Windows Print Server Aliases

Windows Print Server Aliases – what is that and why would you even need to think about it?

For File-Servers, you can set up DFS structures and have a single point of entry as from the perspective of the client. It’s a simple named path and works rather flawless if set up right and monitored e.g. with PRTG. But what about your print server? Is it a defined hostname and the printers sit on this host? What happens when you want to upgrade the host to a new windows version or theoretically even do some special DNS routing (that’s very advanced and has hurdles, I will not address this in this posting).

Well – you can sure set up an ALIAS name in your DNS, but soon you will discover you can’t connect to the printers on this server. This is because you are missing some registry tweaks. At this point I also want to make you aware, I saw Windows updates removing those keys, so keep this article handy to reconstruct the registry in case of any issues.

You will need a total of three registry keys added, as follows:

This first key will enable DNSOnWire for the Print-Server itself. This is needed to make the print-server aware that you might use DNS ALIAS / CNAME entries to access him. More can be found e.g. here: Windows couldn’t connect to the printer – Windows Server | Microsoft Docs

This key, DisableStrictNameChecking, we need to configure the SMB server / LANManServer – he needs to be aware as well that we will use CNAMES to access the shares on the server. You can find some more information at the following link: Can’t access SMB file server – Windows Server | Microsoft Docs

And last but not least, the OptionalNames – this is the one key that’s most hidden but still so important. You can also make it REG_MULTI_SZ key. But it works with a simple REG_SZ key and the short CNAME alias that you have specified, you don’t even need use the FQDN.

There are many ways on how to accomplish this one last key, it changed throughout the Windows versions, it was possibly even renamed. Worst I saw on a Windows 2016 server was it vanished after a update session and reboot. So be prepared for that. A simple recreation and reboot fixed the issues.

Also, make sure you reboot after those changes, otherwise it won’t work.