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I have two HP LaserJet printers on a Windows Server 2003-based network. Both printers are managed by a print server and shared from there to multiple users in the domain, most of whom use Windows XP. They usually work fine. Every now and then, somebody sends a document to the printer and it "locks up" on the print queue. The document shows up on the print queue applet but is never actually printed. No error message appears and no event is looged in the server. The problem affect both printers. The only way we have found to solve this is to restart the spooler service on the server.

Some clues. In every occasion that we have observed this, the involved document was a PDF. Also, the problem seems to happen randomly, but especially early in the morning, so we suspect that it may be related to the printing waking up from power saving mode. We have been unsuccessful to reproduce the problem. We have even waited for the printer to go to power-saving mode and sent a PDF that was known to have caused a lock up in a previous occasion; the PDF printed perfectly.

I have done some research and there seems to be people talking about a possible issue with HP LaserJet drivers on Windows Server 2003, but no specific details or resolution was available.

Basically, we have no clue what might be going on. Any ideas? Thanks.

Update 9-Dec-09. We have opened a technical support ticket with HP. They don't seem to have a readily available fix to the problem.

Update 13-Jan-10. We have installed HP Easy Printer Care on the print server as advised by HP support. Don't ask me why, but the issues seems to have disappeared!

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It's almost always a print driver issue. Experiment with different print drivers to get the desired results. On some printers (with regard to pdfs) we have to use the PCL6 driver and on others the PCL5 drivers.

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If he is using PCL drivers, maybe Postscript would work better? – Ward Dec 2 '09 at 1:37
Thanks GregD and Ward. I will experiment with PCL5 and PS drivers. – CesarGon Dec 2 '09 at 15:36

Another possibility anyone having a similar issue might want to take a look at is the PDF files themselves. We recently discovered that jobslike that were being caused because the PDFs were scanned at the highest possible resolution the sender could do - 1200 DPI, which choked the print queue on the server, and the printers themseleves.

Apparently (we're a law firm) it's the modern equivalent of sending a truckload of documents when information is requested. Since there's so many people who insist on printing out PDF's the result is the server gets jammed up and we have to waste time finding the bad jobs, clear them out and let the user's know what happened. We've had it done to use several times now, and we're going to have to put measures in place to deal with documents like this.

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Have you considered that the problem might be network related? Have you tried to see what kind of traffic is actually getting to the printer? What does the printer's logs (not the print server's logs) indicate is happening at the time that the event takes place?

I've seen this happen several times, but in every case I've experienced it, the only fix has been troubleshooting network connectivity. One time I replaced the printer's network cable, and I've not had a problem with that one in over a year. Several others were attached to consumer-grade Linksys 5-port switches, and replacing the immediately upstream switch took care of it. A few cases have been mal-functioning JetDirect cards.

That's just one area to look at. I've had many driver issues with PDFs and Canon copiers/printers, but so far (and I've probably just jinxed myself), I haven't seen this particular problem with HP's drivers.

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Two things:

  1. Have you tried printing the PDF as an image? For a long time we had recommended that because it resolved severe peformance issues, albeit less severe than crashing the machine like your case. File > Print > Advanced (on Print Wizard) > Print as image (on Advanced Print Wizard).
  2. As others have suggested, the driver is almost always the culprit. You might also want to try experimenting with the print processor:

And that brings us to Print Processors. Print processors are user-mode DLL files that convert the spooled data from a print job into a format that is understood by a print monitor. When a print job is spooled, the data is contained in a spool file. The print processor reads the file, performs the conversion on the data stream and writes the converted data to the spooler. The spooler sends the data to the correct print monitor. Print processors are associated with printer drivers during driver installation. The default Print Processor provided with the operating system is winprint.dll.

Ref: The Performance Team Blog

You can check it for each printer like so: cmd /k wmic printer get name, printprocessor. The default is WinPrint. Almost all drivers bundle their own. A print server software vendor, whom I will not name because they are garbage, will always recommend setting it to WinPrint instead of the driver-preferred print processor that the vendor bundles with their driver. This removes a lot of the bells and whistles a Windows print driver has to make "act cool." You could try switching them and measuring performance between the two. Whatever floats your boat.

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Wow, my bad. I did not realize how old this was until I finished. Definitely look at the data before wasting ten minutes on one of these things. Haha. – ajstein Feb 24 '11 at 20:58
Well, thank you anyway. :-) As my last edt to the question says, the problem disappeared when we installed an update to the software. – CesarGon Feb 25 '11 at 10:11

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