Connecting an Older Printer to USB in Windows XP

I recently published a post titled What is USB? where I briefly mentioned the problem of new computers only have USB ports. For many this may not seem like a problem, but for those that have devices that don’t use USB, this can be a problem.

For those with older printers that connect only to the parallel port, and you would still like to use that printer, I will provide instructions on how you can connect that old printer to the USB port in this post.

Parallel to USB

Connecting an older parallel printer to a USB is fairly easy to do, in fact it is very similar to connecting a printer to the parallel port. Before we begin you will need to purchase a parallel-to-USB cable to replace your old cable. This cable will connect the printer to the computer. You can usually find this type of cable at any computer store.

Once you have the cable, follow these instructions to setup the printer:

  1. Connect the larger parallel connector of the cable into the printer, and the USB connector into a USB port on your computer.
  2. Turn on the printer.
  3. Click Start->Settings->Printers and Faxes. The Printers and Faxes window should open and display a list of devices.
  4. Double-click the Add Printer icon.
  5. Click Next at the Welcome screen.
  6. Add Printer Welcome
  7. Since you will be installing a local printer, click Next to continue.
  8. Add Printer Welcome
  9. The next screen will ask you which port the printer is connected to on your computer. Click the Use the following port drop-down and select USB001 (Virtual printer port for USB). If you don’t get this window, don’t worry you can specify the port later. Click Next to continue.
  10. Add Printer Welcome
  11. You will now need to specify the manufacturer and printer model. Form the Manufacturer list select the company that made your printer. Once you select the manufacturer, select the printer model on the right. In my example I have selected HP LaserJet 5L. Click Next to continue.
  12. Add Printer Welcome
  13. Now you need to specify a name for the printer. You can accept the default or give it another name.
  14. Add Printer Welcome
  15. It will ask you to print a test page. Go ahead and try to see if you can print to the printer. Click Next to continue.
  16. Add Printer Welcome
  17. The summary of the printer being installed is displayed on the screen. Click Finish to complete the installation. If you specified to print a test page, it will print now.
  18. Add Printer Welcome
  19. If you test page didn’t print, right-click the printer in the Printers and Faxes window (see step 3), and select Properties.
  20. Click the Ports tab.
  21. In the list of ports, scroll down to the bottom and select USB001 and click Apply. This will set your printer up on the virtual printer port for USB instead of the old standard LPT1.
  22. Click the General tab and then the Print Test Page button to try printing a test page.


This post provided step-by-step instructions for installing an older parallel port printer on a USB port. All you need to do is connect the printer to a USB port using a parallel-to-USB cable and follow the steps in the Add Printer screens. If the printer still won’t print, check to ensure you have specified the virtual printer port for USB as the printer port.

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