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Adding TCP/IP printers using group policy preferences

Joseph Daly
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My last post dealt with using group policy preferences to set file associations, a very handy usage for a GPP. Today I am going to share another cool GPP trick, this may be a specific scenario but I run into these situations frequently in my activities.

Currently I am employed by a construction company, at any given time we can have between 30-40 small jobsites running. These are usually small field offices of 4-5 users connected either by a site to site VPN or MPLS T1. For the duration of a construction job they work out of this field office and they expect to be able to perform their job duties the same as if they were sitting in the main office.

In the past one of the annoying problems we ran into was how to properly deploy and manage printers at these jobsites. We basically had two choices

1.      Install and share the jobsite printer on our print server at the headquarters. This allowed for easy printer installation by the user but slow printing over the WAN connection and inability to print if that connection ever went down.
2.      Configure the printer locally and have users print via TCP/IP. This method allows much faster printing since all the data remains in the LAN, it is also unaffected by a down WAN link.  The downside to this is installation requires administrator rights and must be completed individually per user and printer. A site with 2 printers and 5 users would require 10 printer installations to be completed by a technician.

Using group policy preferences we are able to reap the benefits of the two above approaches with none of the drawbacks. Installing printers under group policy preferences can be done under either the user or computer configuration. In this case I wanted to have the specific printers assigned to the users.

To create the GPP create either a new or select an existing group policy object and expand out the tree as seen below.  From here you will be able to right click the printers icon and select from 3 options. In this example we are going to be creating a TCP/IP printer port.  

Once you select the TCP/IP printer option you will be presented with the dialog box below. From here you can begin to enter the necessary information.

Action:  If this is your first printer GPP you can leave this on update. Update will modify an existing connection if present or create a new one if there is not one already.
IP Address: This is just the local ip address of the printer that you will be setting up
Local Name: The name you would like to have the printer appear as. This will display in the print dropdown menus as well as control panel printers.
Printer Path: This is really the only trickypart of using the GPP to install a printer. Even though we are creating a TCP/IP printer the clients still need to be able to download the drivers and setup files. Currently the GPP looks toward a shared printer on your network for this. So in order for the TCP/IP printer to be installed successfully you must create a standard shared printer that the user can reach. This is only used for the initial printer installation after all print jobs will route directly to the TCP/IP printer.

The only other options on this screen are the options to set the printer as default, add its location, and any additional comments. Once you have entered all of the information select ok to apply your configuration.

If you have linked this to an OU with a test user in it you should be able to log onto a machine to validate that the setting have come through correctly.

This is a very simple implementation of this group policy. This GPP will apply this printer to all users in the linked OU. If you want to get even more granular you can tailor who gets this printer using the item level targeting options in the common tab. I will probably be doing a posting in the near future about item level targeting so stay tuned.  
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Joseph Daly
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Comments (5)

Fantastic article!!!
Could you please clarify on what OS does the initial shared printer have to be installed on?
ie If you have all Windows XP 32bit clients - do you setup and share the initial printer on an XP machine or do you setup it up on your SBS2008 / Server 2008 64 bit machine with the correct 32bit drivers installed ?
Thanks!

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Commented:
The initial printer configuration that allows the GPP to access the correct drivers should be done on your print server. The operating system 32 or 64 bit doesnt really matter as much as having the correct drivers for the printer since you can add additional drivers.

If you had a 64 bit print server you have the option to install the 64 bit printer normally and then in the printer properties dialog add in the 32 bit windows driver. As long as the client can initially reach the shared prrinter specified it will use the driver files to install the printer as a local TCP/IP printer and from them on will print directly to the printer bypassing the print server.

Commented:
Quoting
"This is a very simple implementation of this group policy. This GPP will apply this printer to all users in the linked OU. If you want to get even more granular you can tailor who gets this printer using the item level targeting options in the common tab. I will probably be doing a posting in the near future about item level targeting so stay tuned.  "


Isn't it just easier to specify which user/groups/computers this applies to on the scope tab? (security filtering section)
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Commented:
If you have a room with 30 computers in it and you want to apply the printer to all those computers regardless of who logs in, this is a much more efficient way of doing it.
So to deploy a printer using its IP address in group policy, you first must setup a printer server and add the printer.

If this is "only used for the initial printer installation after all print jobs will route directly to the TCP/IP printer" as quoted above, if I then disable the print server or it lost its connection would the PC's connection to the printer still work as it was setup using the IP address and not UNC?

Thanks,

Andy

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