Setting up a printer on a Chromebook is quite a bit different from what you’re used to on a Mac or Windows PC. Google provides cloud printing and similar functionality to make it easy, but it doesn’t work with all printers, especially older printers. Believe it or not, new Chromebooks work great with ancient HP Laserjets. So here’s what I learned about how to print from a Chromebook to an HP printer.
It’s not super user friendly but this is still fairly new functionality. It works well if you know the trick. And this is important. I like Chromebooks. But you won’t like Chromebooks if you can’t do the stuff you want on them. Not everyone does a ton of printing anymore, but printing is basic functionality that people expect to be able to do. You won’t care how secure a Chromebook is if you can’t do basic functions.
I recommend using a dedicated Chromebook for paying bills. But if you’re going to pay bills, you may very well want to print a confirmation from time to time.
Setting up a printer
Click on the icon in the lower right and click on the gear icon to open settings. That’s where the functionality hides, but it’s buried a bit deeper than that.
To set up a printer, click Advanced Settings, then click Printers. There’s a button called Add Nearby Printers that may work if your printers are new enough. For USB printers, you can just plug the USB printer in at this point. Some printers may not work with Chrome OS, but if Chrome OS has a driver, choose your printer’s make from the dropdown labeled Manufacturer and the model from the dropdown labeled Model if it doesn’t autodetect it.
Add a TCP/IP printer to a Chromebook
I don’t attach directly to my computers though. I have a nice old HP Laserjet 4100 with a Jetdirect network card in it. That printer is a tarnished antique by computer standards, but it still works great and supplies are cheap. I recommend them.
How to print from a Chromebook to an HP printer over the network is easy once you know that Jetdirects use port 9100 and use Appsocket as the protocol. Nothing on the Chromebook will tip you off to this.
But don’t worry. For old HP Jetdirect printers like mine, just click on the field labeled IP Address, enter the printer’s IP address followed by :9100 (e.g. 192.168.1.25:9100), and pick Appsocket as the protocol.
Then scroll down and pick the manufacturer and model number from the dropdown menus that follow, since the Chromebook probably won’t autodetect any of that. Finally, click Save. It won’t offer to print a nice test page either. But after you set up the printer, visit a simple web page and print it to verify it works.
The nice thing is, Chrome OS will set that printer up on any Chrome OS machine you log into from now on.
Laserjets are all over offices and schools, so being able to use them with Chromebooks is a boon. You don’t have to buy fancy Cloudprint-ready printers for them.
What if your printer isn’t compatible
If Chrome OS doesn’t have a driver for your printer, so some searching to see if there’s a compatible printer that Chrome OS does know about. For example, it turns out my HP Color Laserjet 1215 is compatible with both the HP Color Laserjet 1600 and Color Laserjet 2600n. Unfortunately, neither of those two printers are supported right now either. So I’m out of luck with that printer, at least for now.
You can try the HP Print for Chrome app, which may support some printers that Chrome OS doesn’t directly support. HP provides a list of printers.
Some printers just aren’t compatible with anything other than Windows. They may not work on a Mac either, let alone a Chromebook. If you’re going to print from operating systems other than Windows, you really want a printer that speaks PCL, Postscript, or both. Those types of printers will work with anything. Yes, I can even make those printers work with an Amiga or a Commodore 64, let alone a Chromebook.
That’s why I like old office printers, even for home use. I could plug an HP Laserjet 4 from the early 1990s into a Jetdirect box and make a Chromebook print to it. You might as well pick up something a little newer, like a 4100 or 4200 series printer. But with upgraded memory and a network card, these printers are still nice. I expect to get another 5-10 years out of mine. Who knew Chromebooks and HP Laserjets would be such a nice match?
And that’s how to print from a Chromebook to an HP printer.