HP printer set-up problem

No more USB cables during set-up

Earlier today I helped someone to set up a new HP printer, and it was an unexpectedly complicated and long-winded process. The printer had a USB port at the back, but it was covered up with a sticky label saying that it shouldn’t be used. Presumably HP had already manufactured a large number of plastic printer casings with USB ports before deciding to change the printer set-up procedure to work completely wirelessly.

The ‘Quickstart Guide’ is not well-named

The printer’s owner had already tried setting up the device numerous times and taken every possible path through the available options, but the process had failed on every occasion, offering no clues as to what might be wrong. The so-called ‘Quickstart Guide’ was not much help because it assumed that everything would work smoothly, so we went to the HP support website and downloaded the detailed user guide for the printer.

Non-obvious button-based interface

The user guide explained the various buttons on the printer’s control panel, and documented several combinations that could be used to trigger useful actions. Apparently if we held down the ‘wireless’ button and the power-on button at the same time, that would start the process of automatically connecting to the wireless router. However, when we tried this, all that happened was the printer turned itself on if it was off, and off if it was on.

At last a clue

Another button combination was supposed to make the printer print out its configuration details. When we tried this, it worked, and the printed report verified that no Wi-Fi connection had yet been established. However, it also showed that the wireless router we wanted to connect the printer to was broadcasting two identical Wi-Fi names, one operating on the 2.4 GHz frequency band and the other operating on the 5 GHz frequency band.

Giving the 5 GHz frequency band a distinct name

It was possible that the dual-band nature of the wireless router was the cause of the problem, so we did some research on the Internet. Somebody said that if a dual-band router was using the same name for both frequency bands, this could cause a problem when setting up HP printers. Therefore we logged in to the router to change the configuration, adding ‘5GHZ’ to the name that the router was broadcasting on the 5 GHz frequency band.

Nailing down the printer’s location on the network

We then tried running the printer set-up software again, this time asking to connect using the original wireless router name without the ‘5GHZ’ bit on the end, and it worked almost straight away. After testing that the printing and scanning functions both worked, we decided to nail the printer’s location down permanently by switching from dynamic IP (Internet Protocol) addressing, which often causes printing problems, to static IP addressing.

Testing that the final configuration works

Once we set a static IP address for the printer / scanner, we naturally checked that printing and scanning still worked properly, which it did. After making any changes to a system, it is always a sensible precaution to make sure that nothing has been broken in the process.