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Q.  Help Me Print a .PRN file in Windows XP. 

If I'm using my laptop away from the office and I choose to print something and select "print to file" (since I don't have a printer with me) it creates a .PRN file, but how can I print that file later? 

A.  Okay, let's say you're home or back at the office, and you now have a printer attached to your laptop. Or maybe you copied that .PRN file to your desktop system. It should be easy to print that file now, right? WRONG! 

My first guess was to open Windows Explorer, right-click on the .PRN file, then select Print. But there is no Print option in the dropdown menu. 

Well then, I'll just go to My Computer, open the Printers folder, then drag and drop the .PRN file on the printer icon. Wrong again. Windows returns an error message that says "File cannot be printed. Open the file with the correct application and print from there." Just for jollies, I created a .PRN file with Word, then tried to open it with Word. Total gibberish, won't print. 

Okay, So What DOES Work?

It turns out you have to resort to the DOS Prompt and enter some arcane command string to find true .PRN file happiness. To open a DOS prompt, you can click on Start / Run, then enter CMD.EXE and press enter. Now use the CD (change directory) command to navigate to the folder where the .PRN file is stored. For example, 


But wait, there's more... the format of the print command depends on the type of printer you have. 

If you have an older printer that's connected via the parallel port (it will have a 1/4-inch cable with large connectors on both ends), then here's the command to use. (Substitute your actual print file name for TMP.PRN below.) 


If you have a printer that's connected via the USB port (thin wire with small connectors) then here's the command to use. 

COPY /B TMP.PRN \\computer_name\printer_share_name 

What? You don't remember your computer name? You don't know the printer share name? Here's how to find them. 

To find your computer name go to Control Panel, open the System folder, then click on Computer Name. The info you want is shown after the tag "Full computer name". If there's a period at the end of the name, ignore it. 

To find your printer share name, go to Control Panel, open the Printers folder, then right-click on your printer and select Sharing. The share name will appear there. If your printer is not shared, select the Share this printer radio button and enter a share name. 

Okay, let's assume your computer name is HP and your printer share name is HPshare. That would make the print command as follows:

COPY /B TMP.PRN \\ HP \ HPshare 

Note there are TWO backslashes before the computer name.

It is important to note that there is never one fix for a question.  What may work for one person might not for the next.  Depending on the problem and the way it is described by the Computer Owner there may be Six different approaches to a positive outcome.  If the first answer I give you to your question doesn’t work let me know and I will send you another.  Just give me details.

Let me know if you need anything else.

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