What do I do with USB drive?

Discussion in 'Computer Information' started by Julie Bove, Jan 15, 2010.

  1. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    I've been told to get one for my daughter's Netbook. When I do, what do I
    do with it? Just stick it in the port and then what?

    I've been told I can use it to print. How do I do that? Just stick it in
    the desktop processor and... Then what?

    Julie Bove, Jan 15, 2010
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  2. Back in the days of old, not long after Ramblers and Studebakers roamed the
    land, computers used removable media as storage devices. These media began
    as what they called a 5.25-inch floppy drive. Soon they were made smaller
    and put into a hard plastic case and were called a 3.5-inch floppy --
    although they weren't really floppy at all.

    You would do work on your machine, and perhaps save the job to a floppy
    drive so you could carry it home and do stuff on your home PC then save the
    work again to the floppy so you could carry it back to the office.

    As we evolved, these removable media became CDs, but because CDs could only
    be written to once, it was not a very efficient way to carry work home.
    Eventually, USB (universal serial bus) was created and standardized.

    With USB, yoiu are able to plug your digital camera into the PC, or Mac, to
    transfer photos. You plug in your iPod to transfer music. Now, you even plug
    in your printer, scanner, bluetooth, and a whole host of other devices.
    Among those devices is the External Hard Drive.

    An external hard drive can be used exactly the same way as the floppy drive
    of yesteryear. Perhaps you have a USB flashdrive that rembles the Bic butane
    lighters that you buy at the mini-mart. These drives have a capacity of
    about 4G (gigabytes), but are available in a wide range of capacities. (I
    bought them as a 128M when they were first introduced, now they give that
    size away free to the first 300 shoppers on Saturday morining, and you can
    get 4G or 8G-capacity drives for what I paid for my 128M -- 1,000M = 1G, so
    the price has come down a lot.)

    Anyhow, you might have a few flashdrives (sometimes called thumbdrives)
    laying around. You transfer files to them for storage or to merely transport
    somewhere. You would use the External Drive in precisely the same way, but
    there is vastly greater capacity. I saw a 1.5T (terabyte) capacity drive at
    Costco the other day for about $150. (1,000G = 1T)

    Let's say you have, or your daughter has, a digital video camera. You go on
    vacation and shoot loads of video. You would connect the camera and the
    external drive to the computer and transfer the movies to the drive so the
    camera would be free to record more movies the next day. Maybe you have
    several hundred CDs of Garth Brooks and Lynard Skynard. You could put these
    files on the external drive so you could take them to a friend's house to
    play on their computer. Or, you have work that you need to carry home to
    work on over the weekend, you could put it on the external drive -- although
    the flashdrive would probably work better for that just because it's smaller
    and lighter.
    Jeff Strickland, Jan 15, 2010
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  3. Julie Bove

    housetrained Guest

    Alternatively, you could use it to microwave a ready meal.
    housetrained, Jan 15, 2010
  4. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    Thanks! No digital cam and no interest in one. We were just trying to find
    a way she could do her homework on there and print it if necessary.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  5. Julie Bove

    Paul Guest

    If you want to print from a netbook, there are inkjet printers that are
    cheap to buy, but expensive on expendables (ink is expensive).

    As long as the netbook has a USB connector, there are plenty of toys you
    can connect to it. You can even connect an external USB DVD burner, if you
    need the ability to install software or burn CDs or DVDs.

    If you need to save money on per-page printing costs, a laser printer might be
    better. You buy toner cartridges for them. Depending on the technology,
    it is still possible to scratch the belt or drum which is photosensitive,
    and the replacement costs you a bit. (Sometimes, the photosensitive bit is
    part of the replacement toner cartridge.) But compared to inkjet, you're
    more likely to keep the printing costs down. As long as homework can be
    submitted in b&w printing, this might be better.


