Duplicate Printers Showing Up in Windows

The Issue:

  • You delete a printer, but it keeps coming back (and it probably doesn't work properly)
  • There are multiple print queues for the same printer

  • You can't delete a printer
    • This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.

Cause

I don't have a solid root cause for this issue, but here are some theories 
  • Printers were deployed through GPO at one point and the policy didn't get removed properly.
  • Printer spooler was restarted at the wrong time
    • If you clear HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Print\Providers\Client Side Rendering Print Provider and restart the spooler before restarting the computer there is a chance that printers will be duplicated.
  • General printer corruption

Solution

These steps will likely result in all users losing their printer preferences and default printers.

  1. These are some preemptive things that will not solve the issue, but can help you have a better start
    1. clear out any unused drives using Print Management
    2. Clear out any unused network ports using Print Management
  2. Remove all the printers from the computer (PDF printers and the like usually do not have to be removed)
    1. If you run into any errors ignore them
  3. Delete all items under C:\Windows\System32\spool\Printers
    1. You might need to stop the print spooler for this
  4. Open Device manager (devmgmt.msc)
    1. The print spooler might need to be running for the following to work
    2. click View>Show hidden devices
    3.  Go to Printers and Print Queues
      1. Devices that are greyed out are probably the problem printers
      2. Right Click and Uninstall all the printers (PDF printers and the like usually do not have to be removed)
        1. It is possible that you will have to do this per user. If that is the case then you will have to make them local admins and then complete the Device manager steps.
  5. Set the print spooler to disabled and stop it
    1. Navigate to the following locations and delete all sub keys
      1. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Print\V4 Connections
      2. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Print\Connections
    2. Delete this key
      1. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Print\Providers\Client Side Rendering Print Provider
    3. Set the print spooler to automatic and restart the computer imediately

References

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