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<Unable to connect> printers on winnt/win2k lan

Posted on 2003-03-13
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Last Modified: 2010-03-19
Every day I've got users comming to me saying that they can't print to their networked printers and I cannot, for the life of me, find the solution.  All of their printers will say <Unable to connect> for a seeminly random length of time at seemingly random times during the day.

We're on a small/medium lan with about 50 workstations and several servers.  The servers are all WinNT 4.0 and the workstations are a mix of NT 4.0 and Win2K Pro.  We have a new dedicated print-server (400MHz @ 384MB Ram) which just replaced one of about 1/4 the power (we thought that would fix the problem).  Everything runs through three Intel Express 510T switches with the users and printers pretty evenly distributed among them.

Other notes that my help:  the print-server and most of the printers have static IP addresses.  Most of the <Unable to connect> messages happen around 3pm but have happened to most people throughout the day.  I cannot see any pattern in the location of the users or their place in the switches as compared to the people who have the problem.

This isn't necessarily urgent but it is infuriatingly annoying to not only our users but the customers they have to serve.  Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.
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Question by:acksis
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13 Comments
 

Author Comment

by:acksis
ID: 8131778
Another note: restarting the print-server will temporarily fix the issue while restarting the users fix it only occasionally.
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LVL 5

Expert Comment

by:rrhunt28
ID: 8131843
Are you 100% sure that there is no overlapping IP.  I would also get a port sniffer, like ethereal.  Run it from one of the stations that is not working, and one that is, and maybe even off the server.  See if maybe that does not turn up a problem.  What protocols are you using?  That might help other experts narrow down the problem.
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Author Comment

by:acksis
ID: 8131916
Protocols are: Microsoft Client
               file and print sharing
               TCP/IP
As for the overlapping addresses, I'm not sure yet.  I'll post again once I'm positive.
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LVL 41

Expert Comment

by:stevenlewis
ID: 8132525
do all the clients get this at the same time, or can some print and some not?
if it is some can and some not, check the switches
if it is all, try pinging the print server check the switch the print server is connected to also
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Author Comment

by:acksis
ID: 8133531
Usually only some (2-5 users) are unable to print at any given time.  I've tried pinging the print-server from a computer that isn't printing and I DO get a response.  On top of that, the switches were replaced fairly recently.
Would you think that all three switches would have the same problems at the same time?
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LVL 41

Expert Comment

by:stevenlewis
ID: 8133555
>Usually only some (2-5 users) are unable to print at any given time
these users all on the same switch?
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LVL 15

Expert Comment

by:WalkaboutTigger
ID: 8134444
Two things:

1. Look in the system, security and application logs on the Windows 2000 workstations when they are failing.
2. Look in the system, security and application logs on the Windows 2000 server when a user cannot print.

I presume the users are not using different authentication for the print server and the domain controllers, correct?

If you're using it, is WINS correctly configured?  Next time a user experiences the problem, instead of pinging the printer, do a NET VIEW \\PrintServer and see if the shares are visible.

Are the machines that experience this issue configured via DHCP?
Do machines with static IPs ever experience the issue?
Is there a duplicate MAC address on the network?
Are the switches' logs showing any out-of-the-ordinary errors?
Is the Print Server multi-homed (more than one active NIC)?
Do you have more than one domain controller?  Do you get a lot of election messages in the event log?  Are all the unused protocols on the printers disabled?  Do you have any extraneous protocols loaded on your print servers or your domain controllers?

Walkabout
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LVL 2

Accepted Solution

by:
MCSE-2002 earned 1200 total points
ID: 8141077
Make sure that your users have permission to print to the print servers printers (security tab).

If security is not a big issue, just add everyone, and anonymous to the security group for the printer, and give print/manage documents permissions to both.

Also, I have around 150 users using a 400mhz celeron desktop for a print server. 256mb ram/win 2k.

I set up a batch file under scheduled tasks to restart the print spooler every so often.

create a file in notepad "spooler.bat"
-----
net stop spooler
net start spooler
exit
-----

set it to run every hour or so. This has worked wonderfully for us.
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Author Comment

by:acksis
ID: 8152820
The batch file idea seems to be doing the trick, we've had no further issues on printing over the weekend and today.
Although this seems to have cleared up our problem, it's more like a "band-aid" patch over the problem rather than fixing the underlying issue (the reason for "good" and not "excellent".  Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely grateful that I can concentrate on something other than printers because of MCSE-2002's answer.  Thanks to all of the experts who've helped. We sincerely appreciate it.
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:lauchangkwang
ID: 20062293
>> set it to run every hour or so.
may I know how to set it ?? I am currently having this issue also .......
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Author Comment

by:acksis
ID: 20065127
We set the print server to run a scheduled task that calls the batch file described in MCSE-2002's answer every hour or so.  Just create the batch file then open up Scheduled Tasks on your server and configure it to run that batch file on the schedule you choose.  Does that answer your question?

Ultimately, we ended up using a Windows Server 2003 machine to run the print services.  I never did find the actual cause of the trouble.
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:lauchangkwang
ID: 20074108
>> we ended up using a Windows Server 2003 machine to run the print services
So that mean you are not running in the print server directly for now ?? Then if you running in another PC / server (Windows Server 2003) , isn't that just refresh that PC / server but not the actual print server ??
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

by:lauchangkwang
ID: 20099566
Run a scheduled task that calls the batch file solved the problems for my situation too ...... Thanks ........
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