Enterprise Print Management in Windows Server 2008, Part 1

Posted on January 8, 2009 by Daniel Petri in Windows Server 2008 with 0 Comments

I’m probably revealing a little too much about my age, but when I first started working with Windows Server, the current version was Windows NT Server 3.5. One of the interesting things about that version of Windows was that like all of its successors, it had the ability to host network print queues. At the time though, in most cases the printer that was being hosted needed to be physically connected to the server. In essence, the number of print queues that a server could host was limited by the number of parallel ports that were available on the server.

Today, most printers are connected directly to the network, and parallel ports have been extinct for many years. As printer hardware changed, so to did the printer management capabilities that were built into Windows Server. Of course not all of the changes to Windows were directly related to advances in printer hardware. Microsoft has also made a number of changes over the years that are geared toward making printers easier to manage.  When Microsoft created Windows Server 2008, they have once again redesigned the print management interface to make managing printers easier. In this article, I will show you the new interface and how to use it.

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.

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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.

Conclusion

In this article, I have shown you how to install the Print Management console. In the next article in this series, I will show you how to migrate other network printers to your network print server, and how to use group policy settings to connect workstations to the various printers.

Got a question? Post it on our Windows Server 2008 forums!

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