Printing over VPN - why it might be a challenge

Ethan Payne
Ethan Payne | Writer
Last updated: May 10, 2021
printing over vpn

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While using a VPN has a lot of benefits, those who start using the product for the first time encounter some inconveniences. In particular – printing photos and documents. If you use a wireless printer, you might have noticed that it won’t connect to your computer or complete print jobs while your VPN is online.

Printing issues using VPN are not glitches, but they are avoidable.

When you connect to a VPN server, all your traffic is rerouted through a remote network. The downside of connecting to the internet this way is that your wireless printer will still be connected to your local network. As a result, you won’t be able to connect to your printer.

However, many VPNs have an option to enable LAN access, allowing you to print over VPN even when you’re connected to a remote network. Another option is to utilize the split tunneling feature, which is available on some VPNs, for example, Surfshark.

Change your VPN settings

With some VPNs, getting your computer to connect to your wireless printer is as simple as changing the settings. This is possible if your VPN has an option to toggle the use of local network resources.

Once enabled, this option allows you to connect to printers and other devices on your local network without disabling your VPN. Here’s how you would do it:

How to enable printing over VPN
  1. Go to your VPN’s Preferences or Settings. If you haven’t picked a VPN, Surfshark is a great option
  2. Find a feature called Enable LAN Access (On Surfshark, the feature is called “Invisible to devices”. Make sure that this feature is toggled off)
  3. Alternatively, look for one called Allow Access to Local Network Devices
  4. If you cannot find any, check the help files
  5. Alternatively, contact your VPN’s support

Print over VPN with Surfshark

Once you’ve checked your VPN settings and enabled local network devices, you should be able to print your documents as usual. Simply open your file, find the printing option, select your local printer, choose which pages you want to print, and print away.

Connect to your printer via IP – for macOS users

If you’re a macOS user and the above option doesn’t work for you, you may be able to get your computer working with your wireless printer by connecting to it directly through its IP address.

If your printer has a screen, you can often see the IP address by selecting this option from the menu. If not, you can find it by disconnecting from your VPN temporarily and following these instructions:

How to find your printer’s IP address

  1. Once you’re disconnected, link your printer to your computer as usual
  2. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences
  3. Click Printers & Scanners, then select your printer from the list
  4. Click Open Print Queue, then select Print Test Page from the Printer menu at the top of the screen.
  5. Find the Device URI on the test page and scan until you see ‘IP=’. The IP address is the number string listed after these letters.

Once you have the IP address, connecting your printer by IP address is simple:

How to connect your printer via IP

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences
  2. Click Printers & Scanners.
  3. Under the list of connected printers and scanners, you’ll see a ‘+’ button. Click this to get to the Add Printers screen.
  4. Select the IP tab and type in the IP address of your printer.
  5. Click Add. Once you’ve done this, your printer should show as online even when you’re connected to your VPN.

Use the router app

Are you connecting to your VPN via your provider’s computer software? While these standard VPN clients are sufficient for most uses, they’re not always ideal when it comes to using local devices like printers.

Switching to your VPN’s router app instead can help you solve your printer problems.

This method works because when you use your VPN through your router, every device on your network connects to the same remote server – including your printer.

With your printer and computer both connected to the same network, you should have no problem sending through print jobs as usual.

Not every VPN has a router app, but it never hurts to check your provider’s website or contact them to find out. Moreover, router apps have other benefits, like:

  • increased ease of use
  • the ability to use your VPN on devices that don’t have a dedicated app

Therefore, you may want to consider upgrading to a different VPN provider if yours only has computer and mobile apps.

Use split tunneling

By default, when you’re connected to the internet via your VPN, all your traffic is routed through a VPN tunnel. It’s great for security, but sending every shred of data to the remote server is what stops you from sending tasks to your local, wireless printer.

Therefore, some VPNs, like Surfshark, have a special feature called split tunneling. As the name suggests, split tunneling splits your traffic into two parts:

  1. private (VPN-routed) data
  2. public (locally-routed) data.

If your VPN has split tunneling, you’ll be able to select which software on your computer can send data through the VPN, either by excluding specific apps or only allowing specific apps.

Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN
VPNpro rating: 9.4 / 10

If you print frequently from a PDF reader or text editor, for example, you can set your VPN to disallow that software from connecting. Keeping those apps on your local connection will then allow them to sync with your locally-connected printer.

Of course, it’s important to note that restricting certain apps from connecting to your VPN means any data you send from them could be seen by your ISP or anyone else snooping on your connection.

