If your printer isn't Wi-FI enabled, chances are you're connecting it to your PC with a cable. Maybe you just bought a printer second-hand, and it didn't come with any cables, or maybe you're just unsure of what plugs in where and with what cable. In any case, here are the most common cables still used to connect printers and where to buy them.
USB A-to-B cable
The most common type of printer made in the last decade is the USB printer. It uses a USB port on your PC and on the printer to connect. However, both USB ports are not the same.
On your PC's end, you'll likely see a USB-A connector. This is the standard rectangular USB connector that most PCs have. On the printer's end, you'll likely see a USB-B connector; it is more square with rounded edges along the bottom.
To connect a USB printer to your PC, you need a USB A-to-B cable. Don't worry if your PC only has USB 3.0 ports; they are designed to be backward compatible with USB 2.0. If your PC only has a USB-C port, there are adapters available.
AmazonBasics USB A-to-B six-foot cable
AmazonBasics makes a six-foot USB A-to-B cable that only costs about $5 (opens in new tab). It has a perfect five-star rating on Amazon with more than 900 reviews. Hard to beat that.
AmazonBasics USB A-to-B 16-foot cable
Need something a bit longer? No problem. AmazonBasics also makes a 16-foot version of their USB A-to-B cable. This one also has a perfect five-star rating, this time with more than 2,200 reviews, and it costs about $6 (opens in new tab).
Cable Matters USB C-to-B 6.6-foot cable
If your PC only has a USB-C port, there are also USB C-to-B cables available. Cable Matters has a 6.6-foot option that comes in black and white. It costs about $15 (opens in new tab), but you can regularly find it on sale for about half that.
AUKEY USB-C to USB-A adapter
Do you already have a USB A-to-B cable but have only a USB-C port on your PC? Your best bet is to grab a two-pack of USB-C to USB-A adapters from AUKEY. These let you plug your printer cable first into the adapter, then into the USB-C port on your PC. Expect to pay about $15 (opens in new tab) for these adapters, but you'll regularly find them on sale.
Before USB became popular, there were parallel ports on the backs of a lot of printers. These commonly had either 25 or 36 pins, making them quite wide and bulky. If you have a printer that was built in the late 1990s back to the 1970s, it's probably using the parallel cable to connect to your PC.
That's fine if your PC still has its own parallel port, but chances are it does not. In that case, you can grab a cable that runs parallel from your printer to USB on your PC. First, determine whether your printer is using the DB25 or the CN36 parallel port — a great way to figure this out is to count the pins. Next is to determine if your printer has a female or male port on it. Male DB25 ports have visible pins, while male CN36 ports have a bar in the center that fits into the female socket.
C2G USB-A to DB25 female cable
C2G has a USB-A to DB25 female option that is currently sitting at a four-star rating on Amazon with more than 670 reviews. This will work if your printer has a male DB25 port on it. It costs about $10 (opens in new tab), and you'll get six feet of cable.
C2G USB-A to DB25 male cable
If your printer has a female DB25 port on it, you'll want to grab this USB-A to DB25 male cable from C2G. This six-foot cable costs about $15 (opens in new tab).
UGREEN USB-A to CN36 male cable
Is your printer rocking the CN36 port? You'll probably want to grab this cable from UGREEN. It costs about $11 (opens in new tab) and you get six feet of cable. On one end is a USB-A male connector, on the other end is the CN36 male connector.
Although your printer may not be Wi-Fi enabled, you can still connect it to a router and ultimately a network with an Ethernet cable as long as your printer has an Ethernet port. This allows for devices that are Wi-Fi enabled to print wirelessly.
Mediabridge makes some outstanding Ethernet cables; their 10-, 25-, and 50-foot options all have a five-star rating on Amazon with hundreds of reviews, and all lengths cost under $10.
- Mediabridge 10-foot Ethernet cable | See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Mediabridge 25-foot Ethernet cable | See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
- Mediabridge 50-foot Ethernet cable | See at Amazon (opens in new tab)
The best printers
In the market for an entirely new printer? We have buyer's guides for pretty much every category of printer out there to help you pick the right one.
Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.
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