    This printer, by comparison, is a laser printer, but instead of a USB wire,
    it supports wireless printing. If the netbook has wireless capability for
    wireless networking, you could connect to this printer. The printer also
    has an Ethernet cable, if you just want to connect it to your router.
    I found this one, by sorting the units by best rating, and this one
    got the best rating. A networked printer has the advantage, that more
    than one user in the house can easily print to it. A disadvantage might
    be, the potential for the setup of the printer to be more complicated.


    Paul, Jan 16, 2010
  6. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    I don't want to buy another printer. The one I have works just fine. And I
    don't have room for another one. But if the USB drive would work to print,
    that's what I want to do.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  7. Julie Bove

    Paul Guest

    OK, what kind of printer do you currently have ? Does it have a parallel port ?
    Something along these lines ?


    There are USB to parallel adapter cables. Not all of them
    work well. Read the reviews before you buy one.


    The reviews on this one are a little bit better, but I suppose it
    depends on which printer they were trying it with.


    Adapters are available for a limited number of protocols. Some
    protocol conversions are easy, while others are hard. A successful
    protocol conversion, allows an older device to be used. As an
    example of an obscure converter which I own, I have a USB to ADB
    adapter, which allows me to plug a ten year old Macintosh keyboard
    into my PC :) (don't ask why...)

    The USB to Parallel port adapters, are not "perfect" adaptations.
    They're designed to use a Microsoft USB printing software stack, and not
    support all possible modes that ordinary parallel ports on older
    computers might have used. So if you were looking for an adapter
    that could support non-printing usage of a parallel port, those
    won't work for that (like a dongle used by expensive software as
    a license server). But they do give you some odds of making
    a printer work, without having to buy a print server box (which
    might cost as much as an inkjet printer).

    Paul, Jan 16, 2010
  8. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    I'm afraid you are just confusing me further. My printer is a Lexmark and
    plugs into a USB port. Now I assume that if I really wanted to (but I
    don't) I could simply unplug my Desktop cable to the printer and plug that
    into the Netbook. And then I could print. But I don't want to do that.

    I was told to get the USB drive and I could use it to print.

    Someone elsewhere said it was as simple as plugging it into the Netbook,
    then when I want to print, pulling it out and sticking it into an open USB
    port on the Desktop. The computer will then sense what it is (Win XP Home)
    and I can go from there to print it.

    Does it not work this way?

    I know my husband does something like this with his Laptop but I never paid
    much attention to exactly what he was doing and he's not here to ask.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  9. Julie Bove

    Paul Guest

    Yes, if you want, you can move the printer from one computer to the other,
    and just plug it into the USB port when needed. Of course that will work.

    If you want to avoid the physical nature of hooking to the printer, there
    are otner solutions. But they aren't completely bulletproof, and you can
    see how much trouble this solution is, by reading the customer reviews.
    Once it is set up though, barring a hardware failure, it should just work.


    OK, to summarize, you have a USB printer, a desktop and a laptop, and wish to
    share a printer. So you're looking for *something* which will allow either
    computer to print. And presumably, you don't want both computers to
    have to be on, for that to happen. If both computers were always on,
    then you might be able to share a printer without any new hardware.
    Using a print server, means the computer can be independently turned
    off when desired, and the printer and print server remain powered,
    waiting for a print job.

    This is a wired print server. The setup guide is inside the ZIP file and is
    a PDF document. On page 2 it shows a networking diagram.


    (Customer reviews for DP300U)


    I'll redraw it here. The printing solution takes up one port on your
    router. Either computer can reach the printer, as long as the router
    is turned on (which you need to reach the Internet anyway) and the
    print server is also left on.

    ADSL or Cable
    Router -------------------- Wired ----- USB ----- printer
    | | Print
    Computer Computer Server
    #1 #2 DP300U

    This one is similar, except it supports both wired and wireless (and
    left me a bit confused). It almost looks like a router that happens
    to run a printer on the side.

    NETGEAR WGPS606 54 Mbps Wireless Print Server 802.11b/g, 4 x RJ-45 USB 1.1 - Retail


    Netgear even has a compatibility page for their print server.
    There are a couple Lexmark devices listed as not compatible.



    Installation guide.

