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Troubleshooting Desktop Upgrade

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Mysterious printing problems threaten big upgrade

At Ballard Spahr LLP, a Windows 10 rollout project was making good progress, with about 200 desktops upgraded, when a persistent printing issue threatened to stall everything. John Suchan, a Senior Engineer in Kraft Kennedy’s Infrastructure and Enterprise Systems group, had been at the firm for a month, contributing his expertise to the upgrade project.

About a quarter of the firm could not print documents. Hitting “print” would cause Microsoft Word to crash and other strange issues to occur.

Attempts at resolution

Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft were alerted to the issue and began to investigate. The firm also started to build a new print server, but the mysterious crashes continued. In the meantime, Mr. Suchan began to look into the problem. Requesting that all printing issues be routed to him, he began taking deep dives into individual users’ computer programs. On the surface, all appeared normal.

He investigated more deeply with Process Monitor (“a sort of Task Manager on steroids,” according to Mr. Suchan), looking for applications that were not readily apparent. He noticed something suspicious—an older version of a billing software running quietly in the background. The program was not listed in the official Add/Remove list and had therefore been difficult to spot. Monitoring its activities, Mr. Suchan noticed that that the program was intercepting print jobs and preventing them from moving on to the printers.

Back on track

Mr. Suchan disabled the software for several users, who stopped experiencing printing issues. The IT team then decided to disable it for the whole firm. Printing issues vanished altogether. The desktop rollout was back on track. When the firm’s vendors eventually isolated the issue, the firm already knew. Kraft Kennedy had solved the case, helping the firm avoid a costly week-long stall in the upgrade.

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