If your router has a USB port and is running DD-WRT, you can turn it into a DD-WRT USB print server. It can still do wireless duty while it allows your computers to print to your wired USB printer over your wired or wireless network. It’s not very intuitive or user friendly, but it works. Here’s how to set it up with Windows 7. Other Windows versions will be about the same.
First things first: Make sure your router has one or more USB ports. Most inexpensive routers still do not. But many routers that cost $70 or more do. If you need help finding a compatible router (perhaps you don’t have one with USB), here are my tips on finding DD-WRT compatible routers. These days, I won’t even consider buying a router that doesn’t have USB ports.
A lot of inexpensive printers don’t have built in networking. Using DD-WRT to host them is ideal. It works more or less like HP Jetdirect networking, and your router is always on, so it’s more convenient and a lot less confusing than hosting it from one of your computers, where you may have to deal with mismatched Windows versions or the host computer not being turned on when you want to print from elsewhere. Setting up a DD-WRT USB print server isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but once you have it set up, it makes things much more convenient. You’ll like it once you have it working, and it turns your $60 printer into the equivalent of a $100 printer.
Setting up a DD-WRT USB print server on the router side
First, install the printer as a direct-connected USB printer on your computer if at all possible. It makes the rest easier. Unplug the printer from your computer when you’re done.
Next, log in to your USB-equipped DD-WRT router, then click Services, then click USB. If you don’t know your router’s IP address, here’s how to find it.
Make sure the options Core USB Support and USB Printer Support are both enabled. I disabled USB storage support because I only have a single USB port on my router, but if you have two, you can enable that option as well. USB storage allows your router to function as a NAS or a DLNA server for streaming audio and video. I didn’t enable USB over IP, but that would be a way to potentially share a multifunction device.
We’ll keep it simple this time. Enable those options, click Apply Settings, click Save if you’re paranoid, then plug your printer in to your router. That’s it for the router and printer side. All that remains is setting it up in Windows.
Here’s how to add your new network printer to Windows 7. For Windows 10, follow my instructions for adding a TCP/IP printer to Windows 10 because it’s pretty different. You’ll need to know that the DD-WRT USB print server uses either port 9100 or 9101.
Adding your DD-WRT USB print server to Windows 7
Click Start and type Devices and Printers. Next, click on Devices and Printers when it shows up. Finally, click Add a Printer, near the top of the window.
Click Add a Wireless, Network or Bluetooth printer.
Click The Printer I want isn’t listed.
Select Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname and click Next.
Enter the IP address of the router and select TCP/IP Device as the device type. Click Next.
Windows will try to detect the printer type and fail. Give it some time. Nothing about this process is going to give you any confidence at all that this is going to work, but it will.
Windows will prompt you for more information. Select Custom, then click Settings. Keep the defaults (or try port 9101 if you have two USB ports and two printers connected), then click Next. Windows will pull up a list of printer manufacturers and drivers. Pick the appropriate driver by selecting the make and model of your printer, then click Next. Windows will offer to print a test page. I recommend you do. Wait for the moment of truth. When you see the test page, congratulations! Enjoy your new wireless printer.
Creating a DD-WRT USB print server isn’t the first thing we think of when we’re setting up DD-WRT, but it allows you to get more use out of a device you need anyway.