    The Netgear allows you to do this, if your existing router supports
    at least wireless. The print server is effectively on the LAN side.

    ADSL or Cable
    Router --/\/\ /\/\--Wireless ----- USB ----- printer
    | | Print
    Computer Computer Server
    #1 #2 WGPS606

    If the router is wireless, and the netbook is wireless, then the
    netbook can print as you walk around the house. The DP300U at least,
    uses a wired connection to its "router friend", so the router would
    need to have at least one free LAN port to support it.

    The Netgear device doesn't support WPA2 for highest security, which
    is a minus. Somehow, I doubt your existing router can be run in two
    modes at once, so the device with the weakest security options
    determines what settings can be used.


    This Asus device, appears to support WPA2, and looks complete enough to
    even replace your router if you wanted. And it is also $60. Of
    course, with Asus, you wouldn't expect to get a printer compatibility



    There are probably other ways to get a print server, a spigot on
    the back of some other piece of equipment. If none of the above
    complexity appeals to you (and it doesn't appeal to me), then stick
    with moving the USB cable from one computer to the other. At least
    I can understand how that works :) Setting up networking doesn't
    scare me particularly, but I can see myself staring at manuals
    and web browser screens for hours, trying to figure out how
    to get the WPA2 working.

    Any computer that would remain powered at all times, might be
    used as a print server as well. But that would surely waste
    more electricity, than one of those $60 boxes. The $60 box
    would use 5V at 1 to 2 amps, so call it a 10 watt drain
    all the time. No computer is going to be able to match that,
    unless it is completely asleep.

    If you had a computer that worked as a file server, then that
    would be a good candidate for adding a printer serving function
    at no cost. Since the file server would be running 24/7,
    it would be a good machine to plug the USB printer into.

    Paul, Jan 16, 2010
  10. The external drive is useful for loads of uses, if you have 70-ish dollars
    you can get a very good one that will take a very long time to fill.

    I'm not sure your kid will need a drive to save her documents and
    spreadsheets to just to carry them to another computer in your house to
    print, a flashdrive would do this task exactly the same way and cost less to
    do it. Odds are good that you arleady have a few of these laying around that
    you can donate to her.

    The Netbook has a wireless adaptor already built in that is used to get into
    your wireless router -- if you have fiber optic service, high speed cable,
    or some other form of feed, yoiu probably have a wireless router already --
    then she can see the printers in your house and print directly to them.

    It is an easy task to establish a Workgroup at home, then you can share the
    resources you have among the population of computers. With a workgroup, the
    computer in the den is visible to the computer in the family room, and the
    netbook in your kid's room. and the computer in the office, and so on. When
    you are setting up the workgroup, you tell the Wizard that you want to share
    files and printers, and then the folders and printers on each machine are
    visible to the other machines in the group. When your kid clicks File Print,
    she simply navigates the dropdown list to the printer she wants to use and
    clicks OK, then plods downstairs in her bunnyslippers to the den and gets
    her print job. If you have a machine with a fancy photo printer, and another
    machine with a simple black-only laser printer, then she will want the laser
    printer for reports, and save the photo ink for the homemade birthday card
    she wants to send to Grandma.
    Jeff Strickland, Jan 16, 2010
  11. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    No. Not necessarily. I was told that with the USB drive, I could take it
    out of the Netbook and plug it into the Desktop and then print whatever was
    on the Netbook. Will this not work?

    Basically I want to know is what the USB drive will do for us. I had one
    that I got as a gift many years ago and I gave it away. At the time I
    didn't have a spare USB port. My dad said it was used for pictures. I
    don't have a digital camera and am not likely to get one. So I had no use
    for it. Now the school is telling me to get one for my daughter.
    Sorry. This stuff is all over my head.
    We do have a wireless router. But the rest is over my head.
    I do not not like complex things.
    Sorry. I don't even know what a file server is.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  12. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    I don't even know what a spreadsheet is and I don't think she works with
    them. She's only in the 6th grade. I do not have any flashdrives laying
    around. I had one and got rid of it, not knowing what to do with it.
    We have a wireless router but we don't have a wireless printer.
    No, we don't have that kind of printer and I'm not going to get one.

