MDT

Deploying Windows 7 Printers (really, really easy way) with GPO’s

So we spent days trying to figure out how to get the right printers to the Windows 7 machines.  In XP we utilized a script that ran at login, however that required a window that popped up and stayed up for 30 seconds or so for every user. This script was managed through Ghost, and since we are trying to avoid using Ghost we spent days figuring out how to get GPO’s to do the printer pushes.  Hopefully if you are trying to do the same we can cut down your research time.

We combed the web, we tried multiple approaches, scripts, GPO’s, scripts pushed through GPO’s.  When we tried pushing multiple printers through the Printers option (inside of Both Computer & User Preferences -> Control Panel Settings -> Printers) we had a very strange effect.  Only three printers were being displayed, but if you refreshed the Devices & Printers window a new set of three would show.  We were about to give up when I went back to the GPO’s.

Suffering from slight memory loss I couldn’t remember where the GPO’s we used were.  So I just started from the top and went opened each of the folders to find the “Printers”.  Low and behold I found a different option, “Deployed Printers”.  So I opened it up, thinking that this was the location, but it wasn’t.  So I went and found the original “Printers” and disabled the printers and headed back to my new friend, “Deployed Printers”.

If you have dealt with the “Printers” section of GPO’s, then you know it can be a hassle.  However, the “Deployed Printers” were just the opposite.  You put the server and printer queue name in and whala!  This supports multiple printers, and is super fast.

My coworkers & myself must have seen the “Deployed Printers” under the Comp/User Policies -> Windows Settings at least 100 times, but never realized it’s potential.  We were focusing a bit to much on what Google said rather than just getting down and dirty with the program (Group Policy Management Editor) like we used to before the days of Google.  Being able to get information through Google is essential for IT work, but nothing beats getting your hands dirty.

After creating 30+ new OU’s and GPO’s (which we planned on doing before this) we are now ready to start pushing out the printers from our AD/PaperCut print server to our Windows 7 machines.  The printers come in quicker than they did with any other method we tried, and removal of printers is as easy as removing the printer setting from the GPO.

There is one downside, you can not set the default printer from this window.  However, since the majority of the work is done (getting the printers properly deployed to the workstations), we decided to delay re-visiting the default printers, as it’s priority was lower.

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Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, how Microsoft almost got it right.

Anyone who is deploying Windows 7 to the Enterprise should already be familiar with Microsoft’s Deployment Toolkit (MDT).  It is a great tool and so much easier than what used to be around.  There are other alternatives, however if you are already running a Microsoft Server this is a free option.

Coming from a Mac background there is still much to be desired, but Microsoft has done a good job in getting closer to what can work.  Here are a few things that Microsoft could/should change to make using MDT more useful (and things for you to watch out for when using MDT).

  1. Copying workflows, you can’t.
    • The workflows have unique ID’s.  If you copy one you are just making a reference to the original.  Modify one of them and the other gets modified as well.  Create a new workflow and copy the Task Sequence if you want a new workflow to follow the original.
  2. Active Directory binding to OU group naming
    • The AD binding feature of MDT is a great tool.  However, without hacking the MDT you are limited to seeing only the full path of the OU you are putting the computer into.  Make sure the last OU is named something that you can easily identify.
  3. You can’t move the order of your Applications.
    • There are tools to re-organize your application packages once you’ve uploaded them, but nothing native to MDT.  Things change, orders should be able to be changed as well.  This feature makes it seem like the developers never used it to modify complex workflows.
  4. The OS specific options can not be altered without a separate deployment.
    • There are some options that are set for the entire deployment, and some that are set on the individual task sequence.  It would be so useful to be able to alter some of the deployment options based on Task Sequence selected, not the deployment share it resides on.

While these are just some of the annoyances of MDT, it does the job well enough to consider it, especially for it’s price.  It’s driver injection & easily modified application installation scripts make it a useful tool to for your IT toolbox.

Till next time.