Windows Server 2003 : Maintaining, Monitoring, and Troubleshooting Printers

10/12/2012 9:12:45 PM
Once logical printers have been set up, configured and shared on print servers, and once clients have been connected to those printers, you must begin to maintain and monitor those logical and physical printers. This lesson will give you guidance in the maintenance and troubleshooting of printers in a Windows Server 2003 environment.

Maintaining Printers

There are no regular maintenance tasks for the print service on a Windows Server 2003 computer. The maintenance tasks defined below are typically performed on a periodic, as-needed basis. Keep in mind that when managing printers, actions may affect an entire printer or all printers on the print server, not just individual print jobs.

Managing Printer Drivers

The first grouping of maintenance tasks relate to drivers on the print server. As mentioned earlier in the lesson, it is helpful to install drivers for all client platforms that will use a particular shared printer. Windows clients will download the driver automatically when they connect to the printer. Drivers for various platforms are installed by clicking Additional Drivers on the Sharing tab of a printer’s Properties dialog box.

To update drivers for a single logical printer, select the Advanced tab of the Properties dialog box and click New Driver. You will then be able to select additional drivers by indicating the manufacturer and model, or by clicking Have Disk and providing the manufacturer’s drivers.

You can also manage drivers for the print server as a whole. In the Printers And Faxes folder, select Server Properties from the File menu and click the Drivers tab. Here you can add, remove, reinstall, or access the properties of each of the drivers on the print server. Changes made to these drivers will affect all printers on the server.

If you want to list all of the files related to a particular printer driver, open the print server’s Drivers tab select the driver, and click Properties. The names and descriptions of all the files that are part of the specific driver will appear. From this list, it is possible to view details regarding any of the files by selecting the file and then clicking Properties.

Redirecting Print Jobs

If a printer is malfunctioning, you can send documents in the queue for that printer to another printer connected to a local port on the computer, or attached to the network. This is called redirecting print jobs. It allows users to continue sending jobs to the logical printer, and prevents users with documents in the queue from having to resubmit the jobs.

To redirect a printer, open the printer’s Properties dialog and click the Ports tab. Select an existing port or add a port. The check box of the port of the malfunctioning printer is immediately cleared unless printer pooling is enabled, in which case you must manually clear the check box.

Because print jobs have already been prepared for the former printer, the printer on the new port must be compatible with the driver used in the logical printer. All print jobs are now redirected to the new port. You cannot redirect individual documents. In addition, any documents currently printing cannot be redirected.

Monitoring Printers

Windows Server 2003 provides several methods to monitor printers and printing resources.

Using System Monitor and Performance Logs and Alerts

The System Monitor and Performance Logs And Alerts snap-ins, both of which are included in the Performance MMC, allow you to observe real-time performance of printers, log metrics for later analysis, or set alert levels and actions. To add a counter to System Monitor, right-click the graph area and choose Add Counters. Select the performance object (in this case Print Queue), the desired counters, and the instance representing the logical printer to monitor.

After selecting Print Queue as the performance object, a list of all available performance counters is provided. You can select any counter and click Explain to learn about that particular performance metric.

The most important performance counters for monitoring printing performance are the following:

  • Bytes Printed/Sec The number of bytes of raw data per second that are sent to the printer. Low values for this counter can indicate that a printer is underutilized, either because there are no jobs, print queues are not evenly loaded, or the server is too busy. This value varies according to the type of printer. Consult printer documentation for acceptable printer throughput values.

  • Job Errors Number of job errors. Job errors are typically caused by improper port configuration; check port configuration for invalid settings. A printing job instance will increment this counter only once, even if it happens multiple times. Also, some print monitors do not support job error counters, in which case the counter will remain at 0.

  • Jobs The number of jobs being spooled.

  • Total Jobs Printed The number of jobs sent to the printer since the spooler was started.

  • Total Pages Printed The number of pages printed since the spooler was started. This counter provides a close approximation of printer volume, although it may not be perfect, depending on the type of jobs and the document properties for those jobs.

Using System Log

Using Event Viewer, you can examine the System log as a source of information regarding spooler and printer activity. By default, the spooler registers events regarding printer creation, deletion, and modification. You will also find events containing information about printer traffic, hard disk space, spooler errors, and other maintenance issues.

To control or modify spooler event logging, open the Printers And Faxes folder and choose Server Properties from the File menu. Click the Advanced tab to access the properties as shown in Figure 1. From this page, you can control printer event log entries and print job notifications. This is also the tab that enables you to move the print spooler folder—an important task when configuring an active print server, or when an existing print spool folder’s disk volume becomes full.

Figure 1. The Advanced tab of the Print Server Properties dialog box

Auditing Printer Access

Printer access, like file and folder access, can be audited. You can specify which groups or users and which actions to audit for a particular printer. After enabling object access auditing policy, you can view resulting audit entries using Event Viewer.

To configure auditing for a printer, open its Properties dialog box, click the Security tab, and then click Advanced. Click the Auditing tab and add entries for specific groups or users. For each security principal you add to the audit entry list, you can configure auditing for successful or failed access based on the standard printer permissions, including Print, Manage Documents, and Manage Printers.

You must then enable the Audit Object Access policy, which is located in group or local policy under Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Audit Policy. After the policy has taken effect, you can examine the Security event log to see and analyze entries made based on printer auditing.


Printer auditing creates dozens of entries for a single print job. It is therefore only useful when troubleshooting very specific problems. Printer auditing should not be used to monitor use or to bill for printer usage. Instead, performance counters such as Total Jobs Printed or Total Pages Printed should be analyzed.

