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Print Management Guide - Enabling printer location tracking

In network environments, most users do not need to know the physical location of files, databases, and Web sites. However, they do need to know the physical location of hardware devices such as printers, scanners, copiers, and facsimile (fax) machines. The printer location tracking feature helps users find hardware devices by storing their locations in Active Directory. When this feature is enabled, the location string is displayed automatically for each printer.

Your network environment must have the following to be able to use this feature:

A working directory service with more than one site or more than one subnet.

A network IP addressing scheme that corresponds roughly to the physical layout of your enterprise.

Client computers that can query the directory service.

A subnet object for each site. You can create them using Active Directory Sites and Services.

Administrative credentials.

If these requirements are met, you need to do the following to enable this feature:

Establish a naming convention for your organization.

To use printer location tracking, described in Enable printer location tracking, you need to set a naming convention for printers' locations using the following rules:

Location names are in the form name/name/name/name/... (The slash (/) must be the dividing character.)

A name can consist of any characters except for the slash (/).

The number of levels to a name is limited to 256.

The maximum length of name is 32 characters.

The maximum length of an entire location name is 260 characters.

Because location names are used by end users, they should be simple and easy to recognize. Avoid using special names known only to facilities management. For better readability, avoid using special characters in a name, and keep names to a maximum of 32 characters to make sure that the whole name string is visible in the user interface.


Consider an organization with multiple locations in North America and Europe. The naming scheme for the organization might be as follows:

Top level Level Level Level

Note that the tree varies in depth depending on the complexity of the organization and the amount of detail available in the IP network. The naming convention for this example includes more levels than for a smaller organization located in a single city, or a single building. The full name of the design building in Buffalo, New York is NorthAmerica/NewYork/Buffalo/Design; for the design building in Paris, the full name is Europe/Paris/Design, and the smaller office in Dallas has the name as NorthAmerica/Dallas.

Setting standards when printer location tracking is disabled

As mentioned previously, you can add information to Location in the General tab of the printer property page even if printer location tracking is disabled. However, this has the potential to make printers difficult for users to locate. When users search for printers on the tenth floor, they need to know exactly what to type in the Find Printers property page when they click Start, then Search, and then Find Printers. When printer location tracking is enabled, the Location field in the Find printer property page is filled in automatically.


Create a subnet object in the directory service.

For location tracking to work, you must have more than one subnet or site. You also need a subnet object for each subnet that a client computer might use. The naming of subnets is defined by the directory service.

To create a subnet

Open Active Directory Sites and Services.

In the console tree, right-click Subnets, and then click New Subnet.

Active Directory Sites and Services/Sites/Subnets

In Address, type the subnet address.

In Mask, type the subnet mask that describes the range of addresses included in this subnet.

Under Select a site object for this subnet, click the site to associate with this subnet, and then click OK.


To perform this procedure, you must be a member of the Domain Admins group or the Enterprise Admins group in Active Directory, or you must have been delegated the appropriate authority. As a security best practice, consider using Run as to perform this procedure.

To open Active Directory Sites and Services, click Start, click Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Active Directory Sites and Services.

Note that to set and manage the directory service site and subnet you need to use Active Directory Sites and Services.

Set the location attribute of the sites and subnets.

After you have created the site and subnet objects, you need to set the location string for each subnet. Use the Location tab of the subnet property page to set the location string. Note that the directory service site name does not have to be the same as the location name.

Enable location tracking.

You need to use Group Policy to enable location tracking.

Set the location of each printer.

Add the location for each printer in each printer's property page. You can either type the location attribute, or you can click to browse for it.

Consider adding more information about the location of the printer, such as its room number.

Test your settings.

Always test your settings by trying them on several printers, and on different print servers from different locations.

How an end user uses location tracking

Location tracking is used whenever a user queries the directory service. To start the query, click Start, click Search, and then click Find Printers. You can also open the query screen from the Add Printer Wizard while connecting to a printer connection, by clicking Find a printer in the Directory. If location tracking is enabled, the system first determines where the client computer is physically located in the organization. While this is in progress, the location field of the query form displays Checking. After the location has been determined, it is entered into Location. If the location cannot be determined, Location is left blank.

When the user clicks Find Now, Active Directory lists all printers matching the user's query that are located in the user location. Users can change the location field by clicking Browse to search for printers in other locations. For example, suppose a company is located in a building with several floors, where each floor is configured as a subnet. If a user located in the first floor fails to locate a color printer in Floor 1, then the user can change the location to Organization 1/Floor 2 or even to Organization 1 to increase the scope of the search.