Debian Linux and Windows Shared Printing mini-HOWTO

Posted on 4:26 PM by Bharathvn


Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. Getting Started
2.1. Linux Printing Components
2.2. Required Packages
2.3. CUPS Local Printer Configuration
2.4. Linux Printing Basics

3. Printing To Windows PCs
3.1. Connecting To Windows
3.2. CUPS Configuration

4. Sharing Printers With Windows PCs
4.1. Sharing Basics
4.2. Samba Configuration
4.3. CUPS Configuration

5. Troubleshooting
5.1. Failing To Connect To Windows Printers
5.2. Other Failures

6. License

1. Introduction

Debian GNU/Linux ([] is the
premier volunteer-supported Linux distribution. Unfortunately, setting up
printers in Debian can be difficult. Also, simple step-by-step instructions
for sharing printers between Windows and Linux using the latest tools are
hard to find. This HOWTO was written to address both problems.

This HOWTO will demonstrate how to use command-line tools to configure your
Debian system for printing. It will explain how to send documents from Linux
to Windows printers and how to share Linux printers with Windows PCs. Some
troubleshooting examples are also given.

The primary url for this document is [
linux_windows_printing.html. The source Docbook/XML and EPS files for this
document may be downloaded from [] http:// Please forward bug reports, corrections and suggestions
regarding this document to ian at excess dot org.

2. Getting Started

2.1. Linux Printing Components

The main components we will be using include:


The Common UNIX Printing System ([] http:// is a print spooler and a set of support programs for using
and administering printers.

* Samba

Samba ([] is software that
allows non-Windows computers to act like Windows computers on a network
by implementing Windows file and printer sharing protocols.

* Printer Drivers ([] http:// offers the largest number of printer drivers and
maintains a database of printers supported under Linux. You must download
a printer driver for each model of printer you want to use in Linux. A
printer driver consists of a PPD file and a filter program, or only a PPD
file for PostScript printers.

2.2. Required Packages

All of the required programs and libraries are part of the standard Debian
archive. You may download and install these packages with the usual Debian
packaging tools. The following is a list of packages you need:

CUPS server

CUPS BSD commands

CUPS client programs

foomatic-bin printer support programs

Samba SMB/CIFS server for UNIX

Samba SMB/CIFS client for UNIX

ESP Ghostscript ([] http://

Not available as a Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 (a.k.a. woody) package, use "gs"

GNU A2PS ([]

The following commands will install these packages. You will have to become
root or use sudo to execute these commands:

apt-get update
apt-get install cupsys cupsys-bsd cupsys-client foomatic-bin samba smbclient gs-esp a2ps

Additional packages may be required for specific printers. For example, the
hpijs package must be installed for many HP InkJet, DeskJet and LaserJet
printers to function properly. The PPD files for these printers are
identified by the string hpijs in their filenames.

2.3. CUPS Local Printer Configuration

The lpadmin command is used to configure printers. The following is an
example of setting up a laser printer with CUPS. You will have to become root
or use sudo to execute these commands:
/usr/sbin/lpadmin -p Laser -v parallel:/dev/lp0 -P /root/laser.ppd
/usr/bin/enable Laser
/usr/sbin/accept Laser
/usr/sbin/lpadmin -d Laser

Please note that bash has a builtin command called enable, so bash users
must use the full path (/usr/bin/enable) to enable printers.

The first command creates a new printer called "Laser" that is connected to
the first parallel port and is using the PPD file /root/laser.ppd. "Laser" is
then enabled and told to accept jobs with the enable and accept commands. The
last command sets "Laser" as the default printer.

If your printer is connected to a USB port or if you do not know the correct
device-uri for your printer try running /usr/sbin/lpinfo -v to get a list of
available printer devices.

Make sure your printer's page size and other options are set correctly by
running /usr/bin/lpoptions -l. More detailed information about printer
configuration is available in the CUPS documentation.

2.4. Linux Printing Basics

Figure 1. Printing Locally


Documents are spooled by using either lpr or lp followed by the file name.
You may view the printer queue and check the printer status with the command
lpstat -o or lpstat -p. To cancel a print job use either cancel or lprm
followed by the job id.

The CUPS spooler daemon is called cupsd. It converts documents to
PostScript, then converts them to a format native to the printer Figure 1.
Printers that do not understand PostScript use a rasterized, or bitmap,
format for documents. Rasterized formats can be much larger than the original
PostScript, and will take longer to send to the printer.

Filters are programs used to convert documents from one format to another.
The CUPS spooler will do its best to find a suitable filter for the documents
you send. If no filter suitable for converting your document is installed you
will receive an error similar to lpr: unable to print file:

Many applications do not include filters for their documents formats.
Documents created with these applications can only be printed from within the
application itself, unless the document is exported to PostScript or another
standard format.

3. Printing To Windows PCs

3.1. Connecting To Windows

Figure 2. Network Printing


SMB and CIFS are the Windows file and printer sharing protocols. We use
Samba to speak to the Windows PCs using these protocols. Before configuring
CUPS we should make sure we can connect to the Windows PC with smbclient, the
Samba SMB/CIFS client Figure 2.

The following is an example of creating a connection to a Windows PC:
/usr/bin/smbclient -L rice -U fred

added interface ip= bcast= nmask=
Got a positive name query response from ( )
Password: (not shown)

Sharename Type Comment
INKJET Printer
IPC$ IPC Remote Inter Process Communication

The command shown asks for a list of shares on a Windows PC named "rice",
with the user id "fred". The result shows a printer named "INKJET".

If Windows naming service is unavailable you will need to specify the IP
address of the Windows PC with the -I switch as in:
/usr/bin/smbclient -I -L rice -N

For more information see the Samba documentation about smbclient usage.

