Sunday, October 22, 2017

Installing a Domain Print Server (Part 1)

Building a domain print server is a quick and simple way to provide a small quality of life improvement for both you and your users. Even if you only have one printer in the office, a domain printer server with printers deployed through Active Directory can save you dozens of trips to your users’ desks to manually map a network printer.

I’ll be installing the Print Management components on a new Server 2016 VM in my lab, but this is definitely something that can be co-mingled with other server services if you can’t or don’t want to dedicate a server. You’ll need a couple of things in order to get started:

  • A domain-attached Windows Server on which to install the Print Management feature.
  • A network-attached printer, accessible by the print server and your users; And drivers for said printer.

Installing the Print Management Feature

I’m going to install the Print Server feature on my VM via PowerShell. This can alternatively be installed through the Add Roles and Features dialog menu, by selecting the Print and Document Services role and then the Print Server feature under role services.



Adding a Printer & Drivers

Launch the Print Management console and expand Print Servers to see your local server name listed (mine is SMB-INF1), and expand that. We’re currently concerned with Drivers and Printers.

Print Drivers

Understand that there are a couple of different types of printer drivers. Microsoft introduced Type 4 printer drivers with Server 2012 and Windows 8. When printing to older OSes such as Windows 7, the print server will substitute the Microsoft Enhanced Point and Print Compatibility Driver.

In practice this compatibility driver leads to mixed printing results and I generally try to stick with Type 3 drivers in environments with a large Windows 7 installed base (which should be shrinking). That said, some Type 3 drivers have shown to not handle Windows 10 print jobs particularly well, so it’ll be up to you to test things out and select the best driver for your environment. Luckily, the Print Management console allows you to install multiple drivers and you can switch between them for installed printers with relatively little hassle.

Try to use a Universal Print Driver from your printer’s manufacturer whenever possible. This generally enables one driver to service many different models of printer from the same manufacturer, and cuts down on the number of packages you need to ultimately install on your server. You’ll also have to choose between PCL5, PCL6, and PS (PostScript). Unless you have a reason to select a different option, I recommend PCL5. It’s the most stable with generally the widest compatibility for printing most office documents.

For this lab I’ll be installing my trusty Lexmark E120n laser printer, so I’ve downloaded the Lexmark Universal Print Driver for PCL5 from their website.

Driver Installation

Ideally you do not want to install the actual driver software onto the print server. In most cases the driver package should offer the option to extract only, or you may have to dig the driver files out of the temporary folder after launching the installer.

With the driver files in hand, we can add the printer driver to our server. Within Print Management, right-click on Drivers and choose Add Driver. Then, follow the prompts in the Add Printer Driver Wizard to add the correct driver.

x64 should be appropriate for most environments, I hope. Click Next.

At Printer Driver Selection, click Have Disk.

Browse to the location on your server where you saved the driver files, select the INF file and click Open. Then click OK in the Install From Disk prompt to select the driver.

If you’ve selected the correct INF file, you should see your driver listed in the Printers box.

Click Next, then click Finish to complete the driver installation. You should now see the driver listed with the others in the Print Management Console.

Printer Installation

With the driver installed, we’re ready to install our network printer. Right-click Printers and select Add Printer.

Keep the default selected to add a TCP/IP printer and click Next.

In the Printer Address menu enter the IP address of your network printer, and uncheck the box to auto detect the printer driver. Then click Next.

On the Printer Driver menu select the option to use an existing printer driver, and select the driver that you installed in the previous steps. Then click Next.

Provide a descriptive name for the printer. This is especially important if you will have multiple printers of the same model and/or spread across a large campus. A naming convention like Building-Floor-Room# can be helpful here, if necessary. Since I’m only working with the one printer today, I’ve named it with the make and model. Be sure to update the share name if necessary and check the box to Share this printer. Then click Next, Next again, and Finish.

Check the box to print a test page in order to confirm that the driver you installed is working as expected.

With the printer installed, right click on the printer name in the listing and choose Properties. This is the time to review various print settings for the model you’ve installed and ensure that they are aligned with your organizational standards. I’ve found that some drivers like to turn on things like duplexing, for example, which may not be desireable as a default setting.

Be sure to check out the Sharing tab and check the box to list the printer in the directory. This publishes the printer with Active Directory so client computers can quickly find it via the Devices and Printers wizard.

From a domain client computer, we can see that the printer is listed in AD and available to be installed.

You can also configure typical Windows security permissions on the printer object, if desired. The default setting is to allow the Everyone group permission to print to every printer. This may not be desirable in some cases, such as for a large format printer in the Marketing department or a check printer with expensive MICR toner in the Accounting department. In those cases you can remove the Everyone group and add just the specific AD user groups that should be allowed to print.

And that’s it. The printer is installed on our server and published to AD DS, ready to be discovered and installed by our users. In part two we’ll review the options for deploying our printer automatically across the organization.

Installing a Domain Print Server (Part 2)

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