    So are you telling me we can't use the USB drive to print something?
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  13. Julie Bove

    JD Guest

    Wow crazy long thread for such a simple thing.

    The only way you could use a USB drive to print is to:

    A) move the file you want to copy to the USB drive then plug that into
    the printer (if it supports USB drives/keys)

    B) plug it into a computer attached to a printer and print it from there

    A USB drives only function is to store information what you do with said
    information is up to you.

    there are easier and free ways to print remotely such as Printer shares
    or a print server attached to your router (assuming you are using a router)

    Some links for sharing a printer:




    JD, Jan 16, 2010
  14. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    So I can NOT plug it into my Desktop computer, and then print the file from
    there? I could swear this is how my husband does it.

    We do use a wireless router but I don't know anything beyond that.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  15. Julie Bove

    Paul Guest

    Yes, you can walk a hard drive or a flash drive, from one computer to
    another, plug into the USB port, and print something from the drive. In
    the case of proprietary formats, like if you had a Microsoft WORD .doc, you'd
    need Microsoft Word on the second machine, to convert the .doc into a print.

    It is also possible to "print to file" on the original machine. That
    converts what you see in the document window, into a series of bytes that
    would be used for the print job. If you take that file and send it to the
    printer later, in theory it is supposed to print just the same. I haven't
    experimented with that here, to see what details are involved. I did things
    like that years ago, with a Macintosh, but there really hasn't been a need
    to do it recently. I mean, if I need to print (which I don't do much of),
    I just plug in the USB printer :) I have an inkjet, which means
    a relatively expensive per-page printing cost, so I only print
    essential items on it.

    A third option, is for things like photo files. Some printers have
    a USB input port on the front, where you can plug a USB flash device
    perhaps. The printer has some kind of small LCD screen, and allows
    you to select photo files it sees on the storage device, and print the
    photo. That might be a color inkjet printer, intended for glossy photo
    printing. The printer also functions as a normal printer, but provides
    the added function *just* for photo files (not homework assignments).
    The concept would allow a person owning only the printer and a camera
    perhaps, to print without need of a computer.

    In the example here, the USB port used for photo printing is called
    "PictBridge". You can see a small LCD screen, used for controlling
    how the photo will be printed from whatever is plugged into the
    PictBridge port.


    In terms of wear and tear, I don't see the difference between
    plugging in an external USB storage device, and carting that somewhere,
    versus plugging in the USB printer. Both would require at least one
    plug and unplug operation.

    You can share USB devices with a USB switch, but that implies that the
    netbook owner will be staying put in one place.


    Computer#1 Computer#2
    | |
    | +---------------+
    | |
    | A B |
    | |
    | Device |

    At a minimum, a USB switch has a button on top, which allows you
    to select either "A" or "B" to "own" the printer temporarily. You
    can't switch in the middle of print jobs, because that would
    corrupt the page currently printing. As long as the printer is
    idle, you can push the button (or use a hot key on the keyboard),
    to switch control of the printer. But one of those is only
    worth owning if

    1) The two computers are close enough to the switch. A basic USB
    cable spans up to 16 feet. (You can purchase active extender
    cables, but there is still an overall limit.) So without
    using extenders, you can see the limits imposed by cable length.

    2) If one of the computers is portable, and the user likes to walk
    about with it, then there is still the wear and tear of plugging and
    unplugging the USB cable. Which is what the USB switch is intended
    to eliminate.

    The print server concept is meant to eliminate at least some of that,
    by converting the problem into "networking". With a print server,
    as long as the printer is networked somehow, then the computers
    can reach it. If you want to stay within the USB domain, then
    there is still the need to plug in and so on. At least with
    networking, it can be wireless.

    If all the computers are wireless, obviously a wireless printer
    also nicely solves the problem.

