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High Availability Printing Overview


Applies To: Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012

This topic introduces the High Availability Printing feature in Windows Server 2012 and describes how it can make your print servers highly available using Hyper-V virtual machines running as nodes in a cluster.

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Feature description

High Availability Printing, or HA Printing, is the combination of Microsoft Failover Clustering technologies and Hyper-V technologies deployed to make a Windows Server 2012 Print Server highly available.

A server cluster is a group of independent servers working collectively and running the Microsoft Failover Clustering feature. Server clusters provide high availability, failback, scalability, and manageability for resources and applications.

High Availability Printing Architecture

Practical applications

Using server clusters allows client access to the print services in the event of failures and planned outages. If one of the servers in the cluster is unavailable because of a failure or maintenance requirements, print services move to other available cluster nodes.

Important functionality

In contrast to previous versions of Windows Server, Windows Server 2012 defines a highly available print server as a Hyper-V virtual machine running on a node in a cluster. A single virtual machine with the Print Server role installed can then be migrated from one node in the Hyper-V cluster to the other using either manual or automatic methods.

In Windows Server 2012, the print spooler service is no longer a clustered resource and instead the entire virtual machine is migrated from one Hyper-V node to the other. This new model provides the same seamless user experience as previous versions of Windows but with the following added benefits:

  • Windows Server 2012 Print Servers can utilize the Live Migration and Quick Migration features of Hyper-V.

  • Using Windows Server 2012 as the Hyper-V and failover clustering host allows access to the new Virtual Machine Monitoring feature. For more information, see Virtual machine application monitoring and management, and How to configure VM Monitoring in Windows Server 2012 on MSDN.

  • Windows Server 2012 Highly Available Print Servers are easier to deploy and have reduced complexity.

  • An HA Print Server can now be deployed on Server Core installations of Windows.

  • Problems with print devices and drivers that were not designed to work in a server cluster environment are now greatly reduced, if not completely eliminated.

  • Backup, restore, and migration of Highly Available Print Servers is greatly simplified.

    As previously described, Windows Server 2012 defines a highly available print server as a virtual machine running on a clustered server running Hyper-V. A single virtual machine with the Print Server role installed can then be migrated from one cluster node to the other using either manual or automatic methods.

  • Drivers do not need to be replicated from one physical node to the other. Only one copy of a driver needs to be installed on the virtual machine.

  • Driver compatibility problems on failover clusters are eliminated. No additional driver code is needed to support a clustered print spooler.

  • Backup and restore of a print server configuration is greatly simplified as the backup/restore solution no longer needs to be aware of a clustered print server.

  • Scripting solutions using WMI no longer need to be modified in order to function on a clustered print server.

  • Servicing of printer drivers is simplified as it is no longer necessary to store driver files in a non-default path.

  • Cluster specific code in the print spooler process is no longer necessary.

  • Running as a virtual machine allows an administrator to take advantage of the Virtual Machine Monitoring feature in Windows Server 2012 and have greater flexibility and control over recovery actions.


When you deploy the new High Availability Printing feature, you could experience downtimes in the following situations: A virtual machine is restarting from Virtual Machine Monitoring. Most likely this will only be only a few minutes. A virtual machine needs to be updated which requires a restart.

Hardware requirements

To deploy High Availability printing, you must have a computer capable of running Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012. For more information, see Hyper-V overview.

Software requirements

A functioning Hyper-V cluster with at least two nodes is required in order to deploy High Availability Printing with Windows Server 2012.

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering requires that each cluster node is joined to an Active Directory domain. Although not recommended, a Windows Server 2012 server with the Failover Clustering feature enabled can also act as a domain controller.

To install, configure, and manage Microsoft Failover Clusters and servers running Hyper-V, a user must be an administrator or a member of the local administrators group on each node.

See also

For more information related to High Availability Printing, see the following topics:

Content type



Install and Configure High Availability Printing

Related technologies

Print and Document Services Overview | Failover Clustering Overview | Hyper-V overview | VM Monitoring in Windows Server 2012 – Frequently Asked Questions