How to Connect Your Surface to a Printer

Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 tablets can connect with just about any printer that works with your desktop PC. Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets, by contrast, are much pickier about their printers. They can’t run a printer’s installation software, for example. Many newer printers will work, but you may have trouble connecting with older printers.

Most printers connect either through a USB port or through a wired or wireless network. Here’s how to set them up:

  • USB: The simplest way to connect with a USB printer is to plug the printer’s USB cable directly into your Surface’s USB port, and turn on your printer. Your Surface should recognize and install it automatically. (If you have a Surface Pro or Surface Pro 2, try installing the printer’s software.) If the printer still doesn’t work, it probably isn’t compatible with your Surface.

  • Network and wireless: After you connect to a network, your Surface has access to all the compatible printers shared on that network.

To see whether your Surface recognizes a networked printer, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Charms bar by sliding your finger inward from the screen’s right edge.

  2. Tap the Settings icon; when the Settings pane appears, tap the words Change PC Settings.

    The PC Settings screen appears.

  3. Tap PCs and Devices from the PC Settings screen, and when the PCs and Devices screen appears, tap Devices from the left column.

    The Devices screen shows every device attached or available to your Surface, including printers. They’re listed alphabetically, and available printers have the icon shown in the margin.

Not every Start screen app can print, and there’s no way to know if your app is printable until you try. So, to try and print from any Start screen app, open it and follow these steps:

  1. From within any app, open the Charms bar by sliding your finger inward from the screen’s right edge and then tap the Devices icon.

    The Devices pane appears, listing three categories: Play, Print, and Project.

  2. Tap Print.

    The Print pane appears, listing your available printers.

  3. Tap the desired printer’s name and make any final adjustments.

    The Start screen’s Printer window sums up exactly what’s going to the printer. It shows a preview and the number of pages required. To see all of the pages you’re printing, slide your finger across the preview image from right to left.

    To see even more options, tap the miniscule More Settings link, right above the Print button. There, you can sometimes choose the type of printer paper you’re using, an essential step when using photo paper on a color printer.

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  4. Tap the Print button.

    Your Surface sends your information to the printer.

But the Start screen’s emphasis on speed leaves out some details:

  • Many apps can’t print. You can’t print a day’s itinerary from your Calendar app, for example, or even a monthly calendar.

  • When printing from the Start screen’s Internet Explorer app, you’re stuck printing the entire web page — advertisements, comments, and everything in between. There’s no way to print selective portions.

  • If you need more control over your print jobs on a Surface Pro or Pro 2, head for the desktop and its cadre of more full-featured programs. Surface RT and Surface 2 tablets, unfortunately, don’t offer much more in the way of printer controls on the desktop.

  • The printer listed as “Microsoft XPS Document Writer” is not a printer. It’s Microsoft’s way of storing information in a file, much like Adobe Acrobat’s PDF files. You can then share the file with others, letting them print it instead. (The Surface RT and Surface 2 also offer a Send to OneNote option, which sends the information to the OneNote note-taking program.)

  • If your Surface RT or Surface 2 tablet can’t print to a networked printer, try plugging the printer directly into your Surface. If the Surface recognizes the printer when plugged in directly, your Surface may also recognize the printer when it’s plugged back into the network.

  • Stuck with a printer that’s incompatible with your Surface RT or Surface 2? You can copy the file to a flash drive, plug the flash drive into a desktop PC, and print it from there.

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