In today’s highly networked corporate environment, workgroup printers abound, and for good reason. Having a single, high-capacity printer costs much less to install, operate, and maintain than multiple local printers. Situations still exist, however, that require local printers. Printing confidential material or a large number of odd-sized documents may be more efficient when done from a local printer. So what happens when two people need to share a single local printer or one person needs access to two local printers?

TechRepublic member Lmcdonald recently asked for advice on such a problem in our Technical Q&A. “I need a PC with two printer ports for a department,” writes Lmcdonald. “The only thing they run is Excel and they print from an Excel spreadsheet to a tractor-feed printer and also a label printer.” TechRepublic members quickly came to Lmcdonald’s aid, offering tips for sharing the printers through a combination of A/B switches and additional parallel port cards.

A/B switches
Member Lizzy suggests Lmcdonald get an A/B data switch box. These devices allow multiple computers to share a single printer or a single computer to share multiple printers. Figure A shows two different types of data switches.

Figure A
The data switch on top has parallel connections, while the one below uses Centronics cables.

Figure B shows a data switch with four connections, and Figure C shows a more compact data switch with two connections. You’ll want to choose the switch that best fits your needs. Data Switch boxes range in price from $20 to $70, depending on the model.

Figure B

Figure C

Additional parallel port cards
Maxwell_t_edison suggests another option: installing additional parallel ports on the PCs that need to use more than one printer. Parallel port cards can be purchased for under $30 and are available for both ISA and PCI expansion slots. Figure D shows an example of an ISA card, and Figure E shows a PCI version. These cards will give a PC two LPT ports, one for each local printer.

Figure D

Figure E

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