Old printer, new computer

If you’ve recently purchased a new computer you may have noticed that many manufacturers no longer install serial port or parallel port connectors. The hardware that requires these connectors is now several years old and has, in most cases, been replaced by USB connectors.

Older printers generally connected with a parallel connector. parallelcableendsThese cables and connectors only allowed for data transfer speeds of 50 kB/sec to 150 kB/sec. Compare this to the newest USB 2.0 standard which allows for transfer speeds of 480 Mbits/sec. The huge increase in speed is why most manufacturers have abandoned parallel ports and replaced them with multiple USB ports.

Another reason is the fact that many electronic devices today connect via USB. Cameras, scanners, cell phones; many peripheral devices connect with USB cables. It makes more sense from a manufacturing viewpoint to include multiple ports of a kind that can be used by many devices as opposed to making room for a port that only one or two devices still use.

So if you buy a computer today, whether laptop or desktop, it most likely will sport several USB 2.0 ports and no parallel or serial port.

usb_printerBut let’s say you have an older printer that still works, has a large ink supply and it’s a printer you’ve become accustomed to, but one that only has a parallel port connector. Does the fact your new computer has no parallel port connector mean that you have to go out and buy a new printer?

Not at all.

There are adapter cables available that have a standard USB plug on one end and a parallel connector on the other. These will let you connect your parallel port printer to any computer with an available USB port.

There is a downside to this. When combining standards, in this case USB and parallel, devices default to the speed of the slowest device. So while these cables offer the convenience of connecting a parallel port printer to a USB port, the data transfer speed will equal that of a parallel port connection. You won’t get USB 2.0 speeds with this connector. But in most cases the difference in speed won’t be noticeable to the average user. There will be a longer delay between sending a print job to the printer and the start of actual printing than you would get with a USB printer, but the delay shouldn’t be more than a few seconds longer.USBparallel

To find these cables, search Google for “USB to parallel cable” or check with your local electronics store. They can cost anywhere from $13 to $90 depending on length, connector type and retailer.

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