Terminal Server Printers go offline

I maintain a network consisting of a main office with three remote offices.  The offices are connected via Netscreen site-site VPNs.   We use Terminal services at the remote site to access our application.   A problem has recently surfaced where the printers will go offline in a remote office.  The VPN connection is still live and the application still works, but the print jobs just get stacked up in the print queue on the terminal server.  The print servers seem to be working OK, but they also show the printers offline.  The easiest and fastest way around this problem is to go to the terminal server, open Services, and restart the Print Spooler service.  Everything then jumps back to life and the stacked up print jobs start printing.  Any idea why this might be happening.  I'd like to get it fixed because if I'm not around, they may go for a  while without printing and I'd rather not give them admin rights to the term server.  This only happens once or twice a week.  We have about 15 users in the main office and about 8-10 in the remote offices combined.  Thanks for any insight.

Main Server - Windows 2003 SBS
Terminal Server - Windows 2003
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Jay_Jay70Connect With a Mentor Commented:
terminal service printing has bee a nightmare for a long time, most of the time it comes down to driver issues, the logs might not tell you a lot about the problem, i tend to try and stick to pcl 5 drivers for pretty much ALL terminal server printers
ificuserConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You have a driver that is stopping the print spooler service most likely because it is a unsigned driver. We have the same issue with Kyocera drivers for our MFP's. Look at your event log, there should be an error message event that tells you that. Just like jay said, stay to the pcl5e drivers. If you are trying to figure it out, what I did is uninstall all the printer drivers by going to printers folder and then right clicking on the white space to go to the server properties menu and then unintall all drivers in the drivers tab. Then install them all as pcl5e until you get to the one that is not digitally signed and try going from there. Printing in terminal service is still a bit of a pain. What kind of printers are they, IP, local how do you have them setup?

I have pretty much the same network you do with netscreen vpn's and ts 2003 running.
Cláudio RodriguesConnect With a Mentor Founder and CEOCommented:
The main reason for this to happen is printer drivers being installed on the TS. I cannot count how many times I told people the first rule of thumb on TS is NOT TO INSTALL ANY PRINTER DRIVER on the server. Simple as that.
The main reason for that is most drivers are not developed with TS in mind and will screw up the print spooler, exactly as you are experiencing. Consider yourself lucky that you did not get any Blue Screens yet.
How to fix this? Delete ALL printer drivers that did NOT come with the out-of-the-box installation of terminal services.
Then you will ask, 'How can I print then?'. Simple. Finding a built-in driver that works with your printer (like most HP LaserJets will print with a LaserJet 5 driver - supplied by MS out of the box) and 'map' it by changing NTPRINT.INF or creating an alternate .INF file for printing.
All this is documented on the Microsoft Terminal Services Community website or on other sites like MSTerminalServices.org and PrintingSupport.com.
Another alternative is to buy a product like SimplifyPrinting or ThinPrint. Expensive but will eliminate your printing issues.

Hope this helps,

Cláudio Rodrigues
Microsoft MVP
Windows Server - Terminal Services
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jhuntiiAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the responses!  I suspect the HP2015dn driver to be causing the problem because we just rolled these out to the remote offices - actually everywhere.  So I'll look there first.

ificuser - yes, printers are TCP/IP local printers pointing to print servers at the remote locations.  We run PacWare (now PacWin) which is basically a 16-bit vertical application for medical equipment suppliers.   It needs printers mapped with the Net Use command for LPT 1, 2, and 3.  We need three types of printers - a receipt printer for point of sale (Star TSP700), a ticket printer (dot matrix Okidata 490, 4-copy but now replaced with the HP2015 dualside), and a regular laser printer (which will also be replaced by the HP2015).  

I'll check the drivers and let you know.  Thanks.
wow, i never knew that about terminal services, very interesting concept
Cláudio RodriguesFounder and CEOCommented:
If the printer is an HP laser, always try the laserjet 5 or 6 built-in driver that comes with Windows Server 2003. If it is enough for you, do not install anything on the TS. As I said, it is risky. The same is valid for any other driver. If you really need it, test it a LOT first in a test/dev environment before going into production.


Cláudio Rodrigues
Microsoft MVP
Windows Server - Terminal Services
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