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Windows Server Hacks

Upgrading and Migrating Print Servers

by Mitch Tulloch, author of Windows Server Hacks

Despite the hoopla in recent years over the so-called paperless office, managing print servers is still a bread-and-butter activity for most enterprises. And as operating system life cycles continue to shorten (at least for Windows), the job of upgrading or migrating print servers will arise periodically. What many administrators may not know, however, is that Microsoft has a couple of tools to make the job easier, and that's what this article is about.

Upgrading Print Servers

Upgrading a print server means you upgrade the operating system on your machine; for example, from Windows NT to Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003. Upgrading is a fairly straightforward task (on a member server, anyway), but if you're upgrading a print server you should be sure to install any necessary updated printer drivers prior to performing the upgrade. To let you do this easily, Microsoft has included a tool called Fixprnsv.exe in the \Printers\Fixprnsv folder on the Windows Server 2003 CD. To use this tool, simply run it directly from the CD on the print server you want to upgrade; it will identify any legacy kernel-mode print drivers and replace them with compatible user-mode drivers. (The Fixprnsv folder contains two subfolders with compatible drivers.) If fixprnsv.exe can't find a compatible driver for an installed printer, it tells you like this:

----------- fixprnsv default mode actions------------

Found Microsoft supplied Windows 2000/Windows Server 2003 family driver: HP LaserJet 5Si
   Microsoft supplied driver for Windows NT 4.0 is not available.
   Contact the manufacturer or check 
   for an updated driver.

You are running fixprnsv in default mode

These messages will also be stored in C:\WINNT\fixprnsv.log once the tool has 
finished running

Press any key to continue, <Ctrl-C> to break:

Once you've run fixprnsv.exe on your machine, you can then proceed with upgrading the operating system, after which you should have a properly working print server.

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Migrating Print Servers

To migrate a print server means copying the printer configuration from your old print server to a different machine. For example, if your Windows NT print server is running on old hardware that isn't beefy enough to support Windows Server 2003, you need to first install Windows Server 2003 on a newer machine and then migrate print server settings from the old box to the new. This can be done two ways: automatically or manually.

Manual Migration

The manual migration of print servers involves using a paper and pencil to jot down every detail of how printers are configured on your old machine. This means the makes and models of printers you have installed, the drivers that are installed, the ports the printers use, the permissions assigned, and anything else like paper feed mode, print quality, print schedule, and so on. That's a lot of work and it's easy to make a mistake, but on the other hand this gives you the chance to review in detail each printer configuration and maybe standardize things in a way that wasn't done before. So while the previous administrator may have named shared printers BOB, TED, CAROL, and ALICE, you may want to rename them PRINT1 through PRINT4 instead. Then once you've thoroughly documented everything, you can install each required printer on your new machine and configure it as desired.

Automatic Migration

Fortunately, there's an easier way, and that's to use another free Microsoft tool called Print Migrator. You simply download version 3.1 of Print Migrator from Microsoft's website and then run Printmig.exe on the old print server you want to migrate. Print Migrator starts by displaying the configuration of all currently installed printers on the old machine:

Figure 1
Figure 1. Print Migrator shows the configuration of installed printers.

Next you select Actions -> Backup and save the printer configuration of the old print server as a compressed (.cab) file:

Figure 2
Figure 2. Save the old printer configuration.

When you click Open, the lower pane of Print Migrator displays each step of the process as it occurs:

Figure 3
Figure 3. The backup of print server configuration is complete.

Now that the configuration of the old print server is finished, you're ready to migrate the configuration to your new machine. Start the process by selecting Action -> Restore from the menu, select the previously saved configuration file, and type the IP address of your new print server:

Figure 4
Figure 4. Migrating the configuration of the old print server to the new machine.

Now click Open, and the printer configuration on the old machine will be migrated to the target machine:

Figure 5
Figure 5. The restore process is complete.

Print Migrator will stop the Spooler service on the target machine so it can update driver files; you therefore need to be a member of the Administrators or Print Operators group to run the utility. Remember to run Fixprnsv.exe first, though, if you're migrating an old Windows NT print server to a newer Windows Server 2003 machine.

Consolidating Print Servers

Another advantage of using Print Migrator is that you can migrate the configurations of multiple print servers to a single machine. Consolidation is a big thing in enterprises these days, and it's a good way of saving money because you'll need fewer machines. To consolidate print servers using Print Migrator, back up the configuration of each print server and then restore each configuration one at a time to the same target machine. Each new configuration migrated will merge (not overwrite) existing ones, and you should end up with a functioning, single print server.

Finally, one more use for Print Migrator is to simply back up the printer configuration on your print server. Then, in the event you accidentally delete a printer or make a configuration change and forget what it was, you can just start Print Migrator on your print server, select Action -> Restore, select the backed-up printer configuration, and click Open without specifying a target IP address. This will restore the saved configuration to the local machine and restore things to the way they were.

Mitch Tulloch is the author of Windows 2000 Administration in a Nutshell, Windows Server 2003 in a Nutshell, and Windows Server Hacks.

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