How to retrieve and set the default printer in Windows

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Article ID: 246772 - View products that this article applies to.
This article was previously published under Q246772
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SUMMARY

You can retrieve or set the default printer by using different methods, depending on the version of Windows that you use.

MORE INFORMATION

With Windows NT 4.0 (and earlier versions), you cannot use:
  • Either SetPrinter or SetDefaultPrinter to set the default printer.
  • Either EnumPrinters or GetDefaultPrinter to get the default printer.
With Windows NT 4.0, you can use:
  • GetProfileString to get the default printer.
  • WriteProfileString to set the default printer.
The DEVICE value that you get or set contains three elements that are separated by commas, as follows:
      printer name,driver name,port
				
For example:
      My Printer,HPPCL5MS,lpt1:
				
Note the following:
  • When you use this method, you must specify a valid printer, driver, and port. If you do not, the APIs will not fail and may cause other programs to set the printer back to the previous valid printer or become confused.

    To retrieve the printer name, driver name, and port name of all available printers, use the EnumPrinters API.
  • Windows NT maps most .ini file references to the registry. As a result, GetProfileString and WriteProfileString still function as if they were running under 16-bit Windows (Microsoft Windows and Windows for Workgroups).
  • After you set the default printer with either GetPrinter, GetDefaultPrinter, or WriteProfileString, notify all other open programs of the change by broadcasting the WM_SETTINGCHANGE message. Only programs that handle this message recognize the change.

    WM_SETTINGCHANGE and WM_WININICHANGE are the same; use WM_SETTINGCHANGE for Win32 programs.

Sample Code

The following sample code shows how to retrieve the default printer (DPGetDefaultPrinter) and set the default printer (DPSetDefaultPrinter).
// You are explicitly linking to GetDefaultPrinter because linking 
// implicitly on Windows 95/98 or NT4 results in a runtime error.
// This block specifies which text version you explicitly link to.
#ifdef UNICODE
  #define GETDEFAULTPRINTER "GetDefaultPrinterW"
#else
  #define GETDEFAULTPRINTER "GetDefaultPrinterA"
#endif

// Size of internal buffer used to hold "printername,drivername,portname"
// string. You may have to increase this for huge strings.
#define MAXBUFFERSIZE 250

/*----------------------------------------------------------------*/ 
/* DPGetDefaultPrinter                                            */ 
/*                                                                */ 
/* Parameters:                                                    */ 
/*   pPrinterName: Buffer alloc'd by caller to hold printer name. */ 
/*   pdwBufferSize: On input, ptr to size of pPrinterName.        */ 
/*          On output, min required size of pPrinterName.         */ 
/*                                                                */ 
/* NOTE: You must include enough space for the NULL terminator!   */ 
/*                                                                */ 
/* Returns: TRUE for success, FALSE for failure.                  */ 
/*----------------------------------------------------------------*/ 
BOOL DPGetDefaultPrinter(LPTSTR pPrinterName, LPDWORD pdwBufferSize)
{
  BOOL bFlag;
  OSVERSIONINFO osv;
  TCHAR cBuffer[MAXBUFFERSIZE];
  PRINTER_INFO_2 *ppi2 = NULL;
  DWORD dwNeeded = 0;
  DWORD dwReturned = 0;
  HMODULE hWinSpool = NULL;
  PROC fnGetDefaultPrinter = NULL;
  
  // What version of Windows are you running?
  osv.dwOSVersionInfoSize = sizeof(OSVERSIONINFO);
  GetVersionEx(&osv);
  
  // If Windows 95 or 98, use EnumPrinters.
  if (osv.dwPlatformId == VER_PLATFORM_WIN32_WINDOWS)
  {
    // The first EnumPrinters() tells you how big our buffer must
    // be to hold ALL of PRINTER_INFO_2. Note that this will
    // typically return FALSE. This only means that the buffer (the 4th
    // parameter) was not filled in. You do not want it filled in here.
    SetLastError(0);
    bFlag = EnumPrinters(PRINTER_ENUM_DEFAULT, NULL, 2, NULL, 0, &dwNeeded, &dwReturned);
    {
      if ((GetLastError() != ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER) || (dwNeeded == 0))
        return FALSE;
    }
    
