Printer Location Tracking

O, printer, where art thou?

One of the best ways to reduce the administrative workload is to get users to be self-sufficient. That's why you should implement Printer Location Tracking (PLT). PLT is based on the Active Directory Site Topology.

A key element of the Site Topology is the subnet. Each subnet includes a name and a description. It can also include location information. Location information is stored in the subnet properties under the Location tab and displayed in hierarchical form. Each level is separated by a slash. You can use up to 256 levels in a location name, though the entire location name can't exceed 260 characters. A printer in the northeast corner of the first floor of the headquarters building could be identified as HQ/First Floor/Northeast Corner. Users connecting to this printer automatically know where to go to get their printouts. Though each part of the name can include up to 32 characters, you don't want to include too many levels or names that are too complex.

To enable PLT in your domain, you need the following elements:

  • Domain administrator rights.
  • A subnetting scheme closely resembling the physical layout of your office or offices.
  • Subnets and subnet locations entered into the Active Directory Sites and Services console.
  • A Printer Location Naming Convention that makes sense to your users. It should be simple and direct.
  • A Group Policy Object (GPO) that enables the location tracking feature for all devices.
  • Location settings for all printers.
  • Location settings for all PCs and servers.

Here's how to turn on PLT:

Step 1. Enable the "Pre-populate printer search location text" setting.
This setting enables the Browse button in the Location tab for printer and computer properties within the directory. It also enables this button in the Search Printers tool on servers and PCs. Set the Location Tracking GPO at the domain level in order to have it apply to every object within the domain. Since you may not want to modify default domain policy, you should create an Intranet Domain Policy. The best way to create this GPO is to use the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC). Open the GPMC and right-click on the domain name; select Create and Link a Group Policy. Name the policy Intranet Domain Policy and click OK.

Step 2. Next, right-click on the Intranet Domain Policy link and select Edit. In the Group Policy Object Editor, move to Computer Settings | Administrative Templates | Printers. Locate the Pre-populate printer search location text setting, double-click on it and select Enable (see Figure 1). Click OK to close the dialog box. Close the Group Policy Object Editor. Run the "gpudate" command from the command prompt to update your system.

Step 1
Figure 1

Step 3. Set locations for your subnets by launching the AD Sites and Services console. Right-click on each subnet, select the Location tab and type in the location (Figure 2). Repeat for each subnet. Close AD Sites and Services when done.

Step 2
Figure 2

Step 4. Enter location settings for printers. First locate all of the printers in your directory by opening AD Users and Computers and clicking on the Find button in the toolbar. Select printers as the object type, make sure the focus is on the Entire Directory, clear the location information and click Find (Figure 3).

Step 3
Figure 3

Step 5. Right-click on each printer name to select Properties. In the General tab, enter their location or click Browse to select a location for the printer (Figure 4). You will usually want to be more specific when identifying printer locations (for example, Victoria/First Floor/NorthEast Corner). If your printers are in a local room with a room number, include it. Repeat for each printer.

Step 4
Figure 4

Step 6. Enter location settings for computers and servers. Find them in AD Users and Computers. Select computers as the object type, make sure the focus is on the Entire Directory and click Find (Figure 5).

Step 5
Figure 5

Step 7. Right-click on each computer name to select Properties. In the Location tab, enter their location or click Browse to select a location for the computer or server (Figure 6). Remember to be specific-for example, Victoria/First Floor/NorthEast Corner. If your computers are in a local room with a room number, include it. Repeat for each computer or server.

Step 6
Figure 6

Step 8. Test your configuration. Use Start Menu | Search. In the Search pane, click Other search options, then click Printers, computers or people, then A printer on the network. The search printers dialog box will open and will have populated your location. If you want another location, click on the Browse button and select the location, then click OK (see Figure 7). Click Find to display all the printers in this location (see Figure 8).

Step 7
Figure 7


Step 8
Figure 8

Now users will be able to locate printers easily. Make sure you send out an information bulletin to all users to let them know about this fancy new feature.

About the Author

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest, both Microsoft MVPs, are IT professionals focused on technologies futures. They are authors of multiple books, including "Microsoft Windows Server 2008: The Complete Reference" (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media, 2008), which focuses on building virtual workloads with Microsoft's new OS.


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