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Printing and print servers

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Printing and print servers

When you add a printer that is attached directly to the network through a network adapter, you can implement printing in two ways: adding a printer directly to each user's computer without the use of a print server computer, or adding the printer once to a print server computer and then connecting each user to the printer through the print server computer.

Printing without using a print server

For the first method, consider the following scenario: A small workgroup network has only a few computers and a printer that is connected directly to the network. Each user on the network adds the printer to his or her Printers and Faxes folder without sharing the printer, and sets his or her own driver setting.

The disadvantage of this configuration is the users do not know the true state of the printer. Each computer has its own print queue displaying only those print jobs sent from that computer. You cannot determine where your print job is in relation to all the print jobs from other computers. Another drawback is that error messages--such as paper jams or empty paper trays--appear only on the print queue for the current print job. Finally, all the processes on a document submitted for printing are done on that one computer.

Printing with a print server

The second way to set up printing is to have one computer running a Windows Server 2003 family operating system function as a print server. That computer adds the printer and shares it with the other users. A computer running Windows XP Professional can also function as a print server but with some limitations; it cannot support Macintosh or NetWare services, and it is limited to only 10 connections within the same local area network (LAN).

Printing with a print server provides the following advantages:

  • The print server manages the printer driver settings.

  • A single print queue appears on every computer connected to the printer, letting each user see where his or her print job is in relation to others waiting to print.

  • Because error messages appear on all computers, everyone knows the true state of the printer.

  • Some processing is passed from the client computer to the print server.

  • You can have a single log for administrators wanting to audit the printer events.

The only disadvantage of using a print server is that it requires a computer to function as the print server. However, it does not need to be a dedicated computer; typically, print servers are implemented on servers that also perform other duties.

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