Can You Hook a Printer to the iPad?

By Anne Hirsh

You cannot physically connect a printer to an iPad to print your materials, but the iPad does offer limited printer support. AirPrint allows you to print wirelessly to a limited selection of compatible printers using native iPad software. Some third-party apps let you use a printer connected to a computer that runs on the same wireless network as your iPad. Standard wireless printers will not work with the iPad.

Why Wireless Doesn't Work

Wireless printers require you to install a software driver on your computer when you initially set them up. This software lets your computer communicate with the printer over your wireless network. IPads run a different operating system from computers, and the executable software files that install drivers on your computer won't work on the iPad's operating system.


Apple's AirPrint software lets you use driver-free printers that contain all the software needed to communicate with devices like the iPad. As of June 2011, only HP printers offer AirPrint support, and only with certain models. Check the Apple website for the current list of supported printers (see Resources). You may need to update the firmware on some printers to make them AirPrint compatible. When an AirPrint-enabled printer is available, you can tap the action button in any supported app and choose "Print." The iPad will detect the printer and send your document or other item to be printed wirelessly.

Printer Sharing

Apps that share your computer's printer with the iPad vary in quality and support. Search for "print from iPad" or simply "print" in the iPad's App Store app to see the current offerings. Check the descriptions to see which apps the printing app supports. Some apps will only print photos or documents, or will only print items you place within the app. For full support, look for a printer sharing app that lets you print documents, Web pages, photos and other items from within their native apps.


Apple often releases software updates, with the next major iPad operating system update scheduled for fall 2011. These software updates often change features such as printing support, so make sure you have the latest software installed when you test your iPad's printing abilities.