Saturday, 20 March 2010

Windows Server 2008 Terminal Server, HP Universal Print Driver and Foxit Reader

One of the most frustrating annoyances of Windows terminal server is printing. This is especially the case when there are many different types of printers.

We run a fair few different types of printers and have been struggling with a big print driver set. Printing has worked well enough but shown some signs of instability with occasional print spooler crashing.

Up until recently we used the HP Universal Print Driver for majority of our printers, it a bit bloated but it works well enough. Some printers (other brands and ones incompatible with HP Universal Driver) were supported by their own dedicated drivers.

We then switched from the Adobe Acrobat Reader which performs terribly over thin client to the much better performing Foxit Reader. After doing this we discovered that printing from Foxit to a printer using the HP Universal Driver was very slow. Most of our users didn't notice but one department regularly prints PDF's and it was causing them significant trouble.

Something had to change, either go back to Acrobat viewer and have rubbish PDF viewing performance or find a way to get Foxit to print. Foxit had also appeared to destabilise our printing setup further and was more than enough to push us over the edge and completely rethink our printing solution.

There are various options that would work for us but our plan was to try and find a set of basic PCL print drivers included with Windows that will work with every printer on our system. This was made harder by the fact that nearly all of the more recent HP printers natively supported by Windows Server 2008 use the HP Universal Print Driver, anything after the Laserjet 5 series.

Larger black and white printers were not too much of a problem, for the following printers we used the HP Laserjet 5Si MX Driver which supports these printers fine for us, including duplex where necessary.

HP Laserjet 3005
HP Laserjet 2727 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet 1300
HP Laserjet 4345 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet M4345 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet 1320
HP Laserjet 1200
HP Laserjet P2055
HP Laserjet 2420
HP Laserjet 6P
HP Laserjet M1522
HP Laserjet M9040 (multifunction)
Dell Laserprinter 1720

Some other non HP printers did not work with the 5Si MX driver, these printers are all not duplex so we used the HP Laserjet 4 driver.

Brother HL-2070
Dell Laser Printer 1710
Kyocera FS1920
Samsung ML2251

A few printers did not work correctly with the HP Laserjet 5Si MX driver but worked fine on the Postscript version of it. This does comes at the cost of some print jobs being quite a lot larger and slow over WAN links. The Laserjet 4 driver would probably work on these but that does not support duplex. These printers work fine using the HP Laserjet 5si MX PS Driver.

HP Laserjet 3052 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet 3055 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet 3090 (multifunction)
HP Laserjet 2015

Colour printing was a little more difficult. The Colour Laserjet 5 (The only HP colour printer supported by Windows Server 2008 without the HP Universal Print Driver) does not support duplex. We solved this by switching away from HP print drivers, we used the driver for Dell 3000CN PCL6 which works fine on the following printers.

HP Color Laserjet 3700
HP Color Laserjet CP3525
HP Color Laserjet CP2025
HP Color Laserjet 2605

Some of the printers required some tweaks to the settings to work correctly, scaling documents which no longer fitted in the boundaries of the older printers solved nearly all problems.

Once all this was complete, we went through the registry \HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print and removed all unecessary print drivers, monitors and processors and restarted the print spooler. Check out the Hunt for the Bad Printer Driver for greater detail on this.

At last we now only 4 drivers all of which are natively part of Windows Server 2008 which support 21 different printers. A working, reliable print soloution has left us with happy users and even happier admins, for now printing on our network is well under control.