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We had a power issue yesterday that resulted in our Windows Server 2003 file and print server crashing. Since then we have been having some weird printing issues. Although this should all be rectified by restoring from backup I'm really looking for possible explanations for what's happening.

There are two distinct issues, which I believe share a common root cause.

  1. The spooler service periodically stops, without logging anything into the event logs. It is set to automatically restart and runs fine for anything from half an hour to a couple of hours before stopping again, with no discernible pattern.
  2. This is the really weird one. Some users are can sometimes print and sometimes the job just sits in their print queue, never reaching the server, whether the spooler on the server is running or not.

When event 2 occurs there is nothing in the logs on either the client or server to indicate there is a problem. The clients are a mix of XP 32 bit and Win 7 64 bit, so they are not even using the same drivers. Rebooting machines, including the server, has no effect.

On one client I tried deleting the existing printer and recreating it. At that point I received "Access denied", although the permissions on the spooler files, folders and shares haven't been changed and are still correct. A test with all those opened for maximum access didn't change the behaviour.

There appears to be no pattern as to which user accounts (or groups) or which client computers are affected. The temporary workaround has been to create the printers as local, rather than going through the server. Luckily we have a pretty small number of users.

Anyone care to take a stab at what the underlying problem might be?

A little more weirdness

Gradually through the day those users who had been able to print found they could no longer do so. As a test I rebooted one of the client PCs which could still print. That had no effect, yet about an hour latter that machine also could no longer print. Everyone now has each printer set up as local, thereby (temporarily) removing the server from the equation.

I should add that I can still print to each and every printer from the server itself and the spooler hasn't crashed since I finished disconnecting the clients.

Update

Removing the drivers for one model of printer has normal functionality to all the other printers. Reinstalling those drivers screws up all the printers. That shouldn't even be possible but that's what's happening. Up till now I've held off on the restore from backup to try and workout the root cause but am now giving up on that.

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2 Answers 2

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That's an odd one. If you can get away w/ just restoring the server from backup it may be your best bet.

Is the spooler service shutting-down cleanly on the server computer, or is it crashing? You should be getting messages from Service Control Manager if the service is terminating unexpectedly (as well as messages indicating that it received a "Stop" control message if it's being shutdown cleanly).

My experience has been that faulty drivers or print processors are almost always the cause of the Spooler service terminating unexpectedly on Windows Server machines. Looking at the stack trace from one memory dumps generated by the failures might give you an idea of which driver is doing it. Otherwise, you're stuck with the process of elimination if you want to track down the faulty driver. Perhaps you took some corruption in the data stream of one of the driver files.

What you're seeing hasn't happened in my experience. We have a couple Customers now who are getting a sizeable amount of 64-bit Windows 7 into production and we're seeing odd behavior on the client computers w/ printing from time to time (particularly with Microsoft Excel 2007-- test pages will print fine, but Excel will hang when any printing related function, like "Page Setup" or "Print Preview", is selected), but nothing like you're describing.

If you have the convenience of being able to restore the box from backup I think I'd do it.

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The spooler must be crashing pretty suddenly, because the only log entry is when it starts up again. I did consider corrupt drivers but this is happening for multiple printers and not everyone using the same printers is affected. There is absolutely no consistency that I can see. We do have some printing issues on the Win7/Office 2010 clients but that is unrelated. Of course the real problem with restoring from backup is me having to go to the office on the weekend. :( –  John Gardeniers Aug 13 '10 at 1:41
    
I'm saying "corrupt driver" as in "when the spooler service on the server loads the driver it crashes", not as in "when somebody prints to a given printer it crashes". –  Evan Anderson Aug 13 '10 at 1:50
    
that's a good theory but doesn't explain why one user can no longer print to a given printer, yet another user with the same OS on another machine has (had!) no trouble doing exactly the same thing. We've even tested this by having each user print the same document, just to eliminate that. As per my update, none of us can print to any of the printers on that server any longer, although printing from the server itself continues to work fine. –  John Gardeniers Aug 13 '10 at 10:15

Since the server suffered a power event, has the basic "block-and-tackle" taken place?

  1. "chkdsk" to ensure the file systems is not harboring with any errors?
  2. Cleared the temp folders?
  3. Cleared any stray spooler files?
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Yep, tried all that. I've also tried reinstalling the printer drivers (because it was quick and easy to do), also without effect. –  John Gardeniers Aug 13 '10 at 10:00
    
Another possible angle to consider is to maybe swap out the font files, just in case something is corrupted... –  user48838 Aug 13 '10 at 10:05

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