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Windows XP printer sharing

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We have a network of three XP PC's at home and one laser printer that's connected to my PC over the LPT1 parallel port. My wife is a heavy printer user, so every time she wanted to print a document, she had to attach it to an email, retrieve it from my PC and then print it. Tonight she finally asked me to hook up her PC to the printer too so she could print directly from her PC.

Printer sharing is supposed to be an easy task. You set up a network, share the printer on the node that has the printer physically connected, and you're finished. Easier said than done. If my PC is PC1 and hers is PC2, first I had to share the printer on PC1. Then on PC2 I'd choose "Add Printer" from the "Printers and Faxes" window and click on the Network printer and specify \\PC1\hp. At that point I get an account verification popup where I have to supply my account name and password on PC1 and save the password. That works, but because my account has admin privileges, that means that PC2 would have unfettered access to all the resources to PC1. For example running the command \\PC1\c$ on PC2 would give full access to all PC1 files. That's not a big issue at my home, but this doesn't seem right. There was a perfectly fine user account on PC1 that could have been used instead to set this up, but every time I entered the credentials, XP refused to add the printer to PC2.

This is one of those problems I had dealt with in the past, but had forgotten how I had resolved it then. Finally, after a few rounds, I remembered the solution. The user account I was using on PC1 had a blank password and that just doesn't sit well with Windows when trying to access PC1 shares using a password-less credential. In fact an account on a PC can access the shared resources on another PC, over the same network, without providing any credentials if the account name and passwords match. Unless the accounts have blank passwords. Once I assigned a password to the user account on PC1 and specified that password when adding the printer on PC2, everything worked as expected and I was able to easily print from PC2. Of course I had to make sure that the firewall and local area settings for the PC's were configured correctly as well.

I suspect some registry setting somewhere in the bowels of Windows XP can change this behavior to allow for password-less accounts to work, but why do users have to be shackled by these absurd rules? I'm sure Microsoft did it for our own good. What would the poor users do without Windows guarding them every step of the way?

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