Printers now-a-days come in many types.
And though there are different types of printers, basic setup is usually typical.
First thing you need to do is think about how the printer will be accessed. Will it be used exclusively by a single device or will it be available to multiple devices? This will determine how you communicate with the printer. And really you should put some thought into this. If the printer has the ability to network either wired or wirelessly you should consider the potential. Even if you only intend to use it with a single system. Thought into this now could save time and money later when you have a new computer or laptop that you would like to be able to print to the printer.
If you intend a local, hardwired install of the printer you will need to find a place for the printer to live relatively close to the device you plan to print from. Back years ago a local printer connection was done with a parallel printer cable. This is a 36 pin cable with wide ends usually 6 to 10 feet in length. And if memory serves, printers never seemed to come with them it was always a separate purchase. Which also was typical of the USB cables that most newer printers use.
Some printers allow a direct wireless connection that would be considered local. Essentially a point to single point connection between the printer and your device.
Once you have found a good location for the printer to occupy you can start the setup procedure. If this is a new printer you will need to unpack and unbox and remove the shipping strips. Some of them are not as obvious as others. After the printer is free from its container and safety elements you can install the ink cartridges or toner or whatever the printer uses to generate output.
The next thing you will want to do is plug in the printer and plug in the data cable (usually USB), the data cable will connect to the printer and your device.
Printers now-a-days include fairly intuitive and smart software. If your printer came with this software this is when you would use it. It should be as simple as inserting a disc and following the directions. A word of advice, a lot of software comes with what is known as bloatware. Bloatware is applications and offers added to an installation package, basically advertisements and sales pitches. When you're clicking through the options and buttons of the installation software, pay special attention to exactly what you are clicking. If you don't fully read and understand what you are clicking you could very well end up with extra software you don't recall asking for. Things like trial based antivirus or extra toolbars in your browser.
During the software installation the printer should be automatically detected and any accompanying software such as scanning or faxing software will be automatically installed.
At the end of the software installation process you may be asked to print a test page. You should do this to verify not only that the drivers were installed correctly, but also that the printer is functional.
The differences between the local installation and the network installation are slight. Placement is the first consideration. With a networked printer you have far more options for placement, only limited by cable availability if it's wired or reception if wireless. Other than that the procedures are relatively the same.
In most cases you can use the same instructions as above and the installation software will tend to the rest.
In some cases and good practice would be to set the printer up with a static IP on your local network. Though this is geared more towards commercial applications, it certainly makes things easier in the future if you know the IP address of the printer.
Setting up a static IP is not for the faint of heart, but can be done fairly easily if some considerations are executed. Know what addresses your network uses. Most times this will be something like 192.168.1.0/24 or 192.168.0.1/24. You can find this out in Windows by opening a command prompt. Click 'Start' and type 'cmd' in the search box and hit 'Enter'. This will bring up a window that looks like a black box.
Type 'ipconfig' and hit Enter. You should see a line titled IPv4 Address. This is the IP of your computer. If you change the last number to zero in your mind, that is considered your network. For reference later, also note the 'Default Gateway' IP address.
Now that you have your network information The other thing you have to know is what DHCP scope is in use on your network. DHCP is 'dynamic host configuration protocol'. Essentially it is a service that manages IP assignments for devices that aren't statically assigned on your network. There can only be one DHCP provider on a network and typically for residential consumer use that is handled by your router.
You could get this information by logging into your router and checking the settings. If when you setup your router you did very little in the way of configuration and it was more of a plug and play event, you get the make and model of the router and lookup what the default DHCP scope is.
More often then not the DHCP scope is between 50 and 100 or 100-150. You could probably use .30 for your printer and be okay.
Going back to your IP address you got from the command prompt, what was your IP? Was it 192.168.1.104? It's that last number we are concerned with. Now ask yourself, how many networked computers and devices do I have? If you have only 4-10 then its a safe bet the DHCP scope starts at 100. In this case 30 would be perfect. If your IP was '27' (last number), then you may want to consider an address of 200 or more to be safely away from the scope.
Network addresses range from .1 to .254. .0 is the network and .255 is for broadcast, but that would be a whole other article.
Once you have settled on an IP address to use for your printer it will be time to configure your printer to use that address. This is best done on the control panel of the printer or sometimes the software that came with the printer allows you to configure this information.
The printer will want an IP address: 192.168.1.30
It will want a subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
It will also want a gateway, you got that info earlier: 192.168.1.1
Now that the printer has a static IP you can continue with the driver install either with the software the printer came with or manually.
A manual installation will require driver software, should be on the disk.
In Windows, Start->Devices and Printers. Click the 'Add a printer' button. A popup box will appear asking what type of printer. You want to select 'Add a local printer' NOT 'Add a network printer'. On the next screen select the 'Create a new port' radio button. Choose 'Standard TCP/IP Port' from the drop down menu and click the 'Next' button at the bottom.
In the middle box, "Hostname or IP address" type in the IP address you chose for the printer: 192.168.1.30, then click 'Next'.
The computer will then query the printer to get some basic information. From this point it is about the drivers. The computer may or may not request drivers, that is all dependent on if the computer can find a suitable driver from within the system. If you are asked for a driver, point it at the disc supplied by the manufacturer. Once the process completes it will finalize by asking you to confirm the printer name, you can just use the default. It will ask if you would like to share this printer, I recommend you do not. Finally it will ask if you want to print a test page. Yes, yes you do. This verifies both the driver works and the printer functions.
That should be it. Your printer should now be setup and ready for you to use whenever you need.
If the printer is not new and or you are missing the software and drivers for it, most manufacturers supply this on their websites. Simply go to their website and select your model printer.
Xerox - http://www.support.xerox.com
Lexmark - http://support.lexmark.com/drivers