print sharer

Definition of print sharer in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is Print Sharer?

Any hardware device that enables two or more computers to directly share one or more attached printers without using a network. Print sharers include the following:

  • Manual switch boxes, on which a user turns a rotary switch to select which computer controls the printer. The manual switch boxes are usually in a 2-to-1, 4-to-1, or 6-to-1 configuration. A special switch called an X-switch can allow either of two computers to print to either of two printers.
  • Electronic print-sharing switches, on which users also use knobs or toggle switches to select a computer or printer. These switches have solid-state circuitry inside that does the switching, unlike manual switch boxes, which have simple metallic contacts.
  • Port-contention or FIFO (first in, first out) switches, which automatically monitor all input ports. When a signal enters an input port from a computer, the switch automatically assigns that port to the output printer port.
  • Code-operated switches, which examine the input (computer) data ports for an ASCII string indicating which output (printer) port to switch the incoming printer data to.
  • Scanning switches, which function like port-contention switches except that they sequentially scan the input ports instead of monitoring them all continuously.

If more than two computers need to share a printer, the best solution is to connect the computers to a local area network (LAN) and use a print server to set up a shared network printer. The print sharing devices listed previously are intended primarily for non-networked computers that must be directly connected to printers. In a small peer-to-peer networking setting, you can use a machine running Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows 98 that has File and Printer Sharing installed on it to share an attached printer with other workstations. In larger networks, Windows 2000 Server is a better choice.


Don’t use manual switch boxes with laser printers. The switching mechanism can cause voltage spikes that can seriously damage the printer.