Technology changes at a lightning-fast pace. That's means everything - whether it's PCs, software or even printing concepts - is current one day and replaced by something else the next.

For example, I recently received an email asking if Windows 7 supports printer pooling. That takes me back to the Windows NT 4.0 days all over again.

I assumed Windows 7 supports printer pooling, but I hadn't done it for years. So I decided to take some time and review printing concepts from NT 4.0 that still apply to Windows 7 - which new admins may have never come across.

Printer pools

If you click the Start orb and choose Devices and Printers in Windows 7, you'll be dazzled by the pretty icons that greet you to represent your keyboard, mouse, drives, printers and more. By contrast, NT 4 icons must look a lot like Pac-Man to new admins, but at the time they were awesome.

First of all, what is a printer pool and what are priorities?

A printer pool is designed to assist with load-balancing print jobs. Whereas you might use servers and set up printers off the server for persons working in an office or a document processing center, you might just as easily (and more cost-effectively) use a Windows 7 system with multiple printers connected to it. To enable printer pooling, you have to go into the properties of the starting print device.

Getting into printer properties involves either right-clicking the printer (that is, the 'logical printer', not the physical 'print device'; there is a difference between the two), choosing Printer Properties, and going to the Ports pane. You can also double-click a printer and click the Customise Your Printer link. Once in the Ports pane, you should see your various ports and the printers attached to those ports.

Initially only one port is selected. Select the Enable Printer Pooling check box at the bottom of the pane; this lets you add more ports and printers to the pool. Now, when a person prints to that logical printer, it will be distributed among the device pool, providing load-balancing and speeding along those print jobs.

NEXT PAGE: Priority levels

  1. Many techniques are still relevant now
  2. Priority levels

Printer pools, priority levels, paper jam recovery – we've rounded up the best retro printing tips from veteran IT admins

Priority levels

Priorities are determined by the pecking order in an office or document processing department. Let's say that two working groups - document processors and managers - print to one device. If you are a manager and print a document, you may want your document moved ahead of whatever items are being printed by document processors. Obviously, you don't want to interrupt a job that's already in progress, but you might want to jump ahead of other jobs in the queue.

To accomplish this, you need to set up two logical printers for one physical print device. (This is the 'old school' info that many modern admins don't study any more.) Understand that a logical printer is just the connection between your system and the physical print device. You install a driver for the print device and it is physically connected, but the logical connection point is the 'printer' in your Devices and Printers settings. Thus, you can configure two identical logical printers for one physical print device, then go to the properties of each to set them up differently.

While you're in the properties menu, go to the Advanced pane, which has the Priority option with a number next to it. Number 1 is the highest priority and number 99 is the lowest. Next, create two logical printers, one with the priority 1 that you call ManagerPrinter and one with the priority 99 that you call DPPrinter, and then configure the managers with permission to print to ManagerPrinter and document processors the permission to print to DPPrinter. Now you have different priorities for the same physical printer. Without people in the office really being aware, the print jobs of the managers are given a higher priority level and will move up the queue.

Resume print jobs after a paper jam

Hopefully, you don't see the same number of paper jams today as you would have 10 years ago, but when it does happen, do your people know what to do? Imagine a huge document (several hundred pages) jamming midway. Do you fix the jam, go into the printer queue, and choose Restart for that job? Doing so would waste a lot of paper. Instead, choose Resume to go back and reprint only those pages that were ruined by the jam. That is the smart way to resolve this issue, especially in the green world we are moving toward.

Ancient IT guys still have what it takes

Ask a newbie how to do TCP/IP subnetting in his head, he might not know. Ask a newbie to define the OSI model, he'll most likely Google it. Explain NTFS permissions when combined with share permissions? Ahh, the GUI generation is now understanding the frustration that the DOS admins once felt.

It's good to progress - but not without learning the basics first. Though newer admins may not be forced to study topics they wouldn't investigate otherwise, you can still find solid certification venues that are great eye-catchers on a CV. A+ and Network+ from Comptia are excellent exams that make sure newbies grasp the basic concepts. And though Windows Server exams are wildly pursued by newcomers, a solid understanding of the current desktop OS can really give you the footing for Windows Server studies.

See also: Group test: what's the best budget printer?

  1. Many techniques are still relevant now
  2. Priority levels