How to set up and install a computer printer

Updated: 08/02/2019 by Computer Hope
Canon printer

A computer printer does not work until you install the included drivers and software. If you have lost the CD for your printer, you can download the drivers for your printer and use the drivers to install your printer. A listing of printer manufacturers and links to their associated drivers pages are on our printer drivers page.

Connecting the printer to the computer


Connect the printer to the computer either using a USB cable, parallel port cable, or SCSI cable and then connect the power plug to a power outlet. Today, most all home computer printers are using a USB cable similar to the example picture.


If this is a network printer, connect the printer to a wireless network or the RJ-45 connection.


A laptop computer works the same way as a desktop and can use any of the above connections if they are available.


Smartphone and tablet users must have a printer that can connect to devices wirelessly or over the Internet to print.

Setup printer and install software

Every printer should come with the software used to install a printer in Windows or your operating system.

  1. After everything is plugged in, turn the computer on.
  2. Insert the CD that came with the printer. If the CD does not automatically start, open My Computer, double-click on the CD drive, and then click the Setup or Install file. If you have downloaded the drivers, run the downloaded setup file.
  3. Follow the installation wizard and once completed, your software is installed.
  4. Test the printer to make sure it is working.

Computer with no CD drive

If your computer does not have a disc drive or you lost the CD, you can download the software for your printer from the manufactures printers driver page. Once the drivers have been downloaded, you can run the file to install the drivers.

No drivers available for my operating system

Newer operating systems may not support all older printers. For example, Windows 10 may not support a printer that was made years before it was released. If drivers are not listed on a printers driver page, your operating system or your versions of Windows does not support that printer. You can try installing an earlier version of operating system drivers, and it may work. However, for full support, you should consider getting a new printer.

Installing a printer only using the drivers

If you only want the printer to be installed and none of the extra software programs, you can only install the printer driver by following the steps below.


A listing of printer drivers and software is on our printer drivers page.


If you have installed the printer doing the above steps, these steps should not be necessary unless you encountered errors.

  1. With the printer connected and powered on, open the Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, double-click the Printers or Printers and Fax icon.
  3. In the Printers window, click the Add a printer icon.
  4. After completing the above steps, you should see the Windows Printer Wizard. Click Next to start the wizard.
  5. Next, you have the choice of installing a Local or Network printer. If the printer is connected to your computer, choose Local printer attached to this computer and click Next.
  6. When prompted for the location of the printer drivers, browse to the directory of your drivers or point it to the printer CD.

Testing the printer

After the printer is installed, you can use Windows to print a self-test page to help verify the printer is working.

Microsoft Windows users

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Double-click the Devices and Printers, Printers, or Printers and Fax icon.
  3. Right-click on the Printer you want to test and click Properties. If you do not see your printer, your printer is not installed.
  4. In the Printers Properties window, click the Print Test Page button.
  5. If the printer can print a test page, your printer is installed and set up properly. However, if you cannot print in other programs, the program you are attempting to print from has issues.