What Is a Printer Cable?

Almost every business requires a dedicated printer for one reason or another, and most printers require a cable to interface with a single computer or the office network. A printer cable is just that — a cable used to transfer data between a computer or network hub and the printer. There are several types of cable used as printer cables.

Many older printers use the RS-232 serial connector, a serial input/output cable that uses either a 25-pin or 9-pin connector. These cables used to be the standard peripheral cable before the release of USB, but they have since become considerably less common. Some modern printers do still use these cables, but most modern computers only feature minimal support for both the 25-pin and 9-pin connectors, necessitating an adapter in most cases.

Parallel Cables
The parallel cable is another connection type typically found on older computers and printers. Parallel cables typically have differing connectors on either end of the cable — a DB-25 25-pin connector that connects to the computer much like a serial cable, and the 36-pin micro ribbon connector that connects to the printer. Like serial cables, these cables were extremely common before the release of USB, but they have increasingly become obsolete. Parallel connections are uncommon on modern printers, and support for them on modern computers is minimal at best. In most cases, an adapter will be necessary to connect it to your business’ computer or network.

Many modern printers come equipped with a FireWire connection. FireWire or IEEE-1394 is a type of high-speed serial bus connection that offers superior data transfer speeds to traditional serial and parallel connections. Developed by Apple, the standard was released in 1995 but didn’t gain mainstream adoption until the 2000s. These cables see widespread support in many computer systems, although it still isn’t as widespread as USB.

Universal Serial Bus, or USB, is a serial bus connector that has seen wide-ranging support and mainstream adoption. USB devices are plug-and-play devices, meaning that no additional driver software is typically necessary — drivers and device information is added to the computer upon connection of the cable. USB connections are among the most common in modern computing. Most computers have multiple USB ports to support a number of peripherals. The most commonly seen ports are USB 2.0, although USB 3.0 is seeing increasing market share after the technology’s release.

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