I am in the process of creating a central control point to distribute printers among people inside of the domain. Right now there are a couple printers installed on miscellaneous servers that are shared and printers are installed via TCP/IP port on some machines but I want to centralize it all.

The environment here consists of:

  • Windows XP Pro (x86)
  • Windows 7 Pro (x86)
  • Windows 7 Pro (x64)

Over half the machines here are Windows 7 and out of the Windows 7 machines, half of them are running x64.

I have two servers in mind to use as print servers but using just the one server would be better. I have both Windows Server 2008 x64 SP2 and Windows Server 2003 R2 x86 SP2. I have installed the print services role on both and are ready to go.

After installing 32/64bit drivers for Windows 7 on the 2008 box, I was curious to see if Windows XP could use the Windows 7 x86 drivers, but the results weren't satisfying. I was thinking of maybe using the 2003 box solely for Windows XP drivers and use the 2008 box for Windows 7 (x86/x64).

Is there a way to have all 3 platforms working on one server without having multiple printers for the same printer? Here is a list of printers we have on the network:

  • HP Color LaserJet 3700
  • HP LaserJet 4100
  • HP LaserJet 4240
  • HP LaserJet 4250
  • HP LaserJet 4250
  • HP LaserJet P4015
  • XEROX Phaser 6115MFP
  • XEROX WorkCentre 5675
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    Just a tip, Toshiba hands you generic drivers that don't usually work in Win Server 08 R2. We have studio355s that the 32 bit drivers that don't install on the server. See serverfault.com/questions/342164/… for more info – Jacob Mar 13 '12 at 13:28
  • Can you define "wasn't satisfying"? It doesn't describe an actual issue. – MDMarra Mar 13 '12 at 14:43
  • @MDMarra The issue was that the Windows XP/Windows 7 x86 drivers weren't compatible with both operating systems. It would be perfect if I could have 3 drivers for one printer (Win7x64,Win7x86,WinXPx86). I am currently using manufacturer drivers which are model specific. I am using a global print driver for the Xerox WorkCentre however. I can experiment with the GPD for the HP's if you guys have good experience with that, but from what people have told me it is trash. – qroberts Mar 13 '12 at 14:48
  • The early versions of the HP UPD were bad, but they're on version 5.x now. It's pretty mature and is definitely worth a look. I can't speak to the Xerox WC printer line, we don't have them here, but we have plenty of other HP, Xerox, and Ricoh printers/MFCs here that all work just fine across all Windows OSes from the same set of drivers. – MDMarra Mar 13 '12 at 14:54
  • I will stand with my personal, and that of everyone that I work with's, opinion that you should not use the HP UPD unless you absolutely have to. You are only talking 5 drivers here. It's a single driver storage model. You will have all the correct print options for your printers, and very few if any downsides. We have gotten burned by the UPD to the point of banning it here. – Nate Mar 13 '12 at 16:03

If you use the HP Generic drivers for your HP printers, whether PCL5,6 or PS, Windows 7 & XP, x86, x64 will use them just fine. I'm running a Server 2K8 clustered print server with 70+ printers and they work perfectly with all 4 of those OS's. Just make sure that after you setup the printer and its queue, go to the Device Settings tab and run the Automatic Configuration. It'll usually set it up correctly with the printers functions (duplexing, etc...) but I ran into issues with the Mopier Mode not being set correctly. It looks like your HP printers don't support that anyway, so it's safe to disable it.

We've also got a few different Xerox WorkCentre printers and those drivers were the most difficult to get both the x64 and x86 to work. They offer a 64bit and 32bit driver for a printer, but if the "friendly name" doesn't match exactly between the two driver inf files, they won't install for the same print queue. I had to edit the inf and make sure the names were identical for the 32bit driver for it to install. They make a "Global Print Driver" as well, but it was limited on the different models it supported (the issue being the different options on the printer). I would check to see if your WorkCentre 5675 is supported under the Global one. That particular driver installed easily for both x86 and x64.

I got burned with updating the HP Generic drivers after everything was working smoothly. Like @nate suggested, when setting up a new printer, use an existing driver if you can. Upgrading an existing one can and will give you all kinds of corrupted clients. That was a couple weeks I'll never get back... If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If you can, stay away from running two print servers, it'll just confuse your end users. Keep plugging away and get the Server 2K8 one working with all your printers and OS's. It took me a few weeks to get all the different flavors of printers to work, especially a couple e-Studios in our mix, it paid off in the end.