Use an external cloud printing app

Another great way to bypass these VPN restrictions is to use a remote wireless printing method that doesn’t require your printer and computer to be connected to the same network.

There are many remote printing services available today, but PaperCut Mobility Print is a great free option. However, the cloud printing option is still in beta and only available on Windows and Chromebook devices, while Mac support is coming soon.

Additionally, Mobility Print is meant for organizations and offices, not consumers. Thus, the setup process is a bit extensive. You can find plenty of guides on the PaperCut website on how to install and get everything running properly. But in essence, you need to:

  1. Install the Mobility Print software on a host server
  2. Configure Mobility Print
  3. Send the Client Setup link to your preferred device
  4. Test print from your device
  5. If everything works, configure Cloud Print on the Mobility Print server
  6. Set up Cloud Print on the clients

This is an oversimplified version of the necessary steps to get Cloud Print working with Mobility Print. As you can see, you’ll need a server to run all the time if you want to print from outside your network. If that seems like too much work, there’s still one more option you can try.

Connect your printer with a cable

If you can’t use the above options for any reason, there’s a simple solution you can use – connect your printer to your computer via a cable.

When your printer and computer are connected directly instead of over the internet, you shouldn’t have any trouble printing your documents even when your VPN is active.

Most printers connect to computers using standard USB AB cables, which you can pick up cheaply in most stationery and computing stores.

Of course, this method is low-tech and only works while your printer is plugged into your computer, so it’s best to try one of the solutions above to fix the problem permanently.

Bottom line

With so many fixes available, you’re sure to find one that works for you and your printing dilemma. And remember, while it can take some time to work out the kinks of using a VPN, the security benefits far outweigh the negatives.


You may also like to read:
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Roobet VPN

FAQ

Is it possible to print to a wireless printer while on VPN?

It’s possible to print to a wireless printer if your device is visible on the local network. Make sure that your VPN has the option to make your device visible on the local network.

Can you print over a VPN?

Yes, you can print through a VPN if it allows you to access devices on your local network. To check if that’s possible, go to your VPN settings and look for the “allow LAN devices” option.

Does a VPN affect the local network?

No, a VPN should not affect your local network in any way.

Why can’t I print when connected to VPN?

If you can’t find your printer when connected to a VPN, it means that your VPN makes you invisible on the local network. To fix this, you need to enable the setting that makes you visible on the LAN. Sadly, not all VPN services allow this. Contact customer support of your VPN or change your provider.

How do I print on a local network printer when using VPN?

If you’re connected to a VPN and want to print on a local printer, you need to make your device visible on the local network. To do this, go to your VPN settings and look for the option to make your device visible on local networks. This will vary depending on your VPN provider.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
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Surfshark VPN
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11 comments
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  1. Paul Fisher

    Is it possible to use the router instead of a print server? My printer is wired to the router however I work from two different sites and want to print from either location. We threw out our server years ago.


    1. avatar
      Ethan Payne Author

      Hello, Paul. It might be possible, but it could be difficult to set up as you’ll need to be on the same network as your router.


  2. gamesellru

    It is the truth.


  3. Larry

    Good day I am so thrilled I found your website, I really found you by
    accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Nonetheless I am here now
    and would just like to say cheers for a marvelous post and a
    all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I
    have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back
    to read much more, Please do keep up the great b.


  4. Tim

    Cloud print is gone as of Dec 2020. You need to update this page.


    1. avatar
      Ethan Payne Author

      Greetings, Tim. Thanks for letting us know! I’ve updated the page with an alternative to Google cloud print.


  5. Cathy Singleton

    I have Fubo live TV on my amazon fire stick. If I put the vpn on my router will this interfere with my watching TV thru the app


  6. sherman

    I never knew about this at all! Thank you for raising the awareness of visitors to your site! I would definitely learn how to use VPN when printing next time


  7. unitechmind

    Printing with a VPN? Never knew it is possible. A great eye-opening article. I have a wired printer right now but things are changing fast and I might change to get the wireless one soon


  8. harvestmoonrules

    Hmmm. I’ve always printed directly via a cable, and am not really a fan of wireless printing (I’ve heard a ton of horror stories of people getting stuff printed through their printers they didn’t send) so I’ve always been just ultra suspicious of the process. But my sister got me a wireless printer, and I’ve been wondering if there was a safe way to set it up. Google Cloud Printing looks promising. I might try that.


  9. Max R

    Great article, I’ve never even though of printing with my VPN, you can still do it offline I guess, but when you don’t have the choice but to do it online, I guess it’s better to know how to.

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