Good Morning AskPerf Readers! Our theme today is printing, specifically Default Printer selection behavior. We regularly get asked the question on what causes the default printer to change on a Windows host. Understanding the reasons why this change occurs can alleviate a lot of the frustration end users experience when it happens, as well as provide helpdesk staff an easy-to-share solution to the problem.

When installing a new print device (or software that may install a software based printer), the default printer may change for the current user without prompting the user if the current default printer has been deleted. This can happen if the new installation package deletes the current default printer prior to installing the new one (this behavior is by design).

Steps to reproduce the behavior:

The user deletes their default printer (the number of printers installed is irrelevant) for whatever reason. The user is warned this will change their default print device.

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The Windows Spooler will arbitrarily choose a different print device as default for that user based on the list under HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Devices. Selection is prioritized: standard printers over virtual printers and local printers over remote connections.

The HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows\UserSelectedDefault value will be changed from 1 to 0, indicating the user did not make an active decision to have this new printer as his default print device. Whenever a new print device is installed by the user, it will be automatically chosen as the default printer without asking the user if this is desired.

The HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows\UserSelectedDefault value will be changed from 0 to 1, indicating the user actively installed this new printer, presumably wanting to have it as his default print device.

Prior to deleting a Print device that’s marked as the default printer, users should select a different default print device using the Devices and Printers Control Panel applet.

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Additional Resources:

Users’ Default Printer can also be changed by other specific situations. Additional details about those situations can be found at the following links:

Location Aware Printing Walkthrough
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee424313(WS.10).aspx

Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2: Location-Aware Printing
http://blogs.technet.com/b/askperf/archive/2009/10/10/windows-7-windows-server-2008-r2-location-aware-printing.aspx

Using Group Policy to Set Default Printers in Windows 7
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/edge/Video/ff710962

Remote Desktop Printer Redirection Settings
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee791784(WS.10).aspx

-Adam Richards