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Installing the Print Services Tools

In some ways, Microsoft has taken a minimalist approach when designing Windows Server 2008. Don’t get me wrong though; Windows Server 2008 is even more bloated than Windows Server 2003 R2. What I’m talking about though is that Windows Server 2008 is designed so that only the minimum components are initially installed. It is then up to you to install any additional roles or components that the server is going to need.

This is even true for print management. The Print Services Tools are not installed by default, so it is up to you to install them. To do so, open Server Manager and select the Features container. After doing so, click the Add Features link, found in the results pane. When you do, Windows will launch the Add Features Wizard. The wizard’s initial screen asks you to select the features that you want to install. Scroll through the list of available features until you find the Remote Server Administration Tools option.

Some of the Remote Server Administration Tools get installed by default, so you will need to expand the Remote Services Administration Tools container, and then expand the Role Administration Tools container found beneath it. Finally, select the Print Services Tools check box, shown in Figure A, and then click Next, followed by Install and Close.

Figure A Select the Print Services Tools check box and click Next.

Accessing the Print Services Tools

Now that you have installed the Print Services Tools, you can access the Print Management console by choosing the Print Management command from the server’s Administrative Tools menu. When you do, you will see a screen similar to the one that’s shown in Figure B.

 

Figure B In Figure B, you can see the new Print Management Console.

Managing Network Printers

Now that I have shown you what the Print Management console looks like, take a look at Figure C. Notice in the figure that a number of printers (or as Microsoft likes to call them, print devices) have been defined, and are available through the console. You will also notice that the All Drives container is also already populated with drivers that correspond to the various print devices.

Figure C In Figure C, you can see the All Printers container is populated with various network print devices.

At first this probably doesn’t sound like any big deal, but what makes the print devices that are listed so interesting is that Windows has populated the All Printers container and the All Drivers container automatically. What’s even more interesting is that the server that I installed the Print Management console on is not a member of an Active Directory domain, so the list of network printers was not extracted from the Active Directory. The reason why these print devices appear is because Windows Server 2008 automatically detects network printers that exist on the same subnet on which the server resides, and then installs them and the necessary drivers.

One more thing that I want you to pay attention to in Figure C is the server name that corresponds to each printer. Although the network printers are located elsewhere on the network, Windows has automatically created a queue for each printer on the server. This is because one of the Print Management console’s primary functions is to allow you to centrally manage network printing. In fact, alter on in this article series, I will even show you how to use group policy settings to automatically connect workstations to the print queues residing on your print management server.

Network Printer Migration

Now that you have an enterprise print management server in place, you will probably want to consolidate some of your other print servers. Consolidation allows you to operate all of your network printers through a single network print server, thus reducing the amount of print server related maintenance tasks that your administrative staff has to do.

To consolidate network print servers, open the Print Management console by selecting the Print Management command from the server’s Administrative Tools menu. When the console opens, expand the Print Servers container, and then choose the print server that you want to migrate. Right click on this print server, and then choose the Export Printers to a File command from the resulting shortcut menu.

At this point, Windows will launch the Printer Migration Wizard. The wizard’s initial screen will show you the print drivers and print processors that are about to be exported, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A The Printer Migration Wizard lists the print drivers and print processors that will be exported.

Click Next, and you will be prompted to specify a path and a filename to which you want to export the printer information. Enter this information into the place provided, and click Next again. The wizard will now export the printer information to the designated file. When the process completes, the wizard will tell you whether or not any errors have occurred, and it will also give you the chance to look at any entries that have been logged in the system’s event logs. Click the Finish button to complete the process.

The rest of the migration process is just as easy.  Just expand the Print Servers container, and then select the print server that you want to import the printers into. Right click on the print server, and select the Import Printers From A File option from the resulting shortcut menu. When you do, Windows will launch the Printer Migration wizard.

Enter the path and filename of the export file that you created a moment ago, and then click the Next button.  After a brief delay, you should see a list of the print drivers and print processors that will be imported.

Click Next, and you will be taken to the screen that’s shown in Figure B. As you can see, you must tell Windows what to do if one of the printers that’s being imported is the same as a printer that already exists. You must also tell Windows whether or not you want the new printers to be listed in the Active Directory. Click Next, and Windows will import the printers.  When the wizard completes, you should see the printers that you have imported listed beneath the currently selected print server.

Figure B You must tell Windows how to deal with conflicts.

Some Additional Considerations

The biggest additional consideration when it comes to migrating printers is that the Print Management console can migrate printers from pretty much any Windows print server to any other Windows print server. You aren’t just limited to migrating your printers to a Windows Server 2008 print server. Keep in mind that there are some limitations though. For example, you can’t migrate a bunch of 64-bit printer drivers to a Windows 2000 server and expect them to work.

Another limitation is that if you want to migrate custom forms or color profiles, those can only be imported into the local print server. For some reason, Windows does not support exporting them to other print servers.

One final word of advice is that Windows Server 2008 offers a command line tool called PrintBRM.exe. Some administrators use the Windows task scheduler to schedule this utility to export printer information on a periodic basis, as a way of backing up a print server.

Deploying Network Printers Through Group Policy Settings

The actual process of deploying network printers through group policy settings is fairly simple. Keep in mind though that it isn’t enough for your network print server to be running Windows Server 2008. Your Active Directory must be aware of the group policy settings that you will be modifying. Therefore, the Active Directory schema version must be based on either Windows Server 2003 R2 or Windows Server 2008.

To configure the group policy to deploy network printers, begin by opening the Print Management console on your Windows Server 2008 print management server. Now, navigate through the console tree to Print Management | Print Servers | your print server| Printers.  Now, right click on the network printer that you want to deploy, and select the Deploy With Group Policy command from the resulting shortcut menu, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A Right click on the network printer that you want to deploy and then select the Deploy With Group Policy link from the resulting shortcut menu.

At this point, Windows will open the Deploy With Group Policy dialog box. The first thing that you have to do is to decide which group policy you want to add the printer to. To do this, just click the Browse button, and pick a group policy from the list.

Next, use the check boxes beneath the GPO Name drop down list to control whether the printer should be deployed on a computer basis, a user basis, or both. Finally, click the Add button, and the printer will be added to the list of GPO settings to be deployed, as shown in Figure B. If you want to include the printer in other group policy objects, you can click the Browse button again, and pick another group policy object. When you’re done, click OK.

Figure B The Deploy With Group Policy dialog box allows you to control which group policies the printer is added to.

Workarounds for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003

I mentioned earlier that the technique that I just showed you will only work with Windows Vista, but that there is a workaround that you can use for deploying printers to Windows Server 2003 or to Windows XP.

If you open your Windows 2008 server’s 'Windows'System32 folder, you will find a file named PushPrinterConnections.exe. You can use the Group Policy Object Editor to add this script to the logon script. For example, if you wanted to apply the script on a user basis, then you would open the Group Policy Object Editor and navigate through the Group Policy tree to User Configuration | Windows Settings | Scripts (Logon / Logoff). Next, you would right click on the Login script, and choose the Properties command from the shortcut menu. Then the Logon properties sheet appears, click the Show Files button.  Now, copy the PushPrinterConnections.exe file to the resulting window. When you’re done, go back to the Logon Properties sheet, and click the Add button. Enter PushPrinterConnections.exe into the Script Name field, and then enter –LOG into the Script Parameters field. Click OK twice, and you’re in business.