Printing problems are some of the most common issues that IT staff encounter. One product that many systems/network administrators have trouble dealing with is a JetDirect print server. In this article, I’ll explain how to troubleshoot a JetDirect print server.
Typically, JetDirect problems fall into one of three categories: problems communicating with the printer, network connectivity problems, and JetDirect client problems. I’ll focus on these three areas.
Status light shortcut
Here’s a shortcut that you may be able to use to quickly determine the nature of your printing problem. If you have an external JetDirect print server, you’ve probably noticed that the print server has a Status and an Activity light. You can sometimes tell immediately from these lights what is wrong with the printer:
- If both lights are off, the JetDirect box isn’t receiving power.
- If the Status light is on, but the Activity light is off, no LAN activity is detected. This could be related to a bad network connection.
- If the Status light is on and the Activity light is blinking, the JetDirect box is receiving power and is able to detect network traffic.
- If the Status light is off, but the Activity light is on, the unit has a serious problem. This light code indicates that a critical failure has occurred during a self-test operation.
- If the Status light is flashing and the Activity light is off, the unit is either in the middle of a self-test, isn’t configured, or isn’t able to attach to the network.
- Finally, if both lights are on (solid), the unit is congested by extremely high volumes of network traffic.
Printer communication problems
It’s easy to test for communication problems between the JetDirect box and the printer itself. Begin by verifying that both the JetDirect print server and the printer are getting power. Next, run a self-test on the printer. If the test page prints, then the printer is probably not the problem. Unplug both the JetDirect box and the printer. Remove the printer cable from the JetDirect box and put the cable onto a laptop computer. Now, try to print directly from the laptop to the printer. If you’re able to print from the laptop, it means that both the printer and the printer cable are good. If this test fails, make sure that the printer cable is tight at both ends and try the test again. If the test still fails, try another printer cable. If you’re now able to print, the printer cable was the problem. If the test still fails, your printer has something physically wrong with it.
If the laptop test succeeds, unplug the printer and the JetDirect box and reattach the printer cable to the JetDirect box. After plugging everything back in, try sending a print job in the usual manner. If the print test fails, press the test button on the JetDirect box. This should send a test page directly to the printer. If this test page prints, then the communications between the printer and the JetDirect box are good. If the test fails, there’s most likely a problem with the printer port on the JetDirect box. If you have a multiport model, try repeating the test on each port to see what happens.
Network connectivity problems
The second most common cause of JetDirect problems is a network communications problem. You can configure a JetDirect box to work on a network in many ways. Because TCP/IP is the most popular communications protocol, I’ll assume that you’re using TCP/IP as the communications protocol.
The first step in diagnosing a network problem is to look at the test page that you generated from the JetDirect box earlier. Somewhere on the test page (usually on the second sheet), you’ll find the JetDirect box’s IP address. The default IP address is 126.96.36.199. If this is the address that’s showing up on the test page, it means that the JetDirect box isn’t configured properly.
Under normal circumstances, a JetDirect box receives its IP address from a DHCP server. If the JetDirect box hasn’t been assigned an IP address, it could be because of any of the following reasons:
- The DHCP server has leased all available IP addresses.
- The DHCP server is in a different subnet than the print server.
- The DHCP services have stopped.
- The DHCP server was never authorized to participate in Active Directory.
- A communications link has been broken.
Let’s assume that the JetDirect box has successfully received an IP address but still isn’t working correctly. The next step in the process is to open an MS-DOS Prompt window and try pinging the print server’s IP address. The ping will send out four packets of data, each of which should be met with a reply. If all four pings are returned with a request-timed-out message, the system you’re using is unable to communicate with the JetDirect box. Usually, this is due to a physical network problem, such as a shorted-out network cable.
If you suspect a physical network problem, try plugging a laptop into the network cable that usually services the JetDirect box. If you’re able to log on using the laptop, the network connection is good. Otherwise, you probably have a cable problem somewhere along the way.
If your ping is met with a destination-host-unreachable message, TCP/IP is configured incorrectly on your workstation. One common cause of this error is that networks using proxy servers assume that all packets are intended for the outside world, unless the packet’s destination address appears in the local address table. If you use a proxy server (or an ISA Server), make sure that the print server’s IP address is included in the server’s local address table.
More on Proxy Server
For more information on configuring a proxy server, see my Daily Drill Down ”Planning an effective Proxy Server configuration.”
Another common problem is that the JetAdmin software that makes your network recognize the printer may be malfunctioning. Typically, on client server networks, the JetAdmin software is used to associate the printer serviced by the JetDirect box with a print queue on a server. If the JetAdmin software malfunctions, this association can be broken.
To check for this condition, try printing to the printer directly from the server that hosts the print queue. If this server is unable to print, you likely have a JetAdmin problem.
To solve this problem, download the latest copy of the JetAdmin software. You must be careful when downloading the software because there are four different versions. One version is for Windows NT, one is for 2000, another version is for Red Hat Linux 7.1, and the final version is for SuSE Linux 7.1. Install the software and let it redetect your print server. Try to print directly from the server that’s hosting the print queue. You should be able to print this time.
Client-side printing problems can be the most difficult to spot because the clients can be configured in so many different ways. In general, though, a client-side problem is a situation in which the link between the JetDirect box and the print queue is fine, but a problem exists somewhere between the client’s workstation and the print queue.
Client-side problems aren’t very common in peer-to-peer networks because, in a peer-to-peer network, each client usually runs a copy of the JetAdmin software and communicates directly with the JetDirect box. In such environments, client configuration problems are unlikely because there’s no single point of failure. Every client has its own copy of JetAdmin, so there’s no centralized copy of JetAdmin and no central print queue that can fail. Keep in mind that this isn’t the case for all peer-to-peer networks. It’s still possible for clients to attach to the printer through a central point, just as they would in a client-server model.
Client-server networks are a different story. Typically, each client attaches to a central print queue that’s linked through the JetAdmin software to a JetDirect box. If you suspect a client-side failure in a client-server environment, first check to see whether the problem affects everyone or just a handful of users.
If the problem affects everyone and you’ve already tried reinstalling the JetAdmin software on the server and letting it redetect the JetDirect box, you most likely have a corrupt print queue. Dealing with a corrupt print queue is easy. All you have to do is go to the server and delete the queue. Then, rerun JetAdmin and let it redetect your printer. When JetAdmin asks if you want to share the printer, choose Yes. Just make sure to assign the printer the same share name that it had before or you’ll have to relink every single client to the printer by making them aware of the printer’s new share name.
If the printing problem affects only one person or a few people, you can probably rule out a print queue or a JetAdmin problem. The problem is most likely caused by a driver on the user’s workstation or a bad link to the print queue. Try deleting the reference to the print queue from the workstation and reconnecting the printer to the server that’s hosting the print queue. During the process, Windows will usually ask whether you want to keep the existing copy of the print driver or install a new copy. Select the option to install a new copy of the driver just in case the driver file is corrupt.
The JetDirect printer is a very popular printer, with reason: It's reliable and fairly trouble-free. In those instances when you have to troubleshoot the network printer, you now know where to start.
For more information on the JetDirect line of printers, see Hewlett-Packard’s print server support page.