    // Allocate enough space for PRINTER_INFO_2.
    ppi2 = (PRINTER_INFO_2 *)GlobalAlloc(GPTR, dwNeeded);
    if (!ppi2)
      return FALSE;
    
    // The second EnumPrinters() will fill in all the current information.
    bFlag = EnumPrinters(PRINTER_ENUM_DEFAULT, NULL, 2, (LPBYTE)ppi2, dwNeeded, &dwNeeded, &dwReturned);
    if (!bFlag)
    {
      GlobalFree(ppi2);
      return FALSE;
    }
    
    // If specified buffer is too small, set required size and fail.
    if ((DWORD)lstrlen(ppi2->pPrinterName) >= *pdwBufferSize)
    {
      *pdwBufferSize = (DWORD)lstrlen(ppi2->pPrinterName) + 1;
      GlobalFree(ppi2);
      return FALSE;
    }
    
    // Copy printer name into passed-in buffer.
    lstrcpy(pPrinterName, ppi2->pPrinterName);
    
    // Set buffer size parameter to minimum required buffer size.
    *pdwBufferSize = (DWORD)lstrlen(ppi2->pPrinterName) + 1;
  }
  
  // If Windows NT, use the GetDefaultPrinter API for Windows 2000,
  // or GetProfileString for version 4.0 and earlier.
  else if (osv.dwPlatformId == VER_PLATFORM_WIN32_NT)
  {
    if (osv.dwMajorVersion >= 5) // Windows 2000 or later (use explicit call)
    {
      hWinSpool = LoadLibrary("winspool.drv");
      if (!hWinSpool)
        return FALSE;
      fnGetDefaultPrinter = GetProcAddress(hWinSpool, GETDEFAULTPRINTER);
      if (!fnGetDefaultPrinter)
      {
        FreeLibrary(hWinSpool);
        return FALSE;
      }

      bFlag = fnGetDefaultPrinter(pPrinterName, pdwBufferSize);
        FreeLibrary(hWinSpool);
      if (!bFlag)
        return FALSE;
    }
    
    else // NT4.0 or earlier
    {
      // Retrieve the default string from Win.ini (the registry).
      // String will be in form "printername,drivername,portname".
      if (GetProfileString("windows", "device", ",,,", cBuffer, MAXBUFFERSIZE) <= 0)
        return FALSE;
      
      // Printer name precedes first "," character.
      strtok(cBuffer, ",");
      
      // If specified buffer is too small, set required size and fail.
      if ((DWORD)lstrlen(cBuffer) >= *pdwBufferSize)
      {
        *pdwBufferSize = (DWORD)lstrlen(cBuffer) + 1;
        return FALSE;
      }
      
      // Copy printer name into passed-in buffer.
      lstrcpy(pPrinterName, cBuffer);
      
      // Set buffer size parameter to minimum required buffer size.
      *pdwBufferSize = (DWORD)lstrlen(cBuffer) + 1;
    }
  }
  
  // Clean up.
  if (ppi2)
    GlobalFree(ppi2);
  
  return TRUE;
}
#undef MAXBUFFERSIZE
#undef GETDEFAULTPRINTER


// You are explicitly linking to SetDefaultPrinter because implicitly
// linking on Windows 95/98 or NT4 results in a runtime error.
// This block specifies which text version you explicitly link to.
#ifdef UNICODE
  #define SETDEFAULTPRINTER "SetDefaultPrinterW"
#else
  #define SETDEFAULTPRINTER "SetDefaultPrinterA"
#endif

/*-----------------------------------------------------------------*/ 
/* DPSetDefaultPrinter                                             */ 
/*                                                                 */ 
/* Parameters:                                                     */ 
/*   pPrinterName: Valid name of existing printer to make default. */ 
/*                                                                 */ 
/* Returns: TRUE for success, FALSE for failure.                   */ 
/*-----------------------------------------------------------------*/ 
BOOL DPSetDefaultPrinter(LPTSTR pPrinterName)