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  • I ended up using the Windows Server 2008 R2 Server for everything besides the Xerox WorkCentre and the two Toshiba's. Seems to be running smooth. I did a test installation/print on all 3 platforms and there were no hitches. – qroberts Mar 14 '12 at 12:45

I see no reason not to have all of the clients use the same print server. I have more than one print server with over 100 printers on it that serves XP and 7 (x64/x86) just fine.

Most vendors offer a universal print driver for their printers. Use that if possible, it simplifies management and cuts down on some of the oddities that can arise when you have hundreds of drivers on the same box. It is important to check the HCL for each universal driver. They support a lot of printers, but not all. You'll have a bad experience if you try to use it on an unsupported printer. I believe that all of your HP printers are supported by the HP UPD v5.x.

You say that using the Windows 7 x86 driver on an XP client "wasn't satisfying", but you don't explain why. In many cases, it's the same installer for x86 whether it's XP/Vista/7. If the printer vendor supports XP on the printers (which all of them should), then their x86 version of the driver should work for XP and 7. If this isn't the case, I suggest you call the manufacturer.

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  • -1 for recommending the HP UPD. I'm glad your experience has been good with it but google for the UPD and you will find you are in the minority. – Nate Mar 13 '12 at 15:35
  • @nate I'm still waiting for documentation or specific bug descriptions that can be reproduced with the HP UPD. Or even numbers to suggest that I am, in fact, in the minority by using them. – MDMarra Mar 13 '12 at 15:39
  • I use the HP Universal driver exclusively with our HP printers and stick to the PostScript version. They need to be configured to optimize for compatability, not for speed and you have to ensure that youthe driver does not switch itself to Version 3. Lexmarks do version 3. Our old HP work horses use version 2. Also, Microsoft's isaolated print driver mechanism is totally flawed. Turn it off on all shared print queues!!! – user246463 Oct 3 '14 at 15:06

First off Microsoft x32 mixed with x64 bit printing stinks. People claiming to have good experiences with it are either delusional or not using it on a large scale with a wide variety of printer models.

We found in our environment (xp/win7(32/64) 300+ printers) the following worked the best. Use the 2008r2 as your primary print server. In addition to this build out a 2008 32bit server. (Note this can be a VM).

  • Connect to the 2008R2 print server from the 2008 32bit and install the printer 32bit first with the auto-detected windows driver.
  • Then on the 2008R2 add the windows 64bit version of the same driver.
  • Only if this doesn't work go to the manufacturers driver.

Also when adding additional printers use the existing driver do not keep updating it. Corruption of your queues or clients will happen.

Also an additional note of sorrow goes out to you if you need to use HP drivers. The fact they write their own print processor for almost every model instead of using winprint is horrible. And never, never use their Universal Print driver.

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    First off Microsoft x32 mixed with x64 bit printing stinks. People claiming to have good experiences with it are either delusional or not using it on a large scale with a wide variety of printer models. - I don't know what you consider large scale, but I have two print servers, each with at least 100 printers that do just this and there are no problems. Proper planning and testing goes a long way, as do using vendor's universal print drivers wherever possible. – MDMarra Mar 13 '12 at 14:37
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    You make a lot of assertions here without any reason, documentation, or facts to back them up. Why not use the UPD for large deployments? We do here, as do plenty of other large organizations that I know. Also, having two print servers to separate x86 drivers from x64 ones is not standard procedure by any stretch. If you're going to make claims like these that are clearly edge cases, you should provide real factual reasons and not just spread FUD. – MDMarra Mar 13 '12 at 14:41
  • First off I am not asserting to have two print servers! As I said One print server which should be the 2008R2 64 bit. The reason for the second 32 bit server machine is so you can autodetect correctly the driver version that Microsoft provides for 32 bit. Second, as I again stated, I consider 300+ printers on a server to be large scale. Third, I am specifically referring to the HP Universal Print driver which if you do any sort of investigation will find has tons of bugs. – Nate Mar 13 '12 at 15:31

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