Group Policy FAQ #2: How do you map a printer using Group Policy Preferences?

In this second of what I am sure are many FAQ posts, I am going to show you how you can use Group Policy Preferences to map printers in your organisation to help you do away with mapping printers via logon scrips. Firstly this is only a brief introduction to printer mappings. If you want …

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How to use Group Policy to restore missing second printer in Windows 7

Aamer Shedam from Microsoft’s Ask the Performance Team has just blogged about how Windows 7 will only show one printer in “Devices and Printers” if you have that same two printers installed on the one computer (see below). If your an IT Administrator and you want to configured the “Printer” view in Windows Explorer to …

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How to use Group Policy Preferences to dynamically map printers with Roaming Profiles

One of the great new feature with Group Policy Preferences is the ability to map printers based on a various number of criteria such as group membership, AD Site or even IP Address range. This allows for some powerful options such as being able to map all the printers physically near a user based on the computer IP address. This of course assumes that the networking team allocates the same subnets to certain computers near each other (e.g. a building or floor) but I have found this is often the case.

One of the problems that occur when you map printers with Group Policy Preferences is that if the user has a roaming profile configured and they then logon to a computer that is located in another area they will automatically get all the printers from the previous area they were in and the new area. These printer mapping can build up over time as users logon to computers in different areas they can soon amass a large number of printer mappings that can make their computer run slow especially during logon.

Normal Group Policies are applied via IP address (AD Site) are not a problem as the new computer they are logging on to has no idea of what the previous setting were or the policy falls out of scope so the setting revert back to their original values. But as the printer mapping (and all preference settings) for a user are stored in their profile then this printer mapping will follow them if they are setup with a roaming profile.

Question? So how do you map all the printers in one location but not have them follow you to another location if you are using a roaming profile?

Answer? Is a two step solution which I will go through below. There is also an optional third step that address the problem maintaining default printer mappings once a user gets back to their normal location.

Step 1. The first part is just to create a simple printer mapping that maps the printer targeted by the IP address of the users current computer.

Figure1. Create New Shared Printer

Figure 2. Target setting to only be mapped for computers between 10.1.1.0 to 10.1.1.255

Figure 3. Resulting printer mapping

The images above shows the printer “\\server\printer1” being mapped for the users that logon to a computer that is in the 10.1.1.0/24 subnet. It is important to note that we are talking about the IP address range of the computer that you want to map the printer on not the IP address range of the printer server or the printer itself.

Step 2. The second step is to delete the printer mapping if the IP address of the printer does not fall within the IP address range that you want the printer to be mapped. To do this we start by copying the existing printer mapping that we made in step 1. This avoids making any typo’s in either the printer queue name of the IP addresses.

Figure 4. Copying the existing printer mapping made in step 1.

Figure 5. Paste the setting into an unused part of the pane

Figure 6. Both printer mapping entries

Now we make the changes to the second printer mapping to change the action type and the targeting so that it will remove the printer mapping if the user logs onto a computer that is not in the subnet that we want the printer to be mapped.

Figure 7. Open the properties of the second printer

Figure 8. Change the Action to “Delete”

Figure 9. Go back to the targeting and change it to an “Is Not” between “10.1.1.0” and “10.1.1.255”

Figure 10. New target rule

Figure 11. Two printer entries to map and then clean up the printer queues for a user based on their location.

Step 3. Maintaining Default Printer Mappings

You have now configured dynamic printer mapping for your user based on location of the user. However this solution does have one problem, user normally like to set a default printer and if a user was to logon to a workstation in another location then return to their normal desk their default printer will have been reset. To get around this problem we have to change the targeting on the Delete printer option so it does NOT delete if the printer is configured as the default printer. To do this we need to look at the registry location that the default printer is saved and test to see if the printer we are deleting is the default printer and if so then do nothing.

So let take a look go back to the targeting setting for the Delete printer action and add another test that will check to see if the printer is the default printer.

Figure 12. Add a new Item of type “Registry Match”

Figure 13. Configured Registry Match Setting

Change the Match Type to “Match value data” and the Value data match type to “Substring match” as the value we are looking for will contain other information as well that we don’t care about. Make sure the Hive is set to “HKEY_CURRENT_USER” and the Key Path is set to “Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows”. The Value name “Device” is where in the registry the default printer information is saved”. We then set the Substring to “\\server\printer1” which is the UNC path to the printer queue. The substring value should be set to the same value as in the Path for the printer mapping and delete under the main properties for the setting.

There, now you know how to use Group Policy Preferences to map and remove printer queues for users based on their physical location to the printer even if you have user configured with a roaming profile. The default printer mapping will still follow the user no matter where they logon to however as we are limiting this to only one printer this will not have a large affect on the users logon speed nor will it result in the collection of printer mappings from multiple areas.

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Automate Group Policy Preferences printer-management using Windows PowerShell

Jan Egil’s has just written a good blog post explaining how to use Power Shell with Group Policy Preferences to easily setup multiple printer connections. If you have ever had to make printer connections with Group Policy Preferences you will know that it is a real easy to copy a printer connection. However it is …

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Group Policy Setting of the Week 4 – Shared Printer

This week I have selected the “Shared Printer” Group Policy Preference as my Group Policy Setting of the Week (GPSW). This is arguably one of the most wanted group policy settings by Group Policy admin’s that was missing before group policy preferences. It was possible previous to preferences to map printers natively in group policy using the pushprinterconnections.exe option but like the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations” we defiantly “do not discuss it with outsiders” as this is just a setting we would rather forget.

The “Shared Printer” options can be found under by right clicking on “User Configuration > Preferences > Control Panel Settings > Printers”. As with most group policy preference settings you also have the option to CRUD (see Group Policy Preferences Colorful and Mysteriously Powerful Just Like Windows 7) which means you can also use this option to remove any printer mapping that people have to printer queues that no longer exist.

Now it has always been fairly straight forward to map printers via logon script either via batch, vbscript or even kix scrtip however the real power of this setting is that it can now take advantage of the really powerful targeting options. More commonly you can map a printer via a single security group or IP range but you can really start to do some really advance targeting when you start to combine multiple targeting setting using Boolean logic. If you want to see some more advanced targeting options for printer mappings then check out my “How to use Group Policy Preference to dynamically map printers when using Roaming Profiles” article.

As you can see above you can also use this option to set the default printer for your users which can be very handy if people have a habit of always printing to the really expensive A3 colour printer on your floor when you are trying to reduce cost. Just use the default printer option wisely however as you could end up annoying your manager who likes to printer to their locally attached printer.

Enjoy!