{
  BOOL bFlag;
  OSVERSIONINFO osv;
  DWORD dwNeeded = 0;
  HANDLE hPrinter = NULL;
  PRINTER_INFO_2 *ppi2 = NULL;
  LPTSTR pBuffer = NULL;
  LONG lResult;
  HMODULE hWinSpool = NULL;
  PROC fnSetDefaultPrinter = NULL;
  
  // What version of Windows are you running?
  osv.dwOSVersionInfoSize = sizeof(OSVERSIONINFO);
  GetVersionEx(&osv);
  
  if (!pPrinterName)
    return FALSE;
  
  // If Windows 95 or 98, use SetPrinter.
  if (osv.dwPlatformId == VER_PLATFORM_WIN32_WINDOWS)
  {
    // Open this printer so you can get information about it.
    bFlag = OpenPrinter(pPrinterName, &hPrinter, NULL);
    if (!bFlag || !hPrinter)
      return FALSE;
    
    // The first GetPrinter() tells you how big our buffer must
    // be to hold ALL of PRINTER_INFO_2. Note that this will
    // typically return FALSE. This only means that the buffer (the 3rd
    // parameter) was not filled in. You do not want it filled in here.
    SetLastError(0);
    bFlag = GetPrinter(hPrinter, 2, 0, 0, &dwNeeded);
    if (!bFlag)
    {
      if ((GetLastError() != ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER) || (dwNeeded == 0))
      {
        ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
        return FALSE;
      }
    }
    
    // Allocate enough space for PRINTER_INFO_2.
    ppi2 = (PRINTER_INFO_2 *)GlobalAlloc(GPTR, dwNeeded);
    if (!ppi2)
    {
      ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
      return FALSE;
    }
    
    // The second GetPrinter() will fill in all the current information
    // so that all you have to do is modify what you are interested in.
    bFlag = GetPrinter(hPrinter, 2, (LPBYTE)ppi2, dwNeeded, &dwNeeded);
    if (!bFlag)
    {
      ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
      GlobalFree(ppi2);
      return FALSE;
    }
    
    // Set default printer attribute for this printer.
    ppi2->Attributes |= PRINTER_ATTRIBUTE_DEFAULT;
    bFlag = SetPrinter(hPrinter, 2, (LPBYTE)ppi2, 0);
    if (!bFlag)
    {
      ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
      GlobalFree(ppi2);
      return FALSE;
    }
    
    // Tell all open programs that this change occurred. 
    // Allow each program 1 second to handle this message.
    lResult = SendMessageTimeout(HWND_BROADCAST, WM_SETTINGCHANGE, 0L,
      (LPARAM)(LPCTSTR)"windows", SMTO_NORMAL, 1000, NULL);
  }
  
  // If Windows NT, use the SetDefaultPrinter API for Windows 2000,
  // or WriteProfileString for version 4.0 and earlier.
  else if (osv.dwPlatformId == VER_PLATFORM_WIN32_NT)
  {
    if (osv.dwMajorVersion >= 5) // Windows 2000 or later (use explicit call)
    {
      hWinSpool = LoadLibrary("winspool.drv");
      if (!hWinSpool)
        return FALSE;
      fnSetDefaultPrinter = GetProcAddress(hWinSpool, SETDEFAULTPRINTER);
      if (!fnSetDefaultPrinter)
      {
        FreeLibrary(hWinSpool);
        return FALSE;
      }

      bFlag = fnSetDefaultPrinter(pPrinterName);
      FreeLibrary(hWinSpool);
      if (!bFlag)
        return FALSE;
    }

    else // NT4.0 or earlier
    {
      // Open this printer so you can get information about it.
      bFlag = OpenPrinter(pPrinterName, &hPrinter, NULL);
      if (!bFlag || !hPrinter)
        return FALSE;
      
      // The first GetPrinter() tells you how big our buffer must
      // be to hold ALL of PRINTER_INFO_2. Note that this will
      // typically return FALSE. This only means that the buffer (the 3rd
      // parameter) was not filled in. You do not want it filled in here.
      SetLastError(0);
      bFlag = GetPrinter(hPrinter, 2, 0, 0, &dwNeeded);
      if (!bFlag)
      {
        if ((GetLastError() != ERROR_INSUFFICIENT_BUFFER) || (dwNeeded == 0))
        {
          ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
          return FALSE;
        }
      }
      
