The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Chromebook Printing

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You’ve got your classic printers and your Cloud Ready printers. Contrary to popular belief, Chromebook printing is possible with old printers that are not Cloud Ready… and, no, it’s not by plugging in your printer directly to the Chromebook as you may have already, undoubtedly, tried. But with the help of Google Cloud Print; it brings the best of the old and the new in one technological and manageable tandem. Read our step by step instructions below.

Old School Printing

Chromebook printingNot all Chromebook users have Cloud Ready printers. There are people who still have the classic printers that need to be connected to a laptop or PC in order to get hardcopy outputs. Fear not, Chromebook user. If you think that you need a Cloud Ready printer to print in Chromebook, you’re sorely mistaken. To break that urban legend of Chromebooks not accepting classic network-attached printers, you need three things that will make printing in Chromebooks work. The first one is a computer hooked to the internet to act as a print server; second one is a wired printer connected to the said computer and lastly is an enabled Google Cloud Print on your Google. Chromebooks support keyboard, mouse, Ethernet adapter and USB storage in their USB ports but not printers since Chrome OS doesn’t offer print stacks (a piece of software that converts the data to be printed to the form specific to a printer) and since adding further hardware outside of the previously mentioned items will likely cause problems with the operating system’s “self-knowing” security.

10 steps to using older printers with your Chromebook:

  1. Turn your printer on.
  2. Log in to your user account on the Windows or Mac computer.
  3. Open Google Chrome.
  4. Click the Menu on the toolbar. (Hint: It’s that three bars on the right side of the browser.)
  5. Select Settings.
  6. Click Show advanced settings.
  7. Scroll down to the “Google Cloud Print” section and click Manage.
  8. The next screen will show a list of devices already registered with Google Cloud Print, and new devices available in the network.
  9. In the “Classic printers” section, click Add printer(s).
  10. A confirmation will appear that Google Cloud Print has been enabled. Click Manage your printers to learn more.

And, voila, you have yourself a Chromebook-compatible conventional printer as long as your laptop or computer is connected to the internet.

Raspberry Pi cloudprint server

Thanks to Shachar and christophertyler we have a solution that is a variation of the above. Instead of using a Windows or IOS computer you can also use a Raspberry Pi B+, which is a very small computer that is only as small as a credit card. Some technical knowledge is required for setting up your Raspberry Pi B+, but of you are attached to your old printer it can be worth it… Specially if you want low energy consumption and low cost; these minicomputers retail for far less than the cost of a cloud ready printer.

Follow these 4 steps and you will be on your way to cloudprinting with your Raspberry Pi minicomputer:

  1. Buy a Raspberry Pi B+ starter kit (click here).
  2. Set up Linux using the NOOBS SD card that comes in the above starter kit.
  3. Connect your printer (click here for instructions)
  4. Run the Python cloudprint script (find it here)

There… and energy efficient, portable and cool way to connecting your old printer to the cloud!

Chromebook Printing with the Cloud

Cloud Ready printers, on the other hand, connect directly to the internet and register to Google Cloud Print by either following the instructions according to brand online or the instructions your Chromebook manual. These cloud-enabled printers are convenient machines that do not require the omniscient connection of a PC and print drivers, enabling them to print over wireless networks. In addition to that, Cloud Ready printers can keep their drivers and firmware up to date since they’re always connected to the internet.

Google Cloud Print benefits

Now, what’s next after linking to Google Cloud Print? Since Chromebook users are encouraged to live in the cloud, Google Cloud Print definitely makes life easier as it is accessible on demand on any device that has an internet connection whether you’re in the same room as your printer or on another continent. It saves a lot of energy for the user, less hassle when it comes to wires and, definitely, more immediate.

How to print using Google Cloud Print:

Printing with the help of Google Cloud Print can be condensed down into six easy and dummy-proof steps.

  1. Click the Menu on the toolbar of the Chrome Web browser.
  2. Select Print from the drop-down menu.
  3. Choose the desired printer by clicking Change under Destination within the menu on the left side.
  4. Click the destination printer that you’ll use.
  5. Choose your desired settings (Pages, Copies, Layout, Margins, etc).
  6. Select Print.

