Troubleshooting Printers

This should be a fun post for me to write considering that I am in a hotel room and don’t have an actual print device with me.

Scenario: You are working at the help desk or helping the help desk (is that redundant?). You receive a call from a user, and the user states that they are not able to print to a specific printer.

Q1: Have you ever used this printer before?

A1: Yes, I have, but I have a new computer.

Q2: What operating system are you running?

A1: Some Windows something or other. NOTE: Yes, this is the type of great information that the Help Desk gets from end users.

Q3: Is the printer on your list of printers on your computer?

A3: List of printers? What do you mean by that? Of course it is on my list of printers on my computer. I wrote down its name on a post-it note that is on my computer.

As a side note, when I work with end users, I make assumptions about them. Some of them are not so good. 🙂 I tend to treat all end users as if they are George Costanza. I tend to get answers that George would give if he was on the other end of the call. I try to explain things to the end user as if I were talking to George. I often refer to this as the “George Costanza Principle” in many of my discussions with others in the industry.

imageAssuming we know what printer they are talking about, and assuming we have access to the print server and we know the key information about the print device, we  can proceed. For example, we can ping the print devices IP address to make sure it is online and responding. We can also check the printer on the print server to make sure that the TCP/IP port is properly configured and that the printer is connected to the correct TCP/IP port.

NOTE 2: In Microsoft terminology, a physical printer is called a print device. The printer as it appears in the software is called a printer. So, when we talk about printers, we are talking about the software interface.

The first step, is to check that the print device is setup correctly on the print server. Of course, it is easy to think that if others can print then there is nothing wrong on the server. That that would be wrong, though. It could easily be a server configuration issue. It could be a permissions issue or it could be that the drivers are not being distributed for the client’s operating system version.

Can I click on Print Test Page and get a print out from the server? If so, then we are well on our way. A successful print job tells us that our Port is properly configured and that we have attached the printer to the right port. It also tells us that we have a good driver for the print device for the operating system of the print server. If we are not able to send that test page and get it printed, then we need to start with the basics of troubleshooting. More importantly, it is not just a matter of a single user not being able to print to the print device, it is everyone not being able to print to the print device. If we can send the test page and it prints, then it starts to become a matter of verifying the printer configuration on the print server and on the client.

imageOne of the most common failures is the failure to include all of the appropriate drivers. While many of the drivers are valid for multiple versions of Windows from XP to Windows 7, we need to remember that we have different versions of each operating system in that some of them are x86 (32-bit) and others are x64 (64-bit) and we even have the server operating systems to think about such as the Itanium servers on our network that might need to be able to print out reports. Make sure that all of the appropriate versions are included when you create a new printer on the print server. You can get to the window on the right by opening the properties of the printer on the print server, clicking on the Sharing tab, and then clicking on Additional Drivers near the bottom of the Sharing tab.

Notice that it tells you that you can install the drivers on the server so that clients can download the drivers from the server. This is the standard process. When a client computer connects to the printer on the server, it will download the print device driver from the server. If the client already has the print device driver, it will check the server to see if it has more a newer driver. If the server has a more current driver, then the client computer will download the new driver and use it.


Next scenario: You get a call from an end user stating that they are not able to print to the print device using double sided printing and they are afraid that they are responsible for killing too many trees because they are using so much paper.

Q1: Does the printer on your computer have an option to print double-sided?

A1: The printer does.

Q2: Is your computer configured to use the option to print double-sided?

A2: I can do it on other printers, so, yes.

imageFirst, check to make sure the printer configured on the print server is enabled for double-sided printing. Just because the printer has a duplex unit does not mean that we have configured the printer interface to use it. For example, on this printer, for example, I had to go into the device settings and set the option to installed to make it work from the print server. If the printer is not properly configured on the print server, it will never work properly from the client computer. For example, if I configure the printer to print only in black and white, nobody will be able to print in color even though it is a color printer.

So, how do we configure this really nice print device so that some people can print in color and others can’t print in color? After all, printing in color can be expensive on some print devices. Well, we can do it, we just have to create two printers on the print server and point both of them to the print device. One printer is configured to use color, and the other one isn’t. On the one that is configured to use color, we set up permissions so that only certain people can print color on it.




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