So far in this article series, I have talked about the new printer management utilities included in Windows Server 2008, and shown you how to consolidate network print servers. In this article, I want to conclude the series by showing you how to use group policies to deploy the network printers to network clients.
Before I get started, I just want to point out that the technique that I’m about to show you will only work for Windows Vista. Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista both offer group policy settings that do not exist in previous versions of Windows therefore, you cannot natively use this technique to deploy network printers to clients running Windows XP. There is however a workaround to that you can use if you want to deploy network printers to legacy clients. I’ll talk a little bit about this workaround later on the article.
The other thing that I need to point out is that the technique that I’m about to show you will cause the network printers that you specify to be deployed to all of the clients that the group policy pertains to. This is important since group policies generally apply to large numbers of users or computers. That being the case, this technique is most useful in environments where everyone prints to the same printer or in which there are only a few printers in the organization.
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.
In this article, I have explained that sometimes it is easier to use a group policy setting to connect users to network printers, than to deploy printer connections manually. I then went on to show you how it’s done.
Got a question? Post it on our Windows Server 2008 forums!