Last step is to wait for your prints, whether you’re relaxing on the couch with your Chromebook, in Hawaii for a vacation, in the train on the way to the office, or wherever as long as you and your printer are connected to the internet.

So, there you have it. Chromebook printing step by step. Do remember to print responsibly!

UPDATE: added the Raspberry Pi cloudprint server solution.

Now to you… Do you thing Google should make it possible to just plug in your old printer? Or do you like the convenience your Chromebook is giving you by letting you have access to printing in both classic and Cloud Ready printers through Google Cloud Print? Comment below and let me know!

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26 Comments

  1. George Lozier says

    For a server environment you’ll want to use Google Cloud Print Service.

  2. b737200 says

    I think they should make a small, portable Chromeprinter that plugs in directly, or connects via Bluetooth, for times when you need to print away from home

  3. r1berto says

    So it takes TWO computers to get the job done!
    I travel for business, I carry a small USB/Bluetooth printer.
    I don’t use it every time, but that one time I can’t may co$t me.
    So my Chromebook will have to stay at home until I can print directly from it.

  4. Chuck Litchfield says

    How about my network printers? I haven’t been directly connected to a printer in years. I can print to it with my Android devices but not my Chromebook?

    1. Bruce Barnes says

      I have a network-connected printer at home and it works fine for Google Cloud Print but it still takes two computers; one on my network with Internet access and with Chrome open, and the other (a Chromebook) on the internet with Chrome. Both Chrome browsers have to be logged into the same Google account.

      BTW – My home computer is running Ubuntu. The article just mentioned Windows or Macs but it works fine with Linux too.

    2. nemo says

      network printers can work. the pc just has to have access to it.

  5. Shachar says

    You cannot print to a non-cloud (even network) printer. You need a print server that is connected to the Internet. I recommend using a raspberry pi for such server, both for extremely low power consumption, and portability (very small and only needs a typical micro USB charger.

      1. Andrew Baker says

        Great suggestion! Added the section for Raspberry Pi.

  6. Clifford says

    In my experience, print jobs are queued in the cloud until you explicitly log on to the account you added the printer to, and that account must gave Chrome installed. I have multiple user accounts on my Chromebook and multiple accounts on my PC and they all have to be set up individually and each have a matching account. It is far from convenient. Is there way to make the PC act as a print server for all Chromebook accounts without having to log in to each separate (or indeed any) account to get print jobs?

    1. christophertyler says

      You can share a cloudprint printer to any accounts you want, so set up the printer once then share with all the other users who should have access. You’ll still need to log into the account that owns the printer using Chrome on a PC or Mac, OR use a cloudprint-enabled printer, OR use the cloudprint script (see above) on a Linux box, RasberryPi, or Mac.

      1. Clifford says

        Indeed, it is the need to log in rather than running as a service (on Windows) is the crux of the issue. That in itself is inconvenient, and I would need a dedicated “printer account” in order to maintain the privacy of user accounts.

        The existence of alternatives that have their own drawbacks or costs is hardly a solution. All the solutions other than perhaps a cloud printer break the principle of maintenance free, just works simplicity that is the attraction of the Chromebook in the first instance.

        What I would expect is the cloud print facility to run as a service, so that it can be used just by th PC being switched on.

    2. George Lozier says

      Install Google Cloud Print Service on your PC with the printers. With it running to don’t need to have chrome opened for cloud print to access your printer; the PC just has to be turned on. The Google Cloud Print Service will be connected to one of your accounts. You’ll have to share the printers with your other accounts to print with them.

      1. Clifford says

        Thanks, I’ll take a look at that. You have to wonder why that appears to be such hard information to find; not even mentioned in this article. I would have thought this would be the preferred method.

  7. Paul Wilcox-Baker says

    The inability to use a local network attached printer is the most irritating omission on the Chromebook. I can certainly understand Google’s lack of enthusiasm for maintaining printer drivers for however many thousand different printers there are out there! However, there would seem to be couple of methods that wouldn’t be too very bad.

    Option one, just using the Linux Open Source printer system! Most of this must be user space code and therefore not very attractive to hackers.

