Sharing a Printer on Vista x64 with Windows XP (x32) machines on the network

Issue : Sharing a Printer on Vista x64
with Windows XP (x32) machines on the networkwindows_xp

I knew I might experience some driver related issues making the move over to Vista x64. One of the reasons many have held back from migrating to a 64 bit system has been the problem of having to source new drivers for all components including printers, graphics cards, sound cards, and just about anything else you plug into your computer that isn’t supported natively. I have literally dozens of USB devices and was prepared for some frustration, but was surprised when I was able to find every single driver for my devices. What I was not expecting, was to have difficulties sharing my printer.

I have an aging, but reliable Canon MP780 for printing documents, printer_networkingscanning and faxing (at least before I ditched my land line and got VOIP) I realised that Vista x64 would be using different drivers than XP x32, but all my Windows XP machines had previously connected to my printer and printed so I assumed they would continue to use the drivers they had previously. When I got on the XP machine, I went to add a Network Printer, found the Vista x64 machine, selected the printer. Now it said that I would need to install a driver – not a big surprise as XP probably attempted to retrieve the x64 driver from the Vista machine, which I knew would be incompatible. So I used the dialogue box and navigated to where the x32 Canon drivers had been installed. There were three options, presumably print, scan and fax drivers. Regardless none of them would install and I would receive a message – ‘no suitable drivers available’

This was confusing – I knew this driver worked previously and the only difference was that I was using the printer VIA the Vista x64 machine. I also attempted to add the ‘additional drivers’ on the Vista machine to provide x32 drivers to network machines – but Vista also complained that the x32 driver was not suitable and would not load it as an ‘alternative’ driver.

As is the case with many technical issues, the driving force for resolution was a disgruntled partner wanting to be able to get things done. She didn’t appreciate the glory of 64 bit Adobe products running natively on my x64 Vista install and couldn’t understand why I ‘messed up the printing’. Faced with not being able to provide the driver when connecting the network drive on the x32 bit machine and not being able to have Vista x64 serve up the 32 bit driver on request I was a bit stuck.


Solution:  In order to force Windows XP to use the drivers I knew worked, I had to install the printer locally. Instead of connecting the printer to the XP machine via USB, I did the Add Printer installation and installed the Canon printer to the Local Port – FILE (I believe any port will do for now). This allowed me to install the driver without actually physically connecting the printer. Then while using the XP machine I navigated to the Vista x64 machine and could see the printer name. I copied the network path (\<machine_name><printer_share_name>). Using this network path, I looked at the properties of the printer installed on the XP machines and added a new port, set it to Local Port type, added ‘New Port’ and then specified the above path – the printer driver installation now pointed to the network path of the Vista printer share using a port. I finally had a printer working on both Vista x64 and shared on XP x32. I have seen registry hacks, INF hack fixes, but they are printer driver specific, I believe this could help with many x64 / x32 printer sharing problems.

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