as HP on a server called BRIEN, you’d type \\BRIEN\HP. After entering the universal naming convention, the wizard asks for the make and model of the printer. This part of the process loads the platform specific driver on your local machine. Select your printer from the list and click Next. Finish the wizard, and you should be able to print to the printer.

Although the method that I just described works, you may be wondering about using Point and Print. As you may recall, Point and Print is a service that works with shared printers in Windows 9x. If one Windows 9x computer tries to attach to a shared printer on another Windows 9x computer, it will automatically download the appropriate print driver from the host PC if it doesn’t already have a compatible driver. Since Windows 9x and Windows NT use different print drivers, this method works differently on Windows NT.

When you configure a shared printer in Windows NT, Windows NT runs an Add Printer Wizard that’s very similar to the one found in Windows 98. One main difference is that, after you select the printer make and model, you’ll see a dialog box that asks if the printer is shared. If you choose to share the printer, Windows NT asks which operating systems will use the printer. If you select Windows 95, Windows NT may ask for the location of the Windows 95 drivers (which also work with Windows 98). You can obtain these drivers from the Internet or from the disk that came with your printer. After supplying the correct drivers, Point and Print will work for both Windows 9x and Windows NT based clients.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail . (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it’s impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

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