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The print queue is now a fundamental part of how Windows operates. I'll explore the history of today's present multi-user system.

Over the years, I've had my fair share of trouble with the good old Windows print queue just like everyone else. I try to avoid printing as much as I can on my little laser printer on my home network. However, as I only print one or two documents a day at most, is there any reason I cannot turn off the queuing on print tasks and simply set Windows to print directly to the printer thereby avoiding all print queue problems at one stroke? I don't mind sitting back and waiting while the document prints and, as I don't spend a lot of time printing, being able to queue multiple print jobs just really isn't an issue for me.

I've search your site and found lots of excellent help for print queue issues and I apologize if you've already addressed this matter elsewhere.

In this excerpt from Answercast #35, I look at the progression of Windows software from the old DOS days and how today's systems rely on multi-users, which means the print queue is here to stay.

Turning off the print queue

I have not addressed it elsewhere because I don't think it's something that can be addressed. The print queue is kind of fundamental to Windows operation.

And here's the problem: you indicate in some other comments that you have experienced going back to many of the early versions of Windows.

  • Realize that early versions of Windows were in fact based on Microsoft's old MS-DOS.

  • The early versions of Windows (up to and including Windows 95, 98, ME) are all basically single user systems that were crafted to do multi-tasking.

  • Now, when they redid the Windows code base (when they rewrote Windows from scratch), they began Windows NT.

  • NT became Windows 2000, Windows 2000 became Windows XP;

Multi-user functions are built in

Windows XP and so forth are all basically multi-user systems. In other words, they are designed so that even though you don't have multiple users actually accessing your machine at the same time, the software (under the hood) is all designed to be able to handle multiple users using the computer at that same time.

In fact, many of the operations that happen under the hood actually leverage that. There are different users that do different things:

  • These are system users.

  • These are administrative users.

  • These are other kinds of users that have their own login privileges.

  • Even though they are never, really a physical person, they do in fact run software that logs in as them; their permissions are defined by their user account and so forth.

These are some of the hidden user accounts that you'll so often find when you are managing your own user account.

Queuing is necessary

All that is to say that: because it's a multi-user system (it's a multi-tasking operating system), queuing is necessary to prevent the possibility of conflicts between multiple users on the same machine.

It's unfortunate – if you are the only user, and if you are the only user that would ever possibly print something – there is no way to bypass that (that I'm aware of). Back in the old Windows 95 days, there was a switch that said 'Print directly.' That just doesn't exist anymore:

  • Everything goes through the system to do the printing

  • And it's the system that then handles the print queue.

So unfortunately, I don't have a good answer for you other than to say, "It is what it is."

There really isn't a way that I'm aware of to bypass the print queue when you're using Windows. Later versions of Windows (such as XP and 7 and so forth) are all basically designed, from the bottom up, to do exactly that – to queue the printer and to be able to handle incoming print jobs from multiple users at the same time.

The only way that they can resolve that is to be fundamentally queue driven.

Article C5588 - July 15, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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