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About John Schuepbach

John Schuepbach
I've been tinkering with computers since 1984 and have been working professionally in the field of IT since 2005. I love learning about new technology and always enjoy figuring out how things work. People also say that I'm a freak about detail and organization - I take that as a compliment ;). I'm commonly known as "Shuey". I'm known for my passionate obsession of all things that interest me; particularly computers, video games (like Tetris), music, art, etc.

Installing Printers in Windows with Export/Import Packages

Have you ever needed to install printers on a workstation, and you thought to yourself, “If only I could quickly copy the installed printers from another PC, it would save me so much time!”? Well, today’s your lucky day!

Microsoft has actually had a way of accomplishing this for many years (a separate utility named “Print Migrator”, which has since been retired), but it wasn’t until Windows 7 was released that they finally baked it right into the OS with the “Print Management” tool.

Today I’ll be showing you how to leverage this handy tool to quickly and easily copy printers from one PC to another by bundling all installed printers into an export package that can be copied to another PC, and then imported.

As I said before, all of this functionality is built right into Windows 7 and beyond, so there’s no need for third-party tools or extra utilities that would need to be downloaded.

NOTE:  It’s assumed that you have administrative access to the target and source workstations that you’ll be exporting and importing printers from/to.

There are multiple methods of exporting and importing printers from one PC to another: You would either do all the work from the target PC, from the source PC, or from a non-related management workstation (directly via physical access, or via remote access using VNC, RDP, etc). No matter which method you choose, the steps are relatively all the same: Verify a source workstation’s printers, export those printers as a single package file, and then import the package on a target PC.

In my example, I’ll be working through the process from a combination of these methods (And in case you’re curious, in my environment I use VNC to remotely access each of my workstations). I’ll first access the source PC (a PC named “LSL-SPARE“) to export the printers and copy the package to the target workstation. Then I’ll access the target PC to import the printer package (a PC named “CP-SPARE“). The reason I’ll be doing it this way is because it’s not uncommon for administrators to run into issues when trying to do all the work from a single PC (because the export or import process fails to complete successfully, due to various things like remote access permissions, applied group policies, etc).

OK, let’s get started!

1. Launch Print Management & Verify Source Printers

The first thing you need to do is launch the Print Management tool and verify the source printers. You can access Print Management either by searching for it from the Start menu, or by navigating to it in the Administrative Tools menu. Refer to Figure 1a and 1b below:

Figure 1a: Print Management via searching from Start menu

Figure 1b: Print Management via Administrative Tools menu

NOTE:  If you’re prompted by UAC, click “Yes”. Refer to Figure 2 below:

Figure 2: UAC prompt

Once you have Print Management open, you can verify the source printers. Expand the “Print Servers” menu and you will see your source server  listed. It will say “local” next to it because it’s not a “remote” server; it’s essentially your “local print server”. Expand the local server menu (“LSL-SPARE” in my example), then click on “Printers”. You’ll see your printers (and all related details) listed in the right pane. Refer to Figure 3 below:

Figure 3: Source workstation printers list

NOTE:  In my example, there are only two printers listed. But I think it’s easy for you to see where this export/import feature can come in handy (especially when you have a workstation that has 3 or more printers, because it saves you from having to install each one one-at-a-time).

2. Export Source Printers to a File

Now let’s export the printers from the source workstation. Click on “Printer Servers” in the left navigation pane, then right-click on your local server (“LSL-SPARE” in my example), and choose “Export printers to a file”. Refer to Figure 4a below:

Figure 4a: Export printers to a file

A “Printer Migration” window opens; click the “Browse” button. Refer to Figure 4b below:

Figure 4b: Browse to a file location

A “Select the printer migration file to use” window will open. From “Favorites” in the left navigation pane, or from the location bar at the top, select “Desktop”, give the file a name (“LSL-SPARE” in my example), then click the “Save” button. Refer to Figure 4c below:

Figure 4c: Name the printer migration file

You’ll be returned to your “Printer Migration” window, and you should see your filename and location listed in the “Export printer data to” box; click “Next”. Refer to Figure 4d below:

Figure 4d: Filename and location selected

The “Printer Migration” window will display a summary of the list of items to be exported; click “Next”. Refer to Figure 4e below:

Figure 4e: List of items to be exported

When the process has completed successfully, you will see a message indicating the “Operation completed with no errors”. Refer to Figure 4f below:

Figure 4f: Export complete

NOTE:  I’ve never seen the export process fail when doing it directly  from the source workstation (as in my example).

3. Copy Export Package from Source to Target

There are multiple methods that can be used to copy the file from the source workstation to the target workstation (file share, external thumb drive, etc). In our example, I’m leveraging the default hidden share for the C:\ drive on the remote workstation. This is done by opening Windows Explorer and typing the following text into the location bar and pressing the Enter key on the keyboard (substitute “<target_hostname>” with your appropriate target hostname; “CP-SPARE” in my example):

\\<target_hostname>\c$

Refer to Figure 5a below:

Figure 5a: Navigate to remote target host

Once you’ve successfully connected to the remote target host, drill down to “Users\Public\Public Downloads”. From there, you can copy (or move) the export package from your desktop (simply drag and drop the file from your desktop to the Public Downloads folder on the remote host). Refer to Figure 5b below:

Figure 5b: Copy the export package to the remote host

4. Import Source Printers from a File

Now you’ll access your target PC and again launch the Print Management tool. Once you have the Print Management tool open, click on “Print Servers” in the left navigation pane, then right-click on your local server (“CP-SPARE” in my example), and choose “Import printers from a file”. Refer to Figure 6a below:

Figure 6a: Import printers from a file

A “Printer Migration” windows opens; click the “Browse” button. Refer to Figure 6b below:

Figure 6b: Browse to a file location

A “Select the printer migration file to use” window will open. Navigate to “C:\Users\Public\Public Downloads” (the location where you copied the export package in step 3), select the file (“LSL-SPARE.printerExport” in my example), then click the “Open” button. Refer to Figure 6c below:

Figure 6c: Select your previously saved export package

You’ll be returned to your “Printer Migration” window, and you should see your filename and location listed in the “Select the file that contains the printer data to import” box; click “Next”. Refer to Figure 6d below:

Figure 6d: Filename selected

The “Printer Migration” window will display a summary of the list of items to be imported; click “Next”. Refer to Figure 6e below:

Figure 6e: List of items to be imported

Now you’ll have a couple of extra options to choose from. In the many times that I’ve done printer migrations, I generally choose “Keep existing printers” and “List printers that were previously listed”. Choose according to your deployment scenario, then click “Next”. Refer to Figure 6f below:

Figure 6f: Select import options

When the process has completed successfully, you will see a message indicating the “Operation completed with no errors”. Refer to Figure 6g below:

Figure 6g: Import complete

NOTE:  If the import wizard has any problems during the import process, associated error messages will be displayed and events will be logged. Refer to Figure 6h, 6i and 6j below:

Figure 6h: Failed to restore printer driver

Figure 6i: Failed to restore print queue

Figure 6j: Errors encountered

5. Summary

As you’ve hopefully learned from this article, exporting and importing printers using the Print Management tool is a fairly simple and straight forward process. While printer migrations don’t always  “go off without a hitch”, this method of deploying printers can still save a lot of time!

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