Have you ever printed a document to a printer at work, when you’re actually at home and happened to be connected on the VPN? You hope that you make it to work early the next day to get your tax return from the printer before someone else picks it up.

Or perhaps you’re not connected to the VPN and the job just queues up, only to be printed to that network printer the next time you’re in the office?

It’s burdensome to have to remember to switch your default printer every time you change locations. One of the new features in Windows 7 resolves this by giving the user the ability to assign a default printer based on network location.

To get started, go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Devices and Printers > click on a printer so it is highlighted > Manage Default Printers will appear on the menu.

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On my home network, which I named ‘Cat3’, my Windows 7 system will use my Brother MFC-255CW Printer (a great wireless printer BTW).

And when I connect back at the office, my default printer changes to ‘Bigfish’ (The printer name derives from our naming convention from the 1990’s, based on marine wildlife. In one incarnation of this printer name, Bigfish was a massive 5 ton HP 5000 series printer =)

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Deploying Printers based on Location

So let’s step it up a notch. What if you want to have printers automatically install based on your location? This feature is possible with one of the new group policy settings in Windows 7. It couldn’t be easier to set up, either.

The concept is this – create a separate group policy object and tie it to each site. For example at Catapult, I have a GPO in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Tampa.

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Create a new GPO and browse to user configuration > policies > windows settings > Deployed Printers. Right click and select Deploy Printer.

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Add the UNC path, ex: \\server\printername

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The status should change to ‘Deployed.’

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There are two optional settings that I recommend.

‘Extend Point and Print connection to search Windows Update’ = [Enabled] and ‘Point and Print Restrictions’ = [Disabled].  The combination of these two settings make it easier to deploy printers via GPO.

Printer Blog

Extend Point and Print connection to search Windows Update (Set it to Enabled)

This policy setting allows you to manage where client computers search for Point and Printer drivers.

If you enable this policy setting, the client computer will continue to search for compatible Point and Print drivers from Windows Update after it fails to find the compatible driver from the local driver store and the server driver cache.

Point and Print Restrictions (Set it to Disabled)

This policy setting controls the client Point and Print behavior, including the security prompts for UAC. The policy setting applies only to non-Print Administrator clients, and only to computers that are members of a domain.

When the policy setting is disabled:
-Windows Vista/Win7 client computers can create a printer connection to any server using Point and Print.
-Windows Vista/Win7 computers will not show a warning or an elevated command prompt when users create a printer connection to any server using Point and Print.
-Windows Vista/Win7 computers will not show a warning or an elevated command prompt when an existing printer connection driver needs to be updated.
-Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP client computers can create a printer connection to any server using Point and Print.

Use 64-bit Print Servers

If you have 64-bit users on your network, you’ll want to have a 64-bit print server so that you can host 64-bit print drivers. A 64-bit print server can host both 32 and 64 bit drivers, but a 32-bit print server can only host 32-bit drivers.