Adding a TCP/IP printer to Windows 11 is a little different from earlier versions of Windows, though not terribly different from adding one to Windows 10. But here’s how to add one in Windows 11, step by step, complete with screenshots. It’s been more than a few years since I was a professional printer administrator, but I guess I still have a little of that in me.
Finding your printer’s IP address
First, you need your printer’s IP address. Most printers can tell you their IP address, but how they do it varies widely. If you have the printer set up on another Windows machine, you can use this trick to find its IP address.
Once you know the printer’s IP address, I highly recommend making or printing a label with the IP address on it and sticking it on the printer itself. This won’t be the last time you’ll need to know that.
Adding a TCP/IP printer to Windows 11
Once you have your printer’s IP address, the fastest and easiest way to get started is to press the Windows key or click the Windows icon, then type the word printers. When an icon comes up that says Printers and Scanners, click on it. Then click add device. You will see the dreaded spinny ring of death, but don’t fret. After a few seconds, you will see a message that says the printer I want isn’t listed. Next to it are the words add manually in blue. Click add manually. A new dialog box comes up, and now we can get down to serious business.
Choose the third option, Add a printer using an IP address or host name. Then click Next.
Choose the option TCP/IP device under device type, then click host name or IP address, and type your printer’s IP address in the box. The port name will populate automatically, so you can ignore that option. I recommend you leave the option checked to query the printer and automatically select the driver to use. It’s more likely to work the second time you install a printer than the first, for reasons you’ll see in a minute.
Give your printer a name that will help you find it. This is more important if you have more than one printer. Type a name, then click Next.
What to do when Windows 11 doesn’t have a driver
Windows 11 doesn’t come with much in the way of drivers right after install time anymore. Of the generic drivers Microsoft provides, the two most useful are the Microsoft PCL6 Class Driver, for HP and compatible printers, and Microsoft PS Class Driver, for Postscript printers. If you know your printer speaks PCL6 or Postscript, you can feel free to use one of those.
You can also try the Windows Update button. And I recommend you do. It takes a few minutes for this list to populate, even if you have a fast Internet connection. But once it does, it has an impressive selection of printers. I found a driver for an HP LaserJet 4. That printer came out in 1992. The list of printer drivers is far more extensive than I expected it to be, and this is a more convenient way to get a driver than downloading from potentially sketchy websites. Driver websites are just about the worst, these days.
Windows Update had a driver for my HP Laserjet 4100 printer, which dates to 2001. Thanks Microsoft. I take back some of the things I was going to write about you.
Another option is to download a driver from the printer manufacturer. Try to download from an official website, not a sketchy driver website. The drivers on those sites are usually okay, the problem is, the site will have 15 fake download buttons, and it’s not clear which button you click to actually get your driver. So you will end up downloading a bunch of scammy stuff before you get your driver.
In theory, any driver for Windows Vista 64 bit or newer shouldn’t give you any trouble in Windows 11. If you’ve been printing with this printer fairly recently, chances are there is a Windows 7 or Windows 10 compatible driver for it. Download the driver, extract it, then switch back to the add printer process and click have disk, and navigate to wherever you extracted the driver you downloaded.
Choose the correct driver from the list, then click Next.
Windows then asks for a printer name. Enter a name that makes sense for you, then click Next. The name matters a lot more if you have more than one printer.
The next option allows you to share the printer over the network. If the printer has its own network port, I recommend you skip this. It makes sense in offices. Not so much at home.
Click don’t share this printer, then click Next.
Congratulations! You added a TCP/IP printer in Windows 11
Finally, you get a screen saying you have successfully added the printer. You now have the option to print a test page. Click that if you want to make sure your printer worked. If you weren’t sure which driver to use, I recommend trying to print a test page. If you get garbage, no worries. Click the arrow in the upper left hand corner to go back to the step where you can choose a driver, and try one of the other ones.
Once you successfully print a test page, click Finish.
I still think this is one place where Microsoft could certainly improve things. They like to change the process for adding a printer, and it adds about as much value as the changes to Save As in Office 365. But at any rate, that is how you add a TCP/IP printer to Windows 11. It’s not too different from Windows 10, but if you are used to earlier Windows versions, it is a bit of a change. And if it’s been a while and you need a refresher, there is no shame in that.
And if your printer’s IP address ever changes, here’s how to change its IP address in Windows so it works again. Or if you want to use local accounts in Windows 11 and didn’t know how, here’s the secret to local accounts in Windows 11.