Does a Printer Keep History of What Is Printed?

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Printer logs and history files track document output.
Image Credit: Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images

Whether your business prints routine correspondence and reports or top-secret scientific data, your work constitutes proprietary information. For security reasons as well as to track in-house document production, you may need to use or turn off your computers' ability to preserve a history of the files you print. Depending on the type of printer you use and how you send information to it, you may find output-history data in various places on your computer.


Output Lists and Files

The Mac OS includes a Print Center that automatically preserves a list of the jobs it processes. The list includes the status of the job, its file name, the name of the user who printed it, and the start and completion dates and times of the output. You can purge any item from the list, including pending and completed jobs. Under Windows, your printer preferences include the option to "Keep Printed Documents." Activating this option tells the Windows print driver to preserve the list of spooled files and the data from individual print jobs. With this option active, you can retain often-reprinted projects for quick output.


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"Cloud" Printing

When you attach a printer to an Internet-connected computer or use an Internet-addressable printer that you can control from a Web browser, you can access your output hardware from any Web connection using a "cloud" printing setup supported by your operating system. This process enables you to share one device with many users, emulating a network-addressable printer but adding the global reach of Internet access to expand its accessibility. These services typically include a control panel or dashboard through which you can monitor jobs and delete completed listings.


Metered or Server-Based Printing

In universities, libraries and any setup in which many users share a few printing devices, maintaining an individualized print history is essential to establishing the fiscal responsibility for document output. In these situations, specific users, departments or operating units must pay for the documents they print. Specialized monitoring and metering software tracks jobs by user or user group, document identity and page count and identify the device used, along with its output specifications -- color or black and white -- to establish per-page costs.


Hard Drive

Some workgroup or enterprise laser printers include an internal hard drive that holds print job data after it spools from a user's application. Like any hard drive, the storage medium in an output device can retain file information and data directories after jobs finish printing. Accessing and inventorying the information on these drives requires forensic tools capable of analyzing spooled output data, but the drives can become a privacy problem if and when you decommission the printer.



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