    Option two, use a variant of Cloud printing where the conversion to the specific
    printer’s data format is done in the cloud and returned to the ChromeBook. The ChromeBook
    then sends the data on to the local network attached printer. This requires minimum changes to ChromeOS

    1. Chris says

      I sort of agree, but the reality is that this problem will disappear on its own in a year or two, as older printers are replaced with newer ones that are all CloudPrint-enabled.

      1. Clifford says

        Perhaps that is true, but is also a sad reflection on modern unsustainably consumerist society. I have had only three new printers in more than 20 years. My HP Deskjet was replaced after 15 when the print head drive belt shredded – simple repair was possible, but the belt was deliberately overpriced over £100!

        Modern printers are perhaps not built as robustly as older HP’s where, but I plan on my current Canon Pixma 4700 lasting another 5 years.

        1. Chris says

          Yup, you are right. Mine refuses to die on me, too. Which is why I am going to try building a raspberry pi print server (even though it would be cheaper to just buy a new printer).

  8. lori says

    still having problems with my canon pixmamx472 and hp chrome…………. please help

  9. Hans says

    At our school we have 75 chromebooks in use. We use a classic network printer. With advanced printing capabilities. The printer works fine from the chromebooks. But … several advanced features were unavailable. I solved it by installing multiple drivers from the same printer. The printer option determines how it is printed:
    Printer hal –> only black/white printing (duplex is an extra choice)
    printer hal – 120grams –> printing black and white on 120grams paper from extern drawer.
    printer Hal – Kleur (geen code) –> you print in colour, no code necessary
    Printer Hal – Nieten-staand –> the document is printed in duplex (non duplex is a choice) and stapled.
    So in fact you’re faster then when using the Windows printer.. More printerdrivers… more possibilities..

  10. Philippe says

    I am waiting for the “Guide to Chromebook scanning” to buy a Chromebook. I hope scanning on a Chromebook will be available soon!

  11. Mahim says

    I find it very uncomfortable and annoying to have dependency on another / laptop for connecting to a classic printer. I have a wifi printer but not google printer – big deal. google should understand that you can change a product but dont command on how we should use it. Make printing on wifi printers and classic printers simple and straight forward just like how it happens in pc/mac

    1. Chris says

      You should understand that Google never FORCED you to buy their device, but once you CHOSE to, you accepted the compromises that came with it.

      When you buy an iPhone or iPad, you can’t just print to any printer either, nor can you choose to run Android on it, nor even install software from outside the iTunes store on it unless you jailbreak it. When you buy a BMW that is electronically speed-limited to 160 mph, even though it is capable of doing 190 mph, BMW is dictating how you use it.

      Of course manufacturers can dictate how we use their devices, they do it all the time. And we accept it as par for course because it is reasonable to assume that we wouldn’t buy the product unless we were willing to accept its limitations.

    2. Bruce Barnes says

      Adding user-installable printer drivers to Chrome OS will open up security hoes in the operating system and I suspect it will require some re-engineering of the operating system. If paper printing is all-important then get a compatible printer or switch tom Windows or Mac.

  12. Matt says

    The problem with the way CHROME OS is designed to print TODAY is the lack of the ability to CHOOSE to print locally, if one has large files to print and your internet is shared by many users (chrome or otherwise) your experience can be less than impressive! Imagine sending a 24mb email and how long it would take for it to finally send then then you wait for it to return to your local printer! They obviously didn’t consider this when only implementing the cloud printing option in lieu of a true local network option! Very frustrating to say the least.

  13. Bruce Barnes says

    Realistically though, how many large files do you print Matt. Chromebooks don’t support local printing because they don’t allow you to add to or to modify the operating system and that is a big part of their superior security. Besides, Chromebooks are made for most people and not everybody. Most people don’t print large files anymore when they can be saved as PDF’s and in that format they are easy to share over the Internet or even store in “the cloud”

    On a Windows or a Mac you install print driver software before you can print locally and that involves adding to the operating system. There are so many print drivers out there no operating system can come with them all and certainly not a small operating system like Chrome OS.

    I use Google Cloud print and it works fine for me but iI only print small documents. For larger docs the PDF format works just fine for me.

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