I have a multi-function printer at home (an HP Photosmart C4280) and I would like to be able to use its scanner from any computer (they're all Windows XP) in my network. Is this doable?
With the exception of something like the software that Robert mentioned, most multifunction devices will not function properly unless connected to a proper computer and shared out.
So if you're thinking you can use one of those fancy USB print sharing devices - probably won't work. This goes for most print servers - unless the print server specifically and clearly states that it will share a scanner over IP.
The printer needs to be connected to the computer, because the computer provides some of the processing power and information needed to complete tasks like printing and scanning. Often, I've seen printers in this setup refuse to scan, and producing half quality prints.
So, that means you have to have your printer connected to the computer directly. If you're not willing to purchase the software (or it simply doesn't do what you want) you don't have any other options to share a scanner, except for buying a device that supports network based scanning, such as a HP OfficeJet. Unfortunately, those can run you a fair whack of money.
There's no easy way to do this. You either buy expensive software, or you replace the device with a printer that will scan over IP.
If your printer's manual doesn't mention it then it might not be doable out of the box.
Take a look at RemoteScan which is a piece of commercial software to do what you're asking.
Have you looked into Print Servers? I bought one recently and while checking features I noticed that some supported multi-function devices. This forum post (from 2006 admittedly) states:
Usually, NO you will not be able to use the scanner option. However, if the print server and the printer/scanner are both from HP, then the answer is "maybe?"
Print servers only provide a means of re-directing print requests to a network port (wireless in your case.) They do not provide a "remote" USB port, which the scanner part requires. However, HP has several printers/scanner that "can" work with the print server devices and also gives your the scanning options.
So given you've got a HP device you could look into getting a HP print server.
USB over network should probably do the trick. you can try http://www.usb-over-network.com/ and see if it works, I believe they have a trial version. Expensive though!