6.2. Installing a Scanner
Installing a scanner works pretty much like installing a digital camera, but with one exception: Windows XP embraces most digital cameras as soon as they're plugged in. Installing a scanner, by contrast, works better if you install the scanner's bundled software before plugging in the scanner.
Follow these steps to connect your scanner to your PC.
Tip: Lost your scanner's connection cable? Most scanners use USB or FireWire cables, which are available at any computer or office supply store.
Install the scanner's installation software .
Install the software before plugging in the scanner. That way Windows XP recognizes your new device as soon as you plug it in.
Unlock the scanner, if necessary .
To keep the UPS man from banging around a scanner's large and sensitive lenses, most scanners come with a built-in mechanical locking mechanism inside that clenches all the delicate parts together tightly. You need to unlock the scanner before using it, or you'll hear frightening grinding sounds.
Unlocking most models simply means turning a switch along one side of the scanner; on more advanced models, you need to unscrew a panel along one edge of the scanner to access the switch. Some locking switches hide beneath a strip of bright-plastic tape that says, "Unlock before use."
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Surprise, surprise. Scanner manufacturers tend to exaggerate on their specification sheets about as much as their digital camera brethren do. Many of the touted technical terms are simply buzzwords that look good to the marketing department. For real proof of a scanner's merit when you're shopping, bring along a photo, a printed page, and a page that combines botha magazine page, for instance. Scan each one, and let your own eyes be the judge.
You'll see these words turn up most often on the sales sheet when you're shopping for a scanner:
Resolution . Just as digital cameras and camcorders proudly advertise their "zoom" rating, resolution determines how closely the scanner looks at images. Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing whether a scanner's claimed resolution of 2400 dots per inch (dpi) will produce a clear close-up or a blurry one. That's where your own eyes bear witness . Also, keep in mind that the vast majority of your scans will be from 75 to 300 dots per inch, a resolution that doesn't come close to the 2400 dpi that many scanner companies brag about.
Attachments . Some scanners offer special attachments for scanning slides, film, and other oddly shaped items. The attachments hold the items in place to avoid crooked images while scanning and help speed up the process. Some flatbed scanners come with detachable "document feeders" that turn them into sheet-fed scanners, handy for scanning long reports .
USB 2.0/FireWire . Look for a scanner that plugs into your PC's FireWire or USB 2.0 ports rather than the older USB 1.1 ports. These scanners are about 40 times faster than the older, USB 1.1 scanners. If you own an older PC, you can easily install a USB 2.0 or FireWire port (see Section 1.7).
Scanning area . This refers to the size of the glass bed upon which you place your document. Most people never need anything larger than the standard 8.5 x 11 inch space, which perfectly frames a sheet of office paper. But if you'll be scanning legal documents, vintage album covers, artwork, or other large items, look for a model with an appropriately sized scanning area.
Color . Most scanners boast 48-bit color, another phrase that means little. Most monitors can display only 32-bit color, meaning you'll never be able to see those extra colors. In other words, don't give a scanner the nod simply because it offers 48-bit color.
Note: Always lock the scanner before boxing it up and shipping or moving it.
Plug the scanner into the wall, and turn on its power switch .
The scanner's light turns on, and the scanner makes some reassuring power-on test noises.
Connect the scanner's cable to your PC .
Most scanners plug into a computer's USB 2.0 (Section 1.8.1) or FireWire (Section 18.104.22.168) port. Both ports let the scanner send large amounts of data to your PC as quickly as possible. Don't have the right port on your PC? They're easy enough to install (Section 1.7). (A USB 2 scanner still works when plugged into an older USB port, but the connection's pretty darn slow; see Section 22.214.171.124 for instructions on how to figure out what flavor of USB port your computer has.)
When you're finished with the installation, your PC recognizes your scanner, automatically locates the software you installed in step 1, and adds its icon to your My Computer list of attached scanners and cameras (Start My Computer).