CIS 106a: Introduction to Operating System Concepts

Chapter 11: Supporting Printers and Scanners



This chapter discusses printers and briefly mentions scanners. The objectives important to this chapter are:

  1. How to install printers and scanners
  2. Sharing printers
  3. Troubleshooting printers

This chapter is closely related to the printer chapter in the A+ Hardware book by the same author. Read both, and you are farther ahead.

You should be aware of all of the standard media connections printers may use: parallel, serial, USB, FireWire, network cable, and SCSI. Some printers are also accessible by infrared, WiFi, or Bluetooth wireless connections.

Print services are the main reason that networks exist. They are also the service most complained about on networks. There are three basic ways to share a printer on a network:

  • A printer may be cabled to a workstation that is itself attached to the network. The printer can then be shared as a network resource. This is called sharing a local printer. The drawback is that each print job places a burden on the workstation, and the printer is unavailable unless the workstation is logged in to the network.
  • A printer that is equipped to connect to a network can be directly connected. Some printers have their own NIC, some can have one installed.
  • An interface between the printer and the network can serve as the actual connection point. Hewlett Packard makes a product called the HP JetDirect card, which can be used to connect printers to networks. (Printers that use an HP JetDirect card do not have to be HP printers.)

Windows workstations commonly contain the proper software to share local printers. (As mentioned in the first item above.) This is a quick and easy thing to do, but it suffers from the problems noted above, and it does not work well for large networks.

To install a printer, the text presents two methods:

  • If the printer will attach to a port where it is sensed by a running copy of Windows (like a USB port), try this method:
    • Log onto the system as an administrator
    • Launch the CD setup program
    • Follow installation instructions from setup program
    • Connect the printer to the port (USB)
    • The setup program detects the printer
    • Test the printer from the Printers window
  • If the printer will attach to a port that must be sensed while Windows starts, like a parallel port:
    • Plug the printer cable to the printer and the computer port
    • Turn the printer on
    • Turn on the computer, and log on to Windows as an administrator
    • Launch setup program from manufacturerís CD or use Windows installation process
    • Follow directions onscreen to install printer
    • Test the printer in the Printers window

With my new HP printer, the instructions in the box said to use the first method above. This was not entirely successful. The second method worked much better, using the Add Hardware applet in Control Panel.

To share a local printer, File and Printer Sharing service must be installed first. To use the printer on a network, you must install Client for Microsoft Networks first.

To share a local printer with a Workgroup:

  1. First install it on one PC.
  2. If running XP, under Printers and Faxes, open the Properties window for the printer. Choose the Sharing tab, and give the printer a name so it can be shared.
  3. If other computers will run other operating systems, install other drivers for the printer by clicking Additional Drivers.

The PCs that will share the printer must belong to a defined Workgroup, which means that you need to configure each PC to be a member of the workgroup, and most important, they must be connected through a common network environment. This can mean that they all connect to a switch through Ethernet connections. A server is not required, but sharing a printer this way means that for any computer in the workgroup to print to it, the computer that is actually connected to the printer must be running.

Printers typically require drivers that "speak" a variant of one of two printer languages: PostScript or Printer Control Language (PCL). The proper driver for a printer will translate print commands from applications into the proper language for your printer.

The text presents some common printer related tasks you can carry out in Printers and Faxes:

  • Delete printers
  • Change the Windows default printer
  • Purge print jobs to troubleshoot failed printing
  • Manage printer settings and options
  • Add new equipment to a printer e.g., stapler and stacker unit
    • Install the equipment
    • Enable the new equipment in the Properties window of the printer

Scanners are described as falling to three types:

  • flatbed scanners - Usually, this type give the best quality output, scanning one page at a time, and giving the user the opportunity to scan again with different settings.
  • sheet-fed scanners - This type provides the best performance if you need to scan many pages at a time, and are satisfied with standard output.
  • portable scanners - This type includes handheld scanners and small scanners that can be fed a page or receipt at a time.

Most scanners attach to computers by USB ports and are installed like you install printers:

  • Launch the setup CD before connecting the scanner
  • Follow onscreen software installation instructions
  • Connect the scanner, plug it in, and turn it on
  • Test the scanner by scanning and saving an image

The text discusses troubleshooting printing, suggesting that you should try to isolate a problem into one of four areas:

  • Problems with the application that you are printing from are indicated if you can print from a system prompt or other application, but not from the one you want to use. Determine if the application is installed properly, and if it is supposed to support your printer. Some applications only print to the default Windows printer. Is your printer set as the default?
  • Problems with the Operating System or printer driver can be indicated if you cannot print from a system prompt, but can print a test page by pressing a button on the printer. Check online for a newer driver, or a driver compatible with your OS. Try deleting the printer from Windows list of printers, then installing service to it again?
  • Connectivity problems, such as a bad cable or port, can also be indicated if print jobs do not come out, but you can print a test page on the printer by pressing a button on it. Try swapping out printer cables with one that is known to be good. Try checking the state of the port: is it in the right mode for your printer? EPP? ECP? Bi-directional?
  • Problems with the printer itself are indicated if none of the above is possible. This category includes being out of ink or toner, paper jams, wrong paper, too much heat or humidity, and other problems.

Some general ideas about troubleshooting that apply to more than printers:

  • Interview the user
  • Find out what works and does not work
  • Make an initial determination of the problem
  • If problem is solved, check with the client
  • Document problem symptoms and solutions

A short list of troubleshooting ideas is presented, mostly having to do with shared printers. I will adapt the ideas here to apply to actual network printing.

  • Is the printer online? It is surprising how many people expect a device to work that has not been turned on, or has not be set to "on line" mode.
  • Is the network printer configured correctly on the PC? This means, have you installed the correct driver, are you sending print job in the right language, for the right size paper, etc.?
  • Is the correct network printer selected? Many users will send a print job and not be aware that they sent it to the wrong printer.
  • Is there enough hard disk space available on the PC? When preparing a print job to send, a workstation must compose it as a temporary file. If the workstation does not have enough room for the file, the print job will either fail or be incomplete.
  • Can you print successfully from another application? If so, the problem is likely related to your installation of the problem application. It is possible that the application cannot print to this sort of printer.
  • Can you print successfully from the host PC using the identical application? This applies to shared printers. It is not really diagnostic unless the two workstations are alike in all ways.
  • Can you print to a file and then send the file to the host PC to successfully print? If this works, then the problem is with data transmission. If this does not work, then the problem is with the application or print driver on the remote PC.
  • For DOS applications, you may need to exit the application before printing occurs.