GEEK: Apple devices connecting to wireless printer instead of router

Q: I’m a Mac-aholic (iPhone, iPad, iMac), so I read your column to keep up on news in the tech world, but most of your questions have to do with PC, vice Apple. My question today, though, is platform irrelevant (I think). I have a wireless printer, which works perfectly. I can sit in my living room reading my iPad, and print out an article on the printer in my study. Way Cool!

This requires, though, an HP-based network which shows up on my list of available networks on my wireless router. And nearly (but not EVERY) time I open my iPad, I get a NO INTERNET CONNECTION because I’m logged on to my HP-printer network instead of my working wireless network in the house. Is there some way to make my devices ALWAYS default to the “normal” wireless network and only go to the HP-printer network when I use the printer? Or do I continue switching when I log on?

– Robert T.

Navarre, Florida

A: Thanks, Robert. I can only answer the questions that I receive, and frankly, I don’t receive too many Apple questions. (I chose “Apple” rather than “Mac” since two of the three devices you listed are not in the Mac family, but all are produced by Apple.) Now, I’m sure there are those readers out there that will say that I don’t get many Apple product questions because Macs and iDevices don’t ever have any problems. I would beg to differ, as my direct experience proves otherwise. Apple products may not have the same problems that PCs have, but they have problems all their own. Unlike PCs, when an Apple device crashes, it usually just resets or powers off with no error message at all, or an indecipherable, sometimes animated graphic on the screen. On the other hand, PCs, or more specifically Windows, generate some cryptic message that often requires a computer scientist to interpret and act on.

More on this later. For now, let’s move on to your non-platform-specific, wireless printer problem, shall we? The answer to your question is “yes, there is a way,” and it’s probably far simpler than you realize.

First of all, you are mistaken in your belief that wireless printing requires the use of what you called “an HP-based network which shows up on [your] list of available networks.” The reason you’re seeing an entry for your printer in your list of available networks is because your printer is broadcasting a SSID, or Service Set Identifier, which is the primary name that is associated with any 802.11-based wireless access point. This is not the mechanism through which your iPad connects to the printer. The “wireless” part of wireless printing refers to the connection between your iPad and your LAN. The mechanism by which your printer connects to your LAN is irrelevant. In fact, you could completely disable your printer’s Wi-Fi, and connect it to your home network via an Ethernet cable, and you would still be able to print to it from your iPad. As long as the printer is properly configured on your router, you can print to it no matter how it is connected.

So, the question then becomes something completely different. To solve your problem, you can either stop the printer from broadcasting its SSID, or you can tell your iPad not to connect to that SSID anymore. The former option requires you to connect to the printer’s web configuration portal and go into the Wi-Fi Direct Setup. On the Advanced tab, you’ll find a box labeled “Do not broadcast the Wi-Fi Direct name”. Check it, and restart the printer, and it will no longer appear in lists of available networks. The latter option is the easiest of all, and can be done in conjunction with the other option. On your iPad, go to the list of available networks and find the entry for your printer. Tap the blue arrow next to the network name, then select “Forget this Network”. Do this, and your iPad will not try to connect to this network anymore unless you manually reconnect it.

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In light of the verbiage at the beginning of this week’s edition, I’d like to take the opportunity to point out that It’s Geek To Me is not a “PC/Windows” column, or even a “Computer” column. I consider I.G.T.M. to be a “Technology Q&A Feature” and I field questions about all aspects of technology. It’s just a coincidence that the vast majority of questions I receive are about computers, mostly Windows-based PCs. Perhaps my saying that will compel some of my readers out there to write in with more general technology questions.

To view additional content, comment on articles, or submit a question of your own, visit my website at (not .com!)