Connecting an Ancient Printer to a New Computer
Modern ink jet printers are garbage. They're not made to last very long, and the ink jet cartridges are a rip-off, typically “running out” while still full of ink, and the print quality of a new printer quickly plummets.
If you can't afford an industrial-quality printer, and you just want to be able to print legible text-only documents, maybe you should go with the most reliable form of home printing technology: That ancient, annoyingly loud, ribbon printer from the early 1990s that's been collecting dust in your attic ever since you got your first ink jet printer.
But how? Those things connected via parellel port, which most new computers haven't even been equipped with for several years now. Luckily, you can buy a USB to Parallel IEEE 1284 Printer Cable Adapter! (If this isn't the right cable for you, Sabrient manufactures a variety of different adapter cables.) Getting it to work might be a little tricky, so here's my guide for connecting an ancient printer to a Windows computer. (I connected an Epson ActionPrinter 5000+ ESCP P2 Quiet (Model P630B) to my Windows 7 (64-bit) computer.)
- Plug the adapter cable into the back of your ancient printer.
- Turn on the printer.
- Plug the cable into a USB port on your PC. Windows should automatically install drivers for the USB device, and when it's done it will report the following devices as “Ready to use”:
- USB Printing Support
- No Printer Attached
- Open the Windows control panel's Printer listing, and select “Add a printer.”
- Select “Add a local printer.”
- When prompted to “Choose a printer port,” select “Use an existing port,” and from the drop-down list find and select the item containing “Virtual printer port for USB.” It may look similar to “
USB001 (Virtual printer port for USB).”
- When prompted to “Install the printer driver,” if you cannot find your ancient printer listed, click “Windows Update.” The installer will contact Microsoft's on-line database to search for more printer drivers. This will take several minutes.
- If you still cannot find your printer, refer to your printer's official documentation (a web search may be necessary) to see if it lists any “compatible drivers.” (My Epson ActionPrinter's manual lists 9 alternative printers with compatible drivers. I selected “Epson LQ-570+ ESC/P 2” which was a successful match.)
- Click “Next” and continue the printer installation to the end as normal.
- Once the installation is complete and you are prompted to print a test page, print a test page to confirm your success!
- If your print job sits in the queue for a long time before eventually changing its status to “out of paper” even though the printer is clearly not having any paper issues, your cable probably is not plugged all the way into the printer. Ensure the plug is in all the way and try again. (After my first hour of trying to get the printer to work, I discovered the cable wasn't plugged in all the way, despite the plug catch successfully latching.)
- If your printer is printing random garbage, you probably installed the wrong driver. Install a different driver and try again.
- Consult the original manual for your printer. Fortunately, many old technical manuals can be found in PDF form on the internet.
- If you unplug the USB cable from your computer, then plug it back into a different port, your computer will think you have plugged in an entirely new device. You will have to either plug the USB cable back into the same port you originally used, or reinstall the printer drivers.