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I'm NOT in any way a Terminal Services expert and I need help trying to get an application program working in a multi-user and multi-printer environment. Each user has their own locally (USB) attached printer. Each of those shows up in the ts session with a unique name. The legacy application can only be configured to print to one printer. The configuration is global for users, local to the machine which is fine for individual workstations but not in ts which apparently presents as one machine for all users.

The issue is that the printer changes for every user that is logged in. The application needs to print NOT to the default printer, but to a "special" printer which is selected in the application... let's call it a label printer to simplify the explanation. You have your default regular printer, easy for the application to find that one, and then you have a special printer that labels get printed onto. The application needs to know what printer is the label printer. So we allow the user to select that in the application and the selection is stored in a config file in C:\ProgramData\mfgr\prog\setting files

I don't have access to the application so I can't change how this works or where the configuration gets stored.

In the "regular" world, selecting the label printer driver to use should be per machine, NOT per user. When a new user logs into a machine, the physical printer doesn't go "poof" and a new printer suddenly appear. Same printer for all users.

Yet in terminal services, the physical machine is "merged" with the virtual machine on the server. So each users real machine (and real printer) is injected into the "fake" terminal services machine. The name of the printer is made unique for each user. So the printers DO go "poof" and change names depending on the user logged into terminal services.

So user "A" logs in and sets up the application to print to "LabelPrinterForUserA" (or whatever the name of the printer happens to be), that setting is stored in the ProgramData subfolder, and all is well. Later, user "B" logs in, and when they print, the application tries to print to "LabelPrinterForUserA" which doesn't exist for user B. If user B re-configures, that breaks it for user A.

SOLUTION 1: The way that /should/ work (in my mind) is that you define one "generic" printer in Terminal Services... call it "Virtual Label printer" and when the user prints to it, the print job gets re-directed back to whatever physical printer is actually connected to their local workstation. There is a mapping or setup in Terminal Server that tells it which actual printer to use for each user when a job comes to the virtual printer. The application is told once to print to "Virtual Label Printer" for all users.

SOLUTION 2: Or... there should be some way to make the ProgramData sub folders separate per user. E.g. when user "A" tries to access: C:\ProgramData\mfgr\prog\setting files they actually get C:\UserData\UserA\AppData\mfgr\prog\setting files and user "B" gets C:\UserData\UserB\AppData\mfgr\prog\setting files

So the question I have is: Does either of those solutions exist hidden somewhere in the setup of terminal server? Or is there another way around this issue that I don't know?

Update

To clarify, There isn't just one printer. There are multiple printers. Each user has a physical (let's call it label) printer USB connected to their physical workstation. My understanding from the admin is that when the users install their printers, the names of the printers must be different. Are you saying that each user can install their own printer and use exactly the same name?

  • Why are you the one fixing this? Can you involve your IT team, or the supplier of the software? Also, why so rude in your comments on others answers? – BlueCompute Mar 17 '15 at 16:05
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I can feel your pain with using old software on terminal servers ...the solution I've come up with definitely won't scale as it requires some manual configuration, but I've gotten this method to work with our label printers (which require to be printed to an LPT port...yep, that old).

Share your USB-connected printers to the network on each machine. Then, have the user log in on a unique session for each of them (a TS account cannot be shared among computers for this to work) and install a network printer pointing to the USB one they shared. Try to use a DNS name to account for possible DHCP movements.

After, it should work. Each user can do this since display names can be identical as long as the ports are different (which they are).

  • I think you are on to something here, and I originally advised the admin to do this. The problem he ran into is that it setup the printer names in the TS as "printer on usersworkstation" and he could not rename it except to change the "printer" to whatever. E.g. the "on userworkstation" remained. I believe there is another way of installing the printer which avoids this, but I can't find it. Ages ago, one used to do NET USE LPT2 \\computer\printer password /USER:domain\user /PERSISTENT:YES and then tell the driver to print to LPT2 – James Newton Mar 17 '15 at 16:21
  • @JamesNewton That's actually the exact method we used. The way around the "network printer" part is to install it as local printer and map it to a TCP/IP port that way. – Nathan C Mar 17 '15 at 16:28
  • You mean in the case where the printers are TCP/IP connected and not local USB / LPT to the users workstation? That makes sense. Wonder if this will work for USB connected printers... – James Newton Mar 17 '15 at 16:35
  • @JamesNewton You'd share the local printer on the client's PC then on the server connect via TCP/IP to it. You'd need static addresses or use DNS names if DHCP, though. – Nathan C Mar 17 '15 at 16:51
  • Ah. Yes. I see. Looks like the LPT thing should work even with a USB connected printer: superuser.com/questions/182655/… – James Newton Mar 17 '15 at 17:09
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It doesn't sound like the application is meant to run in a multi-user environment (evidenced by the fact that it's storing configuration settings in Program Data), my suggestion would be to install the printer on the Terminal Server and have your users select the printer that is locally installed on the Terminal Services server.

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    What doesn't make sense? How is this not useful? Install the printer on the Terminal Server. When users need to print to this printer they'll select this printer, just as they would if it were installed on their computer. – joeqwerty Mar 17 '15 at 15:36
  • @JamesNewton It makes perfect sense. We do this on our own server with ~35 users. Instead of the mess of redirected printers, we have the users locally install them (or a GPO does the work for them). – Nathan C Mar 17 '15 at 15:38
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    Ah... here is the confusion. There isn't ONE printer. There are multiple printers. Each user has a physical printer USB connected to their physical workstation. My understanding from the admin is that when the users install their printers, the names of the printers must be different. Are you saying that each user can install their own printer and use exactly the same name? – James Newton Mar 17 '15 at 15:44
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    @JamesNewton: My apologies for the initial brashness of my answer. In light of the new info you provided, this is going to be challenging. If each user has their own printer then the solution is to use redirected printing, which is what's causing you the problem in the first place. I'm not seeing a way around this at the moment. – joeqwerty Mar 17 '15 at 15:48
  • Yes, The purpose of Terminal Services is to allow multiple users to log onto the TS simultaneously. – joeqwerty Mar 17 '15 at 15:55

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