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Debian and Windows Shared Printing mini-HOWTO

Ian Ward

<ian at excess dot org>

Revision History                                                             
Revision 1.6           2005-07-01            Revised by: iw                  
Clarified hpijs requirement, added lpinfo and lpoptions commands             
Revision 1.5           2005-06-19            Revised by: iw                  
Added note about becoming root to execute commands                           
Revision 1.4           2004-01-05            Revised by: iw                  
Wording corrections                                                          
Revision 1.3           2003-11-18            Revised by: iw                  
Removed incorrect lpadmin -h usage                                           
Revision 1.2           2003-10-03            Revised by: iw                  
Note about woody and gs-esp, conflict with bash's enable command and fix for 
XP/2000 clients                                                              
Revision 1.1           2003-06-26            Revised by: iw                  
Added passwords on windows shared printers, Corrections                      
Revision 1.0           2003-05-15            Revised by: tmm                 
Initial release, reviewed by LDP                                             
Revision 0.8           2003-04-11            Revised by: iw                  
converted from LaTeX                                                         

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:

��*� CUPS
     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                                                     
PRINTER$   Disk                                                              
INKJET     Printer                                                           
STUFF      Disk                                                              
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:
<Location /printers>                                                         
 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.

6. License

 Copyright � 2003 Ian Ward.

 This manual is free software; you may redistribute it and/or modify it under
the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software
Foundation; either version 2, or (at your option) any later version.

 This is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but without any
warranty; without even the implied warranty of merchantability or fitness for
a particular purpose. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

 A copy of the GNU General Public License is available as /usr/share/
common-licenses/GPL in the Debian GNU/Linux distribution or on the World Wide
Web at You can also obtain it by
writing to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place, Suite 330,
Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

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