Mac printer sharing issues.
December 11, 2008 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Mac printer sharing question regarding driver sharing and printers (not) showing up on the system preferences printer list.

We're moving towards a Mac environment, and I'm being stymied by a few Mac-printer issues. We're using all 10.5 on an AD/OD network.
1) I install a printer on Mac 1 whose drivers aren't loaded with the OS by default and enable printer sharing. On Mac 2, I add a printer through bonjour/Appletalk/or even IP and it still needs the driver installed on that 2nd computer. The 2nd Mac can see that the printer is shared on Mac1 just fine, but it always defaults to generic postscript driver unless I install the printer software individually on the second Mac.
This is contrast to my Windows experience where you install drivers on a print server and viola, other Windows machines can share and get all the special features through the just adding the printer by browsing to the server.

So, any ideas how to get my Mac Server to magically share drivers like my Windows Server did? I'm new to the Mac side of things and am hoping just missing a small detail.

2) Relating to the former question, when I add a printer by IP or through the Default or Windows tab on the Mac side, the printer won't show up under system preferences --> Print & Fax. However, when I print, I see the list of printers to choose from I've added. Slightly frustrating when I'm trying to troubleshoot a non-working printer and I can't check out what's going on under system preferences. On my laptop, I now have 20+printers to choose from when I print from testing networked printers, but only 3 show up under Print & Fax.

Any ideas why a shared printer shows up when I go to actually print, but non system prefs?
posted by jmd82 to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
1) While there are quite a few printer drivers (PPD's or printer description files in Mac lingo) installed as part of a base Leopard OS, you'll have to install other printer drivers on all your Macs, not just the one "sharing" the printer.

As a general rule of thumb, I generally avoid using the built-in printer sharing feature in Mac OS X. It works but is cumbersome and requires that computers stay on and awake all the time. A much better and easier route has been to simply purchase actual network printers (with an Ethernet jack) and then configure each Mac to print to the network printer rather than through a Mac connected to a printer via USB cable (via print-sharing).

One possibility that's worked well in some small businesses I've supported is to use the USB port on an Apple Airport Base Station to provide networked printing to a USB printer. This works surprisingly well and, again, doesn't rely on the Macs to stay on and awake since the Airport Base Station effectively becomes your printer server and is always on anyway.

2) You're saying that 20+ printers show up in the list of available printers in the Print Dialogue box, but only 3-4 are showing up in your printer list in the Print & Fax system prefs pane?

This is probably related to printer-sharing again. I still recommend you turn off printer sharing on each machine and figure out a way to print to networked printers. Or designate one Mac as the "printing Mac" and attach several of the USB printers to it and share those printers out ONLY on that Mac and turn off printsharing on the rest of the Macs. Configure Energy Saver to tell that "printing Mac" to never turn off.
posted by at 6:51 AM on December 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding mrbarrett (who has superb Mac tech cred, BTW) - We use an Airport base station for print serving and it's fantastic though sometimes Windows has been known to toss the printer offline for unknown reasons.

In the past I have used an old always-on, would-have-been-disposed-of Mac as a print server as well (prior to this being a big issue for home or small biz users).
posted by mikel at 6:57 AM on December 11, 2008

Response by poster: That makes sense, but also kills some of the simplicity with the network I had under Windows. To be clear, with Windows, I'd set one server up as the printer server of networked printers where all the drivers would be installed. Another Windows machine would be able to browse to that server, connect to the printer, and have all the printing options as if I had installed the drivers on the client computer. This allowed for easy printer management through Group Policy and logon scripts. The entire issue with the Macs is while we have a lot of network printers (RJ-45) we've been using, I can't figure out how to load them without also having to install the printer drivers on each Mac. When I have 50 computers I need to have print-access to 4 network printers, it becomes an issue. I can use Workgroup Manager to add printers, but it just defaults to generic postscript driver.
Regarding the always-on issue, we have a Mac Server on 24/7 so not an issue. We also don't share through USB.
posted by jmd82 at 7:05 AM on December 11, 2008

Best answer: I see. Unfortunately even with a Mac Server set up to be a print server, each individual workstation will need to have the printer drivers (PPDs, ICC profiles, etc.) installed on it for printing to work properly. WGM is pushing the printer out to your workstation but the printing engine is defaulting to Generic postscript PPD because the correct one is not resident locally on the Mac workstation.

Ways you can push out printer drivers remotely without having to visit every machine:

1) Invest in a copy of Apple Remote Desktop. Build a .pkg installer of your printer descriptions (when applicable; some printer driver installers don't really allow for this) and then push that .pkg out to each workstation one evening. This assumes that you've enabled ARD remote management on each machine in the Sharing preferences. What's amazing is that once you've done this--enabled ARD on each machine--you'll find all kinds of ways to update and run maintenance on your Macs using ARD Admin.

2) Depending on your environment, look into Radmind, an open source project that helps you to keep parity between workstations. Not applicable to all environments, but I've seen it deployed successfully in several SMB environments and many times in Educational envrionments

3) Re-image your Macs. Yes, I know this may not be possible, but if you are willing to "start over" you can make sure that your master image has all the drivers necessary installed...and then every workstation is imaged from the master.

There are some other tools that may be useful to you: JAMF's Caspar. LANRev. DeployStudio. But I think ARD is probably going to your best solution. The ARD cilent is installed on every Mac (it's part of the OS) and it's similar to Windows remote desktop connection that you're probably already familiar with.
posted by at 7:49 AM on December 11, 2008

>The entire issue with the Macs is while we have a lot of network printers (RJ-45) we've been using

Does this mean that the network printers are stand-alone devices that plug into and appear on the network themselves? They're not non-network USB printers that require Mac Printer Sharing to show up on the net?

For example, in my house I have an old HP LaserJet 4 [native PostScript printer] with an Rj-45 jack; it appears on the network itself and can be seen by all the machines on the network without anybody running printer sharing. I also have an Epson Stylus [USB, non-PostScript] that requires somebody [Windows/Mac/Linux] to act as the print server to make it show up on the network.

Specifically what type of printers are these?
posted by chazlarson at 9:42 AM on December 11, 2008

Response by poster: Gotcha. We have ARD and I figured we could do this that route, but I'm a Apple n00b and was hoping to do things "the easy way." Given me some ideas on how to proceed forward.

chazlarson: Actually, a couple of the printers are the HP4s, though I'm not so concerned with those right now. One of them is a massive Canon copier/printer where the issue becomes extra features like staple/sort/etc doesn't show up without installing drivers on each computer. For instance, I set up the software on the Windows for the Canon, share the printer, and my Windows machines can connect to that Windows machine and see all the printer's nifty options without installing drivers on that client. Not the case with the Apple, and hence my problem.
posted by jmd82 at 10:07 AM on December 11, 2008

Windows sharing allows you to specify which drivers will be available for networked printers. When installing the printer, you can open a menu option that allows you to check what OS types will be used, and drivers are stored as necessary. These drivers are then pushed to the clients when they connect and install the printer.

If you want a somewhat similar functionality, share a folder on the print server, and in that folder store the necessary printer drivers (wrapped as a .pkg if possible, with printer model as .pkg file name). You'll have to locate and install them manually when setting up the printer on a new computer, but at least all computers you maintain will be using the same version of the driver, from the same source.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2008

Yeah, there's not a direct Mac OS analog to that Windows feature. You'll ultimately have to install the drivers on each machine, but others have suggested ways of making that a little less painful.
posted by chazlarson at 8:53 PM on December 12, 2008

« Older Know any good mechanics?   |   Gift ideas for young girls Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.