How To Print From iOS On College Wireless Networks

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College wireless networks provide internet to a large number of people and because of that they tend to be very much locked down. If you are off to college this semester and using an iPad you may face some of the same challenges I have faced getting my daughter setup with printing capabilities in her dorm room. My daughter opted for an iPad Pro as her college computer. It's a great choice for college, especially for her since she really likes to take hand written notes (the perfect task for the Apple Pencil). But if you want to print from an iOS device you really only have one choice...AirPrint (you can't print from an iOS device using any kind of physical cable or dongle). And therein lies the problem, the wireless sharing protocols that AirPrint uses are blocked on most large scale networks (like those on college campuses). So now what? If you are going iPad or iPad Pro only for college and you want to be able to print from an iOS device on college wireless networks how can you do it? There are a several options:

  1. My daughter's college IT department's solution for her was to use the campus printing service. This isn't as cheap or as convenient as using your own personal printer but it is an option. In my daughter's case I am having her use this as a backup in case she ever has problems printing to her personal printer or if she needs to print in color (I just got her our old black and white HP LaserJet).
  2. Wifi-Direct is an alternative to consider if you have a printer that supports it. This is a wifi peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol that essentially setups up wifi connection between your printer and your iOS device without needing a separate wifi network to do so. HP has a help page explaining how to setup Wi-Fi Direct printing on their printers but other printer manufactures support Wi-Fi direct as well. If you have or purchase a printer with Wi-Fi Direct capability this is a great alternative to AirPrint for printing from an iOS device. This option didn't work for my daughter because the printer we handed down to her was just old enough that it didn't support Wi-Fi Direct.
  3. Another option to print from iOS on college wireless networks is to use an old laptop, Mac or PC and hook-up the laptop directly to the printer. So much data is stored in the cloud anymore that you can probably just get away with making sure the computer you are physically connecting to the printer has access to all the cloud account you are using on your iOS device. Then you can simply access the documents or files you need to print from the computer that is hooked directly to your printer. Keep in mind that most likely you will be unable to AirDrop things between your iOS device and your Mac on the college wifi network because AirDrop uses similar protocols to AirPrint. So if the file you are trying to print isn't accessible from a cloud account on the computer physically connected to your printer then you will need to email that file to the computer and then print it. This option is the option I currently have configured for my daughter. I told her if she finds herself printing a lot of stuff I can go to option 4 for her.
  4. If you have an old wireless router around (or purchase an inexpensive one) then you can setup your own wireless network. It won't have any connection to the internet, but you can configure the network any way you like and allow AirPrint. So this is how this would work. Plug in and setup the router somewhere in the dorm room (if your printer has an Ethernet network capability then put it close enough to the printer so you can use an Ethernet cable to connect your printer to your router you are setting up). Once you have your own network setup make sure you connect (either physically via Ethernet cable or wirelessly) your printer to your new wireless network. Then when you want to print from your iOS device you need to go into your wireless settings on your iOS device and connect to the wireless network you just setup. Once you do that you will be able to AirPrint directly from your iOS device to your AirPrint enabled printer because you are doing this on your own personal wireless network. Now remember, because you have not hooked up your network to any outside network you don't have access to the internet. So if you need to print something from the internet you will need to print it out to a PDF document and then switch to your personal wireless network and AirPrint.

Hopefully you find this article helpful. I was really surprised when I was trying to get my daughter setup to print from iOS on college wireless networks that there weren't more articles out there on the internet that listed out all the work arounds like I have done above. I had to do a lot of digging to figure this out, so I figured I would share it with all of you. Also, I have to imagine that there are a lot of college students opting to go iPad only so this is a problem that more and more college students are going to run into to.

One more tip...if you are in the market for a good printer to use in a college dorm room I highly recommend the Brother HL-L2340D black and white LaserJet wireless printer. Brother makes some really nice printers but at an extremely affordable price. I've used Brother printers for many years and have always been happy with them. Not only does this Brother printer support AirPrint but it also support Wi-Fi Direct, Google cloud Print and Brother iPrint & Scan (but remember only Wi-Fi Direct will work as a workaround to a locked down college wifi network). Happy printing...

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