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Printing over a Wired or Wireless Network from Windows CE


Applies To

  • Windows CE 2.0, SP1
  • Handheld PC Professional, SP1
  • Handheld PC 2000


This article describes the steps involved in printing to a remote printer share over a Local Area Network (LAN). The article assumes that you have already successfully established a working LAN connection.

More Info

Windows CE devices by default are limited in functionality when it comes to accessing printer resources. When using a local or remote printer, the printer logic must support the Hewlett Packard Printer Command Language 3.0 (PCL 3.0) specification.
Attempting to print to printers which do not support the PCL 3 specification will result in unformatted code being output which in no way resembles the original document.

The limitation of PCL 3 printers exists within the Windows CE platform as PCL is a widely used printing standard which allowed the Handheld PC to send data to a printer without the need for device specific drivers.
Certain printer manufacturers, and third party software developers created drivers and solutions to print to other printer devices or printer specifications. However not all of the available solutions support Network based printing and may be device specific.

For more information on compatible printers visit the HPC:Factor Hardware Compatibility List.

How-to Guide

The first step in being able to print to a Windows CE compatible printer over a network is to share the printer.
To share a printer, you must have an existing printer installed and configured on a Windows based PC. Your network must be based on compatible Windows CE networking standard.

  1. On the Host open the Windows Control Panel from the Start Menu
  2. Enter the Printers / Printers and Faxes area
  3. Right click on the printer you wish to share and click Properties
  4. Choose the Sharing tab
  5. Highlight the 'Share this printer' radio button
  6. Choose a share name for the printer.
    Note: Printer share name must meet NetBIOS naming conventions as outlined in CESD-C-0009
  7. Note down the printer name before moving to the next step

Obtaining the Printers Network Path

Accessing the network printer requires knowing the full network path to the computer which you are sharing the printer from. Network paths are formatted using Universal Naming Convention (UNC).

UNC uses a two level structure to access available resources. The first level of a Network UNC path specifies the Machine Name or the 'Server Name' of the computer on the remote network.

To discover the machine name of the computer which is sharing the printer with the network:

Windows 2000 / XP / 2003

  1. Open the Windows 'Control Panel'
  2. Select the 'System' Applet
  3. Choose the 'Computer Name' tab
  4. The Machine Name is listed in the 'Full Computer Name' area

Windows 95 / 98 / Millennium / NT4

  1. Open the Windows 'Control Panel'
  2. Select the 'Network' Applet
  3. Choose the 'Identification' Tab
  4. The Machine Name is listed in the 'Computer Name' entry

In a UNC address the Machine Name is always preceded by the prefix \\ . For example if the Computer Name of the resource you want to access is 'Inspiron' the UNC name is \\inspiron.

You now need to combine the Machine Name and Printer Name to obtain the full network path. Do so using the following format:

For example if the machine name was Inspiron and the Printer Name Deskjet750 the full network path would be:

Printing from the Handheld PC

There are two methods to print to a Network share from a Handheld PC. The first is to print directly from a Print capable application such as Pocket Word.

Windows CE Application Print Dialogue

  1. With the Network card inserted and the network running select Print from the File menu.
  2. In the print dialogue box select the Printer you will be printing too. In the case of a PCL 3.0 compatible printer choose whether it is an Inkjet or a Laser printer.
    Note: Windows CE 2.0 users with the NSP installed will only see 'PCL' instead of the Inkjet / Laser options. This is a limitation of Windows CE 2.0.
  3. In the Port list choose Network. Network will only be available if the network is working correctly
  4. In the Net Path text box carefully type the full UNC formatted network path to your printer
  5. Configure any additional print settings and tap OK

In the event that the network share resource requires authentication, you will be presented with a log-in dialogue box. This may take upwards of two minutes to appear. After which the document should print.


The second option is to either drag and drop or copy / paste the documents that you wish to print directly onto the printer share. The method will only work successfully with a registered file type that Windows CE can translate to the printer. It is recommended that you only use this method for documents which contain text.

  1. Open My Handheld PC
  2. In the address bar type the UNC machine name of your computer e.g. \\inspiron
  3. Double tap the share name for the printer
  4. Drag and drop the literal files you wish to print -or- use copy and paste into the printer share. This will send the document to the printer.
    Note: Be sure not to move the file into the share folder as it will be lost once the printer spool resets

Limitations of Printing from Windows CE

The PCL 3.0 drivers do not offer any advanced control, nor advanced font configuration.

Using standard application printing you are not offered any document control. Print queue's cannot be purged or paused from the Windows CE device

Windows CE devices are unable to make use of print shares served by non-'Client for Microsoft Network' print servers. This includes hardware print servers running other network Client technologies (such as Novell Netware) and hardware based Network print servers.