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Remove Ghost Printers: Windows Server 2012 R2

Posted by Chris Summerhays on June 7th, 2017

There's something scary out there haunting the enterprise: ghost printers. This is the term for a deleted printer that keeps reappearing even though you've tried all the customary methods to remove it. And, like ghosts, their presence can range from harmless annoyances to malicious poltergeists that cause havoc across the print environment.

So what do you do when a printer cannot be removed because access is denied in Server 2012 R2? Or when a ghost printer persists even after multiple server reboots? Below are some (hopefully) handy tips:

Empty the spooler folder: When a deleted printer keeps reappearing, it could be because there are still jobs associated with that printer are still in the spooler and can't be flushed. In Server 2012 R2 and previous versions, you'll want to check the following path: C:\WINDOWS\system32\spool\PRINTERS. There you'll see spool files with .shd and .shl extensions. Delete all of the files it contains, then restart the spooler service.

Delete the driver: On rare occasions, a driver will be associated with a particular printing device and cause it to persist. In the event that a printer cannot be removed because access is denied in Server 2012 R2, try deleting the driver. This can cause a lot of problems if other clients are still using that driver, so be sure to do it during a quiet period. Reboot the server and see if the ghost printer is gone. If so, you can safely reinstall the driver. Try upgrading to a newer version if the previous one was outdated.

Play the printer spooler game: Sometimes removing the printer can require a little added dexterity on your part. Some admins have reported that they have had to stop the spooler, then start it, and then immediately attempt to delete the printer via the Print Management console before the spooler has finished starting. It might take a few tries.

Check for stray registry keys and redirects: If you're finding that a ghost printer cannot be removed because access is denied in Server 2012 R2, there's a chance that it is still in the registry. Lingering registry keys can prevent a printer from being deleted. To remove a printer from the registry in Windows Server 2012 R2, try scanning the registry keys and running a repair process with a software tool.

Last resort: Should the ghost printers only appear in Devices and Printers and not Print Management, and if you've already tried the steps above, there's one more potential fix for a deleted printer that keeps reappearing. Try booting to your Server 2012 R2 recovery disk and emptying the print spooler folder as well as all registry references to the printers. With any luck, this will remove the printer from the registry in Windows Server 2012 R2 once and for all.

Frustrated yet? Unfortunately, hit-and-miss troubleshooting steps like these aren't limited to ghost printers and finding out why, for example, a printer cannot be removed because access is denied in Server 2012 R2. These steps are typical of routine print server administration, no matter what OS version you're running—whether it's driver deployments, printer installations, maintaining print queues or even just managing printer profiles.

With PrinterLogic's next-generation print management solution, you can eliminate your print servers and replace them all with robust, infinitely scalable enterprise-grade software that runs on a single on-premise server and provides full-featured printing to your entire organization using the existing print infrastructure. PrinterLogic's intuitive centralized management and direct IP backbone mean that there are no registry keys to struggle with, no spooler crashes, no rogue drivers, no group policy objects (GPOs) and scripts, and certainly no deleted printers that keep reappearing.

By implementing PrinterLogic, you also get seamless integration with virtual environments, an acclaimed self-service installation portal for end users, and enterprise-wide centralized management from a single pane of glass.

Oh, and don't forget peace of mind. Why? Because we ain't afraid of no ghost printers.

Chris Summerhays
Chris Summerhays
Before becoming PrinterLogic's Technical Marketing Engineer, I spent more than two years as as a Systems Engineer and Sales Engineer working side by side with IT professionals to eliminate print servers from their environment. I have a Bachelors in Information Technology and love learning about all of the new and innovating solutions that continue to revolutionize the IT industry.

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