    Considering your Lexmark, you should be looking at potential print
    volume. How many pages would be printed per month as homework
    assignments, and whether the printer is an inkjet or a laser
    printer. Perhaps when you take into account the cost of inkjet
    cartridges, a wireless laser printer might reduce your overall
    operating costs. When I consider how much paper I went through
    as a student, I'd hate to see the bill if all of that was
    printed on an inkjet. That is how they make money on inkjet
    printers, on the ink.

    Paul, Jan 16, 2010
  16. Julie Bove

    Baron Guest

    Julie Bove Inscribed thus:

    A USB memory stick is simply a storage device that can be used to
    transfer data from one machine to another by copying it ! The data
    you want to print is simply drag n drop onto the USB memory stick. On
    the other machine, simply drag n drop the data off the memory stick !
    Baron, Jan 16, 2010
  17. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    Okay. That's what I'll do then.
    No photos so no problem there.
    I don't think she would print too many pages at a time. So far this year
    maybe about 10. We rarely use the printer at all.
    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  18. Julie Bove

    Julie Bove Guest

    Julie Bove, Jan 16, 2010
  19. Julie Bove

    Baron Guest

    Julie Bove Inscribed thus:
    You're welcome.
    Baron, Jan 16, 2010
  20. Well, your kid isn't likely to be hauling spreadsheets around the
    schoolyard, that's true.

    A spreadsheet has rows and columns of information, the uppermost row is 1
    and the left most column is A, so the data is arranged in cells, a cell is
    where the rows and columns intersect -- the 5th colimn over and the 6th row
    down would be designated as E6.

    You can create an address list in a spreadsheet. You would name the columns,
    FIRSTNAME, LASTNAME, STREET, CITY, STATE, ZIP. Then you would enter your
    data in the rows going across. You could sort the data by any of the column

    In any case, you can buy a few flash drives (also known as thumb drive) in
    any of several capacities -- typically measured in gigabytes, 2, 4, 8, 16,
    and so on -- where your selection is primarily price driven at this
    juncture. You simply plug the device into the USB port and direct File Save
    or File Save As commands to the device. Using these kinds of devices is far
    easier if you know how to use the Windows Explorer. This is a basic
    operation of Windows that everybody ought to be familiar with, but sadly far
    too many people have no clue.

    You don't need a wireless printer. Let's say the printer is connected to the
    computer in the den. You would create a WORKGROUP named LOONY TUNES, then
    name the computers on your system TWEETY, SYLVESTER, WILEY, and ROADRUNNER.
    Each of these machines might have a printer connected to it, as the
    workgroup is being established, you select a checkbox, SHARE PRINTER and
    another one SHARE FOLDERS. In Windows Explorer, you will find folders PUBLIC
    DOCUMENTS and PUBLIC PHOTOS (or folder names to that effect). These are the
    folders that will be shared by default. Any files stored in these folders
    will be accessable to the other machines in the workgroup. Any printers
    connected to these machines will also be accessable to the other machines in
    the workgroup.

    All of this stuff will be accessable via the wireless router, assuming you
    have the wireless accessories needed for the wireless connection. If you
    have a machine that is hardwired to the router -- you ought to have at least
    one -- then that machine is also accessable by the wireless machines via the
    wireless router. The wireless router has at least one wired connection, and
    could have up to 4 (typically).

    No, I did not say that at all. You certainly can use the USB drive to
    transport a file from your daughter's machine to the machine that has the
    printer attached. Absolutely you can do that.

    Let's say your kid puts together a report on Abe Lincoln -- a topic that is
    likely to be on the curiculum of a 6th grader -- using Microsoft Word. She
    saves her work locally on her own machine as she goes along. When she gets
    all done and saves for the last time, File>Save, then she would plug in the
    flashdrive and select File>Save As and direct the save operation to the
    appropriate drive letter.

    She would then walk downstairs to the den and plug the flashdrive in and
    start Microsoft Word, and select File>Open, and navigate to the flashdrive
    and select the target file and click OK. Then she could select File>Print.
    Jeff Strickland, Jan 16, 2010
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