What Is a Print Spooler?

By Larry Ray Palmer

For most computer users, the occasional print spooler is inevitable. At these times, when your reports stubbornly refuse to print, you may be left wondering what the print spooler is and what it actually does? How do you repair the dreaded print spooler error? Where does the print spooler reside on your computer?

What it Is

The print spooler is a system 32 service in the Microsoft Windows operating system. It is responsible for the management of the jobs that have been sent to the printer or the print server of a network. With print spooler, the user can achieve greater control over the print queue because the print spooler service allows the user to discard waiting print jobs or to set priorities for projects. Most of the time, the print spooler service works just fine. Unfortunately, occasions will arise when the print spooler fails and you will receive the dreaded print spooler error and printing becomes impossible.

Causes

Print spooler errors can be the result of several causes. Issues that create the most common print spooler errors include third-party programs, corrupt printer drivers, third-party drivers, system data errors or issues with system files. For a full list of print spooler error codes and causes, the Microsoft Support Center offers some wonderful resources (see link in Resources).

How to Fix Print Spooler Errors

If your printing attempts are stalled by print spooler errors, the simple way to correct the problem is to restart your computer. By going through a system shutdown, you will effectively clear the print queue and restart the print spooler service. In the majority of cases, this step is all that is necessary to repair the problem.

Restart Print Spooler

If the fix discussed in Section 3 fails to repair the print spooler service, bring your task manager up by pressing \"CTRL-ALT-DELETE\" and access the Services tab. In the bottom right-hand corner of the task manager, you will see a button that says Services. Click on this button to bring up your Local Services. Scrolling down the list, search for the Print Spooler service. Highlight it and hit the \"Restart the service\" link on the left-hand side of the panel. Restarting the computer should correct print spooler errors.

Clearing the Print Queue

If both of the previous fixes have failed to accomplish the repair of your print spooler error, you may be experiencing problems from a print manager list being frozen. In Windows Vista, you can correct this problem by shutting down the print spooler service as in Section 4. Then search for the directory C:\\WINDOWS\\System32\\spool\\PRINTERS and delete all of the files in the folder to clear the print queue. Then restart the print spooler service and the problem should be resolved.

Accessing the Print Spooler From the Command Prompt

You do not have to go through the services menu to start or stop the print spooler service. Instead, you can go to the command prompt and type a few keystrokes to get the job done much faster. To stop the service, open your command prompt and type \"net stop spooler\" and hit enter. To restart the service, go back to the command window and type \"net start spooler\" and hit enter.

Summary

The print spooler is a great advancement in printing technology. It makes it possible for a printer to be shared with an entire network. A few small print spooler errors are a small price to pay for the advantages offered by the service.