Deploying printers with Group Policy Preferences is the superior way to deploy your printers. Here is the great thing about deploying printers this way: you don’t need anything special and it can deploy IP, local, or shared printers!
As long as your clients support Group Policy Preferences (which runs on XP SP3 +) and you have a print server, you can deploy printers with Group Policy Preferences. Before you deploy your first printer, you need to answer two questions first:
What to do Before Deploying Your First Printer
How many printers do you plan to deploy?
If you have less than 50 printers, you can create a single dedicated Printer GPO. If you have many sites or a sites with many printers, you’ll likely prefer several printer GPOs (one per site). That recommendation comes from my personal experience with printer management. Just like any new addition to Group Policy, you will also want to decided on a naming convention before setting up your first printer preference. You should have standard names for your printer GPOs and the individual preference items.
To give you an example, my environment has 20+ sites. Every site has a site prefix. Each site has a dedicated printer policy named Printers: SITE PREFIX. Printers are named like this: SITEPREFIX_LOCATION_MODEL. The printer name in the preference will always match the printer name on the print server.
Will you deploy printers from the Computer Configuration or User Configuration node?
Deploying printers from the computer configuration node is quite a bit faster than the user node. If you auto wake-up your computers before the work day begins, your users never even see the printer install. There is one downside to computer side printers; you can’t set one as the default without some trickery.
Printers deployed under the user configuration will allow easier management. You can configure printers to set themselves as the default. You can also change a printer preference (such as duplexing) without redeploying the printer. If you use print queue management software (like Print Manager Plus), you must use a user side printer. The downside is the printer installation will be slower. Every new user logging onto the computer will have to wait as the printer installs. If you have multiple user side printers, users can easily become frustrated.
My recommendation: When possible, use computer side printer preferences.
Creating the Printer Preference
In the GPMC, create a new GPO named Printers: DOMAIN-NAME or Printers: SITE NAME. I am going to make the assumption that you already have a print server and you already have printers on that server. I will also assume that you the relevant drivers installed. If you have a X64 Print Server and you have X86 clients, the Print Server will need the X86 drivers. When possible, I recommend using universal printer drivers (such as those provided by HP).
Edit the GPO and navigate to Computer Configuration/Administrative Templates/Printers. Disable “Point and Print Restrictions”. This will allow your clients to install drivers from your Print Server.
Computer Configuration: IP Printer
For our first example, we are going to setup a computer side IP printer. Under Computer Configuration/Preferences/Control Panel Settings, select Printers. Right click and select New – TCP/IP Printer. Enter in your printer’s IP address, a local name, and the printer path.
The local name can be different than the printer path. For troubleshooting purposes, I prefer to keep them the same though. If your printers get an IP through DHCP (and you don’t use reservations), you should probably use a DNS name instead of an IP. Next, change the Action from Update to Create. This will ensure that the printer only installs once. Finally, select the Common tab and set any Item Level Targeting (if needed). The two most common targets are by OU and by security group type.