Active Directory can be used to find printers in two ways. First, you can search specific fields in the Active Directory for printers with properties you want. For example, you can search the location field to find a printer that had a specific location you want, such as New York. Second, you can use Active Directory to find printers that are well-connected to you, which typically includes those printers in your subnet. Subnets are used by Active Directory to establish areas of good connectivity, which typically means areas that are physically close. Note that good connectivity does not always mean physically close, but it typically does.

Searching Active Directory Fields

When searching for printers in large environments, you might need to use a specific format to find a printer in the location you want. Specific formats can be achieved by using a standardized format for the Location attribute of each printer, or by extending Active Directory to accommodate specific location information. Because the Location field allows for approximately 250 characters, printer locations can be described in numerous ways. For example, a printer in New York City, in Building 3, on Floor 5 can take a number of formats including:

  • New York/Building 3/Floor 5

  • NYC/Bldg III/Fifth floor

  • NY/B3/F5

Understanding how printer location is formatted in Active Directory helps users to create searches that are more likely to yield useful results.

To search for printers with specific characteristics

  1. Double-click My Computer , click Search in the toolbar, and then click Printers in the Search window.

  2. Click the Features tab to search using a prepared set of criteria. Use Features to create searches for printers using a predefined set of commonly sought features.
    – Or –
    Click the Advanced tab to access advanced search options. Use Advanced to search Active Directory using Boolean operators. You can construct complex searches based on any available criteria.

  3. Enter your search criteria, and then click Find Now .

Active Directory returns a list of all printers that match your query. Note that when a printer has characteristics other than those listed in Active Directory, you can receive misleading search results.

Searching Active Directory Locations

You can search Active Directory locations, but to make this effective enable the following technologies:

  • Location tracking enabled by Group Policy for your organization.

  • A standardized location naming convention that is assigned to each site, subnet, or computer object.

  • Sites based on a subnet or subnets.

If these technologies are in place, you can quickly find printers in your location.

To search for printers using Active Directory locations

  1. Double-click My Computer , click Search in the toolbar, and then click Printers in the Search window.

  2. If your deployment uses location, your current location is automatically entered in the Location field. You can also click Browse to select an alternate location to find printers in other locations.

  3. Enter other search criteria, if you have any, and then click Find Now . Active Directory returns a list of all printers that match your query. Other search criteria you might enter can include Printer Name or Model. For more information about general searching, see Searching Active Directory Fields earlier in this chapter.

To establish a system in which your users can search for nearby printers using subnets, your deployment must have the following:

  • A directory service with more than one subnet.

  • A network IP addressing scheme that roughly matches the physical layout of your enterprise.

  • One or many subnet objects for each site. Create subnet objects and manage sites using Active Directory Sites and Services which is included with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server.

Your deployment can also use an extended schema, although in most cases, you should use location tracking rather than extend the schema. All objects in Active Directory have a base set of attributes, but this base set can be extended to accommodate the particular needs of your environment. If using an extended schema, users must construct Boolean searches using the Advanced tab in the Search dialog box. The Advanced tab provides the set of available Boolean operators and possible choices, when there is a limited set, such as when choosing the attribute of an Active Directory object on which to search.

Although using location tracking is typically an effective solution, as a last resort, administrators might extend the schema to include attributes such as Printer City, Printer Building, or Printer Floor. Early planning concerning how printer location is described in Active Directory will save you time later.

For more information about location tracking, see Searching Active Directory Locations in this chapter. For more information about setting up location tracking using sites on a Windows 2000 Server, see Windows 2000 Server Help.