Troubleshooting Printers

Troubleshooting is an important part of printer management. The following guidance will help you understand, identify, and address the types of incidents and problems that may occur in Windows Server 2003 printing.

Remember when troubleshooting that printing includes multiple components, typically:

  • The application that is attempting to print.

  • The logical printer on the computer on which the application is running.

  • The network connection between the print client and the shared logical printer on the server.

  • The logical printer on the server—its spool, drivers, security settings, and so on.

  • The network connection between the print server and the printer.

  • The printer itself—its hardware, configuration, and status.

An efficient way to solve most problems associated with printing is to troubleshoot each component logically and methodically.

Identify the Scope of Failure

If the user can print a job from another application on his or her computer, the error is most likely related to the failed job’s application, rather than with the computer, the network, the print server, or the printer hardware. However, in some cases, using a different driver or data type can solve an application’s print errors.

If the user cannot print to the printer from any application, identify whether the user can print to other printers on the same print server, or on other print servers. If all possibilities fail, and if other users can print to the printers on the network, the error is likely localized to the user’s computer.

Try creating a local printer on the problematic system that points directly to the printer’s port. In other words, bypass the printer server. If this process succeeds, there is a problem on the print server, with communication between the user’s system and the print server, or with the printer connections on the client.

Verify That the Print Client Can Connect to the Print Server

You can confirm connectivity between the print client and the print server by opening the printer window from the Printers And Faxes folder on the client computer. If the printer window opens, showing any documents in the printer queue, the client is successfully connecting to the shared printer. An error opening the printer window would indicate a potential networking, authentication, or security permissions problem. Attempt to ping the print server’s IP address. Click Start, choose Run, and type \\printserver.

If the window opens showing the Printers And Faxes folder and any shared folders, the client is connecting to the server. Double-check security permissions on the logical printer.

Verify That the Printer Is Operational

Check the printer itself and ensure that it is in the ready state (ready to print). Print a test page from the printer console. Check the cable connecting the printer to the print server or the network. If the printer is network attached, confirm that the network interface card light is on, indicating network connectivity.

Verify That the Printer Can Be Accessed from the Print Server

Most printers can display their IP address on the printer console or by printing out a configuration page. Confirm that the printer’s IP address matches the IP address of the logical printer’s port. The port’s IP address can be seen in the printer’s Properties dialog box on the Ports tab. Ensure that it is possible to communicate with the printer over the network by pinging the printer’s IP address.

Verify That the Print Server’s Services Are Running

Using the Services MMC, check that services required for the printer are working properly. For example, confirm that the remote procedure call (RPC) service is running on the print server. RPC is required for standard network connections to shared printers. Confirm also that the print spooler service is running on the print server.


The Net Stop Spooler command and Net Start Spooler command can be executed from the command prompt to restart the print spooler service. If you restart the spooler using command-line or user interface methods, all documents in all printer queues on the server are deleted.

You can also examine the volume on which the spool folder is stored to ensure that there is sufficient disk space for spooling. The spool folder location can be discovered and modified in the Server Properties dialog box, which you can access by choosing Server Properties from the File menu of the Printers And Faxes folder.


By default, the spool folder points to %Systemroot%\System32\Spool\Printers. For a high-volume print server, consider moving the spool folder to a partition other than the system or boot partition. If the partition where the spool folder resides fills to capacity with print jobs, printing will stop and, more importantly, the operating system might become unstable.

You should also look at the System log to see if the spooler has registered any error events, and, in the Printers And Faxes Folder, make sure that the printer is not in Offline mode.

Attempt to print a job from an application on the print server. If you can print to the printer from the print server, the problem is not with the printer. If you cannot print to the printer from an application on the print server, create a new printer directed at the same port and attempt to print to the new printer. If that job succeeds, there is a problem in the configuration of the original logical printer. If that job is unsuccessful, there is a problem communicating with the printer, or with the hardware itself.

Practice: Troubleshooting a Printer

In this practice, you will redirect a printer. Redirecting a printer is useful in both proactive and reactive troubleshooting. If you are going to take a printer offline, you can redirect its logical printer(s) to another device that is compatible with the logical printer’s driver. If a printer fails due to a paper jam or other error, you can also redirect the jobs that have already been sent to, and spooled by, the logical printer, so that users do not have to wait for the failed printer to be repaired, and do not have to resubmit their jobs.

Exercise 1: Redirect a Printer

If a printing device fails, you can redirect print jobs to another printer. Assume you are printing to HPLJ8100. While your job is in the queue, a job ahead of yours encounters a paper jam.

Open the Printers And Faxes folder and ensure that HPLJ8100 is offline. If it is not, right-click the printer and choose Use Printer Offline. This will prevent generating errors because the printer is directed to a non-existent network port.

Open Notepad and enter text into the blank document.

Choose the Print command from the File menu and select HPLJ8100 as the printer.

In the Printers And Faxes folder, double-click HPLJ8100 to open its printer window. Confirm that your print job is in the queue.

From the Printer menu, choose Properties.

Click the Ports tab.

As it was configured , the printer should use the network port IP_10.0.0.51.

Select the check box next to the port IP_10.0.0.52.

Click OK. You have now redirected the printer. All jobs in the queue, except any in-progress jobs, will be directed to the new port. The printer attached to the new port must be compatible with the driver used by this logical printer, because jobs have already been processed and spooled based on the existing driver.
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