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A Guide to Solving Citrix Printing Problems (Hint: There’s a Better Way)

Posted by Dustin Larsen on September 14th, 2014

Well over 300,000 organizations around the world rely on virtualization, networking and cloud solutions from Citrix. With such a massive and diverse global install base, they're clearly doing lots of things right. Many of those organizations would be lost without Citrix's powerful and scalable virtualization software like XenDesktop.

Printing in Citrix, however, remains a sore spot for server administrators. To give credit where credit's due, there's no doubt that Citrix printing has seen incremental improvements over the years as new versions of Citrix XenDesktop have been released. But that still doesn't mean that printing with Citrix is anywhere close to as easy or as straightforward as it ought to be. Even the most skilled admins still have to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to deploy printers properly and carefully monitor the print environment to maintain standard printing functionality. And for their part, end users continue to struggle with routine printing on account of default printers being habitually reset due to policy conflicts, for example, or crashes due to driver incompatibilities.

The list of Citrix printing problems you might encounter is a long one. That's because virtualization software of any kind introduces extra variables into the print environment, and each of those variables—such as basic printer compatibility with the Citrix software or how drivers are deployed in the session—spawns an almost exponential number of potential flashpoints. Yet there are some print-related problems in Citrix that are more common than others. Let's take a look at some of them as well as their causes and possible solutions:

Citrix server print spooler crashes: This is one of the most longstanding issues in Citrix print environments. Symptoms include the print spooler hanging or server CPU usage suddenly spiking – and, of course, end-user printing is impacted, prompting angry or exasperated calls to the service desk.

The go-to solution for this issue is usually to restart the print spooler using the Services Console. Sometimes that works, but occasionally the spooler will continue to be unresponsive and CPU activity (visible in the Task Manager) will continue to max out. If this is the case, a specific printer driver could be at fault. To restart the spooler successfully and avoid it hanging again, the problematic driver will need to be identified. To do so, an admin will need to hunt for the driver

that has stuck jobs associated with it. Then the driver should be removed before resuming printing.

Unfortunately, removal of the driver is rarely a perfect or permanent fix because clients still need to access the printer. Instead you can try using a different version of the driver or force the affected client machines to use the Universal Print Driver (UPD) in Citrix, which is slightly more forgiving as it is designed for maximum compatibility. Switching to the UPD where possible can clear up some of the driver clutter on the Citrix server and reduce the risk of driver conflicts, although you should first make sure that the UPD supports all the functionality your end users require from a particular model of printer.

Printing policies are ignored: Whereas print spooler crashes are a longstanding Citrix printing issue, properly configured but non-applied printing policies can be one of the most frustrating. What typically happens in this scenario is that there is a conflict with an existing group policy object (GPO) or a related Citrix policy, which then causes the intended policy to assume a secondary role and be overridden.

As anyone who's worked with GPOs and Citrix policies already knows, these assignments can be an impenetrable tangle of priority and precedence. Admins have even been known to sketch them out on paper like Venn diagrams just to make sense of which subgroup is affected by which overlapping policy.

To determine which GPO is causing the desired policy behavior to be ignored, the best course of action is to run a dedicated test server within its own organizational unit (OU). All policy inheritance should be blocked during this phase. You can then log in using a new user account and confirm that the desired policy takes effect when no others are there to override it. If so, then it's safe to begin the process of logging out and logging back into the test account – each time adding another layer of existing policy. Sooner or later you'll notice that the desired policy was ignored, at which point you will have identified the conflicting GPO.

Improper printer deployment: Printer deployment might seem like one of the most fundamental tasks in any print environment, but even today it's not without its problems in Citrix. Before you even begin deploying printers using a Citrix virtualization solution, you have to choose one of two deployment methods:

  • Auto-create printers: This redirects printers already installed on the endpoint device into the Citrix session. The larger challenge here is not deploying the printers to the Citrix server but rather deploying them to the endpoint device to begin with.
  • Session printers: Printers are initially deployed directly to the Citrix server. Here the challenge is how to get the printers installed for use within the session, whether that be a deliberate manual action on the part of the end user or automation through the use of a logon script or GPOs.

Without a solid print management solution, neither method of deployment is ideal. As noted above, GPOs can be complex and cause policy conflicts that are difficult to troubleshoot, especially in large and distributed organizations. Scripts have to be custom coded and can slow down login times considerably. And unless end users have a simple, one-click route to printer installation, the intricacies of mapping printers can test the limits of their computer skills and leave them relying on routine calls to the service desk for support.

Generally, the only solution for reliable deployments involves increased attention from the Citrix admins – either in the form of babysitting deployments on the backend or holding end users' hands on the frontend.

The single solution to Citrix printing problems: PrinterLogic

Just as Citrix solutions fulfill organizations' requirements for enterprise-level virtualization, PrinterLogic fulfills their need for reliable, robust and trouble-free printing in Citrix environments. With its powerful centralized management, its targeted deployment features that don't require scripts or GPOs, and its ability to empower end users through an intuitive self-service portal, PrinterLogic's print management software solves the most common and persistent Citrix printing issues in one package. Here's how:

  • When using auto-created printers, the PrinterLogic software client can be installed directly on the end-user workstation. Through PrinterLogic's easy-to-use deployment tools, printers can then be automatically deployed to the workstation and redirected in the session through the Citrix policy of printer auto-creation. This method leverages the UPD in Citrix, ensuring broad compatibility and maximum stability.
  • If opting for session printers, admins deploy the PrinterLogic client in the session itself. The intelligent software client is then able to gather information about the end-user workstation from the Citrix session. The correct printers are installed automatically. Because PrinterLogic establishes direct IP connections between the workstations and nearby printers, session printing allows end users to print using the full-featured native printer drivers.

PrinterLogic's next-generation print management software integrates seamlessly with Citrix environments, so it feels and functions more like a natural enhancement of Citrix printing than a third-party solution. And it's been carefully engineered, rigorously field-tested and repeatedly proven to deliver more streamlined print management, maximum printing reliability and dramatic print-related efficiencies that save time and costs in both the near and long term, thanks to reduced hardware infrastructure and less need for technical support and oversight. PrinterLogic is not only the single solution to Citrix printing problems, it's the single solution to enterprise print management.

Dustin Larsen
Dustin Larsen

Systems Engineer and Support Lead with a passion for solving IT problems. Bachelors of Computer Science from UCLA. I've been working in the industry for the last 12 years and know "in's" and "out's" of printer management.

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