      // Allocate enough space for PRINTER_INFO_2.
      ppi2 = (PRINTER_INFO_2 *)GlobalAlloc(GPTR, dwNeeded);
      if (!ppi2)
      {
        ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
        return FALSE;
      }
      
      // The second GetPrinter() fills in all the current<BR/>
      // information.
      bFlag = GetPrinter(hPrinter, 2, (LPBYTE)ppi2, dwNeeded, &dwNeeded);
      if ((!bFlag) || (!ppi2->pDriverName) || (!ppi2->pPortName))
      {
        ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
        GlobalFree(ppi2);
        return FALSE;
      }
      
      // Allocate buffer big enough for concatenated string.
      // String will be in form "printername,drivername,portname".
      pBuffer = (LPTSTR)GlobalAlloc(GPTR,
        lstrlen(pPrinterName) +
        lstrlen(ppi2->pDriverName) +
        lstrlen(ppi2->pPortName) + 3);
      if (!pBuffer)
      {
        ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
        GlobalFree(ppi2);
        return FALSE;
      }
      
      // Build string in form "printername,drivername,portname".
      lstrcpy(pBuffer, pPrinterName);  lstrcat(pBuffer, ",");
      lstrcat(pBuffer, ppi2->pDriverName);  lstrcat(pBuffer, ",");
      lstrcat(pBuffer, ppi2->pPortName);
      
      // Set the default printer in Win.ini and registry.
      bFlag = WriteProfileString("windows", "device", pBuffer);
      if (!bFlag)
      {
        ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
        GlobalFree(ppi2);
        GlobalFree(pBuffer);
        return FALSE;
      }
    }
    
    // Tell all open programs that this change occurred. 
    // Allow each app 1 second to handle this message.
    lResult = SendMessageTimeout(HWND_BROADCAST, WM_SETTINGCHANGE, 0L, 0L,
      SMTO_NORMAL, 1000, NULL);
  }
  
  // Clean up.
  if (hPrinter)
    ClosePrinter(hPrinter);
  if (ppi2)
    GlobalFree(ppi2);
  if (pBuffer)
    GlobalFree(pBuffer);
  
  return TRUE;
}
#undef SETDEFAULTPRINTER
				
The code appears to not work in some circumstances:
  • If you leave out the SendMessageTimeout call, no other program recognizes the change until you restart the program.
  • If a different 32-bit program does not handle the WM_SETTINGCHANGE message, the other program do not recognize that the default printer has been changed. You must exit and restart the program to force it to recognize the change.
  • MAXBUFFERSIZE is too small to hold the following string:
    printername,portname,drivername
    					
  • When you use the WriteProfileString API from this sample code (which you must use only for Windows NT 4.0 and earlier versions), remember that you retrieved the port name that is passed to WriteProfileString by using the 32-bit API GetPrinter.

    Although this port name is valid, 16-bit programs cannot read it and may experience problems. If you use this method with Windows NT (4.0 and earlier versions) and 16-bit programs have to understand the new port name, you must use the 16-bit alias for the port name (NE0x, where x is a number). You can find the mapping between 32-bit port names and their 16-bit aliases in the registry.

REFERENCES

For additional information, click the article numbers below to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
266767 HOWTO: Set Which Printer is the System Default Printer
140560 HOWTO: Set the Default Printer Programmatically in Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Me

Properties

Article ID: 246772 - Last Review: February 12, 2007 - Revision: 2.6
APPLIES TO
  • Microsoft Platform Software Development Kit-January 2000 Edition, when used with:
    • Microsoft Windows 95
    • Microsoft Windows 98 Standard Edition
    • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Standard Edition
    • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0 Developer Edition
    • Microsoft Windows 2000
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • the operating system: Microsoft Windows XP 64-Bit Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 Server
Keywords: 
kbdswgdi2003swept kbgdi kbhowto kbprint KB246772

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