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What best solution to add a printer-port to a Dell computer

maduropa asked
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-01-09
I have adviced friends to buy a new Dell computer, P4 and 1 gig memory, XP Pro SP2. They use it for their bussiness, so I thought of a nice sturdy, decent and quiet computer, ready for many years of hard labor, (mainly office)
Problem is now that this Dell doesn't have an on-board LPT1 connector, and this is needed for their needle-printer. For their bussines they must print out multiple double forms (you know, white-pink-green)

I wonder what is best to do.
I think I have two options,
1. Installing an PCI-card with an LPT1 port, (two free PCI slots easily installable)
2. Connecting an USB-to LPT1 connector.

I do wonder if a Dell can easily cope with extra added hardware, maybe it should be Dell-origin?
And the program that is being used is originally Dos-Based, but the new version has been ported decently for XP.

What are the pro's and contra's I'm missing at this moment?
I have to decide quick, the program is going to be installed april 5th, and printer-connection for this is needed.

any help appreciated.
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You could certainly install a PCI card with an LPT1 port and this should suffice to enable you to print to your needle printer. A usb to LPT1 connector can sometimes cause more problems than it fixes so use this as a last resort.

Another option would be to purchase an external HP network jet direct card (HP JetDirect 170x) which would allow you to connect the printer to the parrallel port of the jet direct card and then connect a network cable from the jet direct card directly onto your network. The configuration is very easy and straightforward and generally doesn't require much if any networking knowledge. They don't cost that much either and another benefit would be that the pc wouldn't have to be left on for any other users to print to the printer.

The origin of any hardware that you use doesn't have to be Dell and there should be no problem with either of the solutions mentioned with regards printing the data from the new version of the program.

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Ask the Experts
Top Expert 2012
If they want to prepare for growth in the future, perhaps an inexpensive print server will be suitable: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16833127031.  They can use the network to print and can add more computers in the future.  They will need a cat5 crossover cable if there is no router or hub (which I suspect is the case, if this is their first computer).  This print server doesn't cost a lot, even compared to a printer port PCI card.
As an aside to the good comments above: avoit the USB => LPT port idea. A proper printer port is probably the best and simplest, followed by networking solutions, as long as the software used is capable to use network printers (I've seen som old software choke on this).
Gary CaseRetired
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Top Expert 2009
I'm a big fan of network-based printers -- I have a print server for one printer and my main printer has native networking, so none of my printers are connected directly to a PC.

... HOWEVER, in this case I don't recommend you use one.  Many older DOS-based programs print directly to the printer port rather than using the BIOS routines.   Windows does have a mechanism for capturing these accesses for network devices (that's why there's a  "Allow DOS-based programs to print" box when setting up a network printer), but not all programs work well with this.   It's simply more reliable to have a directly-connected printer -- particularly since from your description this is a printer dedicated to a single program that only runs on this computer (so there's no advantage to a networked installation of the printer).

A absolutely agree that you should use a PCI card to provide the LPT port.   The USB-LPT adapters often cause issues -- there's simply no reason to bother with these if you have an available PCI slot.

The Dell will work just fine with an add-in card.   You don't need to buy it from them.  Something like this will work fine:


Going to the shop in a couple of hours, and hope they have an LPT-card for me to buy.
I will skip the USB-option since you all agree it will be buggy,

Since there's no other LPT-port in the PC, will the LPT card assign itself to LPT1, or will it assign itself as LPT2 (as an extra port).
Though I think it will be LPT1. I'll let Sales from the shop explain it, and refund if not.

@kgreenit,  thanks, hadn't even thought about a jetdirect or similar.
@callandor, the only growth they had in years is this new computer, and a dsl-line,
@rid, don't know how the software will accept it, and how old the update is, gonna play safe indeed.
@garycase, i'll remember that dos-based setting for the future, if they ever get a second PC and share it.

If I compare the price of the PCI-card to the print-server, I'll go for the card, just hope that my shops have it that cheap also. If we ever decide for a print-server the remaining card will not be a tremendous financial loss.

Normally, a computer BIOS will scan certain I/O addresses (ports), during the POST, for response from hardware attached to these ports. An add-on LPT port should be detected by BIOS and if it is the only such port, it will be parallell port #1. DOS would call that port LPT1, as it is the only such port on the system, windows may do it in another fashion, assigning LPT1 or LPT2 depending on the actual hardware I/O address. This should'nt be a big problem, though.
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