There may be many reasons why printing in your organization or department is slow. One of these is that Windows print servers are processing print jobs inefficiently. Below is a list with ways to speed up the print servers if that is the case.

Finding the print server bottleneck

First, we need to find what causes the print server to be slow. For example, is it the processor? Is it the memory? Is it some invisible service in the background eating up the resources? What actually happens when users print?

One way to measure is to use the built in task manager in Windows, and see what happens when the printers are idle compared to when somebody prints, and when multiple people print at the same time.

Speeding up slow print servers

1. Adjust Windows print server configurations

There is an option in Windows Server 2012 which is called “print spooled documents first”. This should be set to “yes” if the print server serves multiple clients.

If this is set to “no”, a small job that has finished spooling but was submitted after a large job, which has not finished spooling, will sit there and wait for the large job. Even if the printer is idle.

This and other options that can be tweaked are listed in Microsoft Technet’s library.

2. Use dedicated disk drives for spooling

With multiple jobs sent to the Windows print spool server simultaneously, the disk drive writes and deletes data very frequently. This process can cause a bottleneck.

To optimize the performance, use a dedicated disk drive for spooling. Microsoft themselves in their Technet Library recommend that the physical disk drive for storing spooler files should be different than the physical disk drive used by the operating system for the paging file or the operating system files.

3. Increase print server hard disk space

Another cause might be that the disk drive is simply not large enough. Print jobs typically grow multiple times in size when they are rendered, so this problem can occur when multiple print jobs are submitted for spooling simultaneously. Therefore, make sure that the hard disk isn't too small.

4. Use dedicated print servers

Using dedicated print servers can make it easier to maintain the print servers so that if they are clogged up, they will not interfere with other important applications. Also, the print server performance won’t suffer when other applications use up the resources.

5. Close open connections

Sometimes when clients connect to print servers, their connections remain active for a very long time, and each open connection eats up resources.

Use the windows server management functionality to see the open connections and close them. If the server is repeatedly swamped with connections that stay open for days, this is likely due to applications on the clients not behaving properly. Depending on the severity of the problem, this is potentially something that should be discussed with the manufacturer of the product. More information on connection limits in Windows is available here.

6. Use fewer printer drivers and clear monitoring software

There are two disadvantages of using many printer drivers in Windows. One is that the more numerous the drivers, the more resources will be eaten up. Secondly, many printer drivers leave monitoring services behind when uninstalled, which can also drain resources.

To prevent this, standardize which drivers are used, use universal printer drivers as much as possible, or use our software which manages printer drivers centrally without installing them on any print servers.

7. Increase the processor speed

Finally, the processor itself may become a bottleneck during heavy printing hours.

Ensure that the conversion from EMF to PostScript/PCL is made on the client, rather than on the Windows print server (this is default on newer client operating systems). If problems still persist, it could simply be a matter of using more powerful hardware.

Alternative solutions to slow print servers

In some cases, quick fixes to speed up print servers won't be enough, because there will simply be too much printing for the print servers to handle. In that case, you have two options:

  • Increase the number of servers (alternatively procure more powerful hardware).
  • Network your printers without print servers.

There are solutions in the market today that can remove all the print server load and still give you full control, even in remote sites. 

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