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Local Printer Ports

Updated: March 28, 2003

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

USB Printing

Windows Server 2003 supports printing to Universal Serial Bus (USB) printers. USB consists of an external bus architecture for connecting USB-capable peripheral devices to a host computer, as well as a communication protocol that supports serial data transfers between a host system and USB-capable peripherals.

Parallel Port

Support for parallel port printing was enhanced in the release of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Traditionally, parallel port devices did not benefit from the introduction of Plug and Play several years ago. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 perform periodic polling of the parallel port to provide an experience similar but not identical to Plug and Play. USB and IEEE 1394 are fully Plug-and-Play aware and should be used whenever printing performance and system performance are important. Parallel printing is slower and more CPU-intensive than these other local printing options.


Infrared Data Association (IrDA) is a system of exchanging information between computers using infrared transmissions that do not require a cable connection. IrDA can occur between any two devices that support IrDA (such as computers and printers). Windows Server 2003 supports printing using IrDA.

IrDA is a point-to-point protocol based on TCP/IP and WinSock application programming interfaces (APIs). Typically, IrDA printers support Plug and Play, automatically installing the driver if it is available on the workstation. Additionally, the Add Printer Wizard may be used by selecting the IrDA port under Available Ports.

Connectivity Capacities:


Technology Variant Speed

Parallel (1284)


250 Kbps



3–5 Mbps



4 Mbps

FireWire (1394)

(up to 63 devices)

400 Mbps



12 Mbps



480 Mbps



2–3 Mbps

IEEE 1394

Windows Server 2003 supports the IEEE 1394 bus, which is designed for high-bandwidth devices, such as digital camcorders, digital cameras, digital VCRs, and storage devices. IEEE 1394 is a serial protocol supporting speeds ranging from 100 to 400 megabits per second (Mbps), depending on the implementation. It provides a high-speed Plug and Play-capable bus that eliminates the need for peripheral devices to have their own power supply, and provides support for asynchronous data transfer.

You can connect up to 63 devices to one IEEE 1394 bus and interconnect up to 1,023 buses to form a very large network with more than 64,000 devices. Each device can have up to 256 terabytes of memory addressable over the bus. A built-in mechanism ensures equal access to the bus for all devices.

Because of the very high data transfer rates that IEEE 1394 can handle, it is ideal for scanning or printing large, high-resolution data.

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