64-bit Print Server Issues

March 23, 2009

in Tech,Windows

I recently built a Windows 2008 server for a client.  A third party application required it to be the 64-bit version.  The server was to perform multiple roles one of which was a print server.  My role in this implementation was the server setup.  The client would handle setting up the workstations and joining them to the domain.

A few days after finishing up my side, I got a call asking for help getting the printers setup on the workstations.  The printers worked fine from the print server.  However when a workstation would try to install the printer off of the server, a prompt for the correct print drivers would pop up.  After getting in remotely to the server and the XP workstation I was able to determine that the issue had to do with the difference between the workstations and the server (64-bit versus 32-bit).  I knew from my earlier days with Windows back when a network might of included NT 4.0, 95, ME, and/or 2000 that a different driver probably needed to be loaded.  I quickly found an article on Microsoft’s site that talked about the need to load a 32-bit print driver on a 64-bit print server for any 32-bit clients.  The steps for installing the additional drivers from the server did not work.  When ever we would try to install the driver, the server would prompt for the 32-bit version of the server CD (which we did not have).

Here is what I ended up doing.  I went over to the XP 32-bit workstation and extracted the print drivers locally.  Then I attempted to install the printer from the print server again.  This time when prompted for the correct driver I pointed to the local copy.  This got me printing  from the workstation through the print server.  I then went back to the print server to verify that the driver had been uploaded to the server.  It had not.  Next I went into the properties tab for the printer on the workstation and clicked on the additional drivers button.  From there I was able to point to the local copy of the driver and was able to upload the 32-bit driver to the server.  Again I went back to server to verify that it worked.  The server was now showing the additional driver.  I verified this by  installing from the print server on another XP workstation with out having to feed the driver to the print server.

I want to point out a couple of interesting things that I observed.  When I initially tried to add the 32-bit print driver to the print server I was not using the same named driver.  This resulted in an error message saying that it was not the same driver.  Because of this issue I hit regarding different named drivers, I went out to the Lexmark web site. The client had three different Lexmark printers including a color model.  What I found was that Lexmark had a “universal print driver” which worked for all three printer models I was dealing with.  So all I needed was the 64-bit and the 32-bit versions of this universal print driver.  I have since heard that HP and probably other printer vendors are making these all in one drivers.

As 64-bit OS’s become more and more mainstream this issue is likely to keep popping up.  Keep it in the back of your mind.  Also keep in mind that this very well could have been reversed from what it was.  In other words there could have been a 64-bit workstation and a 32-bit print server, the resolution would have been the same.

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