Installing printers with Plug and Play

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Installing printers with Plug and Play

Plug and Play provides automatic detection and quick installation of many hardware devices, including printers. Nearly every printer on the market today is a Plug and Play printer. However, the way printers are detected and the level of user intervention required for the installation process differs, and depends on the way the printer is connected to the computer.

Universal serial bus (USB) and IEEE 1394 printers

Printers using the latest connector technology, such as printers with a universal serial bus (USB) port or IEEE 1394 port, are detected immediately. When you insert the jack into the port, your operating system detects the printer and starts the installation process without any user intervention. Note that a USB or 1394 port is installed automatically upon detection of such device. If no such device is connected to your computer, these ports are not listed in the existing port list.

Parallel (LPT port) printers

Printers that connect with a parallel port (LPT port) cannot be detected upon the physical connection. After you physically connect the parallel cable and verify that the printer is turned on and ready to print, you need to add the printer with the Add Printer Wizard, making sure that the Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer check box is selected. This starts the Plug and Play detection system. Or, you can restart your system to cause the startup process to detect the printer and start the New Found Hardware Wizard.


  • If you add a parallel printer with the Add Printer Wizard while the Automatically detect and install my Plug and Play printer check box is cleared, the next time you restart your computer (even after several days or weeks working with that printer) Windows detects a new hardware device and starts the New Found Hardware Wizard to add that printer.

Infrared-enabled (IR port) printers

Infrared-enabled printers are detected in the same manner as printers with USB or IEEE 1394: automatically upon physical connection. You should place the printer approximately one yard (one meter) away from the infrared transceiver for it to be detected.

Note that the IR port, like a USB port, is not present unless Windows detects and installs it. However, if your system is not infrared-enabled and you add an infrared transceiver, you need to add the IR port manually.

Printers that are not Plug and Play

The following printers (as well as other devices that connect the same way) are not Plug and Play and are not detected or installed automatically. These printers must be installed using the Add Printer Wizard:

  • Printers connected through a serial (COM) port.

  • Printers that are connected directly to the network with a network adapter.

For more information on using the Add Printer Wizard, see Add a printer attached to your computer.