3.2. CUPS Configuration

Once you have found a Windows printer you may configure CUPS. First verify
that your installation of CUPS has the smb backend with the following
ls -l /usr/lib/cups/backend/smb

If this file does not exist create it by issuing the following:
ln -s `which smbspool` /usr/lib/cups/backend/smb

The following is an example of setting up the printer shown above. You will
have to become root or use sudo to execute these commands:
/usr/sbin/lpadmin -p RicePrinter -v smb://fred:mypass@rice/INKJET -P /root/inkjet.ppd
/usr/bin/enable RicePrinter
/usr/sbin/accept RicePrinter
/usr/sbin/lpadmin -d RicePrinter

As mentioned above, bash has a builtin command called enable, so bash users
must use the full path (/usr/bin/enable) to enable printers.

The "lpadmin" command sets up a the shared Windows printer by giving the
username, password, netbios name and printer name as a single parameter. See
Section 2.3 for a further explanation of the commands above.

Your printer is now ready to test. Send a file to the printer with the lp
command followed by a filename, or by printing a document from within an

4. Sharing Printers With Windows PCs

4.1. Sharing Basics

Figure 3. Printer Sharing


Samba uses nmbd and smbd daemons to share files and printers with Windows
PCs. nmbd acts as a Windows naming service, broadcasting your computer's name
to Windows PCs on the LAN. smbd accepts file and printer requests from
Windows PCs Figure 3.

You will need to download and install Windows printer drivers for each Linux
printer you are sharing. Windows printer drivers can be found by searching
the web site of your printer manufacturer.

4.2. Samba Configuration

If you are allowing anonymous access to your printer you will need to create
a user account for remote print jobs:
/usr/sbin/adduser --system --disabled-password smbprint

This command adds a user called "smbprint" to your system. Make sure there
is enough disk space in /home/smbprint, the "smbprint" user's home directory,
to spool files. Check that the "smbprint" user does not have permission on
your system to read or modify sensitive files and directories. If you have
configured CUPS to restrict printing to certain users on your system, you
must allow the "smbprint" user to access printers you want to share.

The Samba configuration file is /etc/samba/smb.conf. The following is an
example configuration file set up to use CUPS with the "smbprint" user:
printcap name = cups
printing = cups
security = share
browseable = yes
printable = yes
public = yes
create mode = 0700
guest only = yes
use client driver = yes
guest account = smbprint
path = /home/smbprint

Please note that this configuration will allow printing by anyone that can
make a network connection to your computer and is not recommended for
computers on untrusted networks, such as computers with direct Internet
connections. If you need to implement access control, set security = user or
security = domain and read the Samba man pages for further information.

Once you have added the above settings to your Samba configuration file you
must restart Samba with the command:
/etc/init.d/samba restart

4.3. CUPS Configuration

Windows printer drivers format their output for the printer before sending
it across the network. You must configure CUPS to accept the pre-formatted
output by uncommenting the following line from /etc/cups/mime.convs:
application/octet-stream application/vnd.cups-raw 0 -

Also uncomment the following line from /etc/cups/mime.types:

Now CUPS must be told to allow connections from other machines on the
network. Add these lines to /etc/cups/cupsd.conf:

AuthType None
Order Deny,Allow
Deny From None
Allow From All

As in the Samba configuration, this configuration allows any computer to
connect to your printers and is not recommended for computers on untrusted
networks. For information about tightening access control to your printers,
see the cupsd.conf man page and the CUPS documentation.

Finally, restart cups with the following command:
/etc/init.d/cupsys restart

Your Linux printers should now be shared to Windows PCs on the LAN. Follow
the usual steps for adding a network printer to your Windows PCs, and
remember to print a test page.

5. Troubleshooting

5.1. Failing To Connect To Windows Printers

When smbspool, the smbclient utility CUPS uses, fails to connect properly it
emits error messages that are humorous but not very helpful. One such message
is Unable to connect to SAMBA host: Success. Another sign of connection
failures is when documents seem to get stuck on the queue when printing to
Windows printers.

View the most recent entries in the CUPS log with the following command:
/usr/bin/tail /var/log/cups/error_log

If you see a message similar to cli_connect() failed... then smbspool could
not find the Windows PC you are trying to connect to. Check the spelling of
the Windows PC's host name. Check that the Windows PC is turned on and that
its network connection is functioning properly. Make sure you can connect to
it using smbclient as shown in Section 3.1.

If you see a message similar to SMB tree connect failed: ERRSRV -
ERRinvnetname then smbclient connected to the Windows PC but could not
connect to the printer you requested. Check the spelling of the shared
printer using smbclient as shown in Section 3.1.

5.2. Other Failures

Other failures include being unable to print to a local printer and having
your print jobs disappear from the queue without being printed. You may also
see vague error messages such as Child process 2384 exited with status 32.

Increase CUPS' logging level to "debug" to see more messages about what
happened before the print job failed.

1. Open the main CUPS configuration file /etc/cups/cupsd.conf in a text

2. Change the line that reads "LogLevel warn" to "LogLevel debug".

3. Save the configuration file and exit the text editor.

4. Restart the CUPS server with the command:
/etc/init.d/cupsys restart

You can follow the CUPS log with the following command:
/usr/bin/tail -f /var/log/cups/error_log

You should see a line that reads Scheduler shutting down due to SIGTERM.
This indicates that the CUPS server was stopped successfully.

Send your print job again and watch for useful debug messages that appear.
One example of a useful debug message is GNU Ghostscript 7.05: Can't start
ijs server 'hpijs'. In this case the solution is to install the "hpijs"

If you cannot determine the cause of the failure, do an Internet search for
key terms in error messages you see; it is likely that someone has solved
your problem before. You may also try upgrading the packages listed in
Section 2.2 to their latest versions.