A Windows administrator's guide to printer management

This guide examines the printer management issues Windows admins commonly encounter and the tools and tactics that can help optimize printer performance.

Printer management in Windows is more than simply sending print jobs to a network print queue. Printer management

also entails configuring, fine-tuning and troubleshooting problems – not the least of which is dealing with the quirky ways end-users use them. This resource guide examines common printer management issues, and provides tools and tactics Windows administrators can use to optimize printer performance in their organization.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  - Combating network printer congestion
  - Decreasing printer hardware problems
  - Active Directory's role in printer management
 

Combating network printer congestion

One common printing problem admins constantly face is network printer congestion stemming from too many users trying to print at the same time. Print queues become overloaded and printer congestion soon follows.

One way around this is to create a printer pool -- a group of printers attached to a common print queue, so multiple documents can be printed simultaneously. This article helps administrators dealing with network congestion by providing step-by step instructions as to how to create a network printer pool.

Network printers can also become congested with large and non-essential print jobs sent by frivolous user. To combat this, administrators can create a prioritized print queue to end-run those who tie up network resources.

If you are looking for a freeware tool to deal with network printer congestion, check out PaperCut. PaperCut tracks printing across an entire organization via Active Directory and enforces quotas on print jobs so admins can keep track of who or what is causing unnecessary network resource strain.

 

Decrease printer hardware problems

Printer driver and hardware incompatibilities are often at the heart of many printer management problems. Just ask any administrator working with Windows XP 64 bit edition. The most vexing problems have to deal hardware drivers since many lower-end or inexpensive hardware devices that have 32-bit XP drivers do not have a corresponding 64-bit version. Often the manufacturer of those 32-bit drivers has no plans to offer one.

Conventional printers that use PCL or PostScript can usually be made to work by using a generic 64-bit driver for the closest analogue to that particular printer. Some of the more elaborate printer features (such as finish-formatting) may not be available with that driver. However, for printers that use the driver to perform the actual rasterization but have no 64-bit driver at all, this is a problem; 32-bit hardware drivers cannot be used in 64-bit Windows at all.

But as desktop management guru Serdar Yegulalp explains, there's a workaround Windows admins can use.

Hardware-based printer management dilemmas can also surface when printer-sharing devices, those that are wired directly into the network rather than attached to a host PC, are used. Unfortunately, printer-sharing devices don't always work, specifically, those that do not have native PostScript or PCL support. However, Windows administrators do have options when dealing with this printer-sharing device-related issue. And if the options don't suit your needs, do not worry, admins always have the ability to turn any non-Post Script printer into a PostScript printer.

Active Directory's role in printer management

Many Windows administrators use Active Directory to set up and manage network printers. It is a great resource for those who know how to use it. For instance, Active Directory can be useful when dealing with users who need to access a printer they typically don't print to. An administrator can create an Active Directory listing that directs users to a print queue hosted on a Windows server that the job can pass through.

While printing through this queue may not be as efficient as sending a job directly to the network printer, it will reduce help desk calls since users can use Active Directory to locate the printer themselves.

This article provides step-by-step instructions on using Active Directory to create a print queue for a standalone printer.

Although Active Directory can help with printer management it can also cause problems. Here's what happened when one Windows admin inherited an Active Directory configuration that caused a printer management mess. Fortunately, our experts were on hand to fix this printer management problem.

This was first published in October 2007

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