Why do I keep exceeding my printer licenses when I am not adding any actual printers?

  • Inconsistently configured printers, label test prints and port monitors can create “phantom” printers that count against your license.
  • Using BarTender Printer Groups or using standard TCP/IP to set up printers minimizes the creation of unique location names which would count against your available printers.

Is this scenario familiar? You purchase a license for BarTender and three printers. The license manager will allow you to add more temporarily. However, you are soon receiving a message  that reads “You are using more printer seats than your license allows…” And yet you still only have three printers!

Why You Typically Exceed the Number of Licensed Printers.

Printers Are Not Consistently Configured

To measure usage, BarTender counts the number of printers used by all users in the network. When a workstation running a BarTender product, such as PrintStation, Print Portal and Integration prints a label, BarTender identifies the printer. If the printer has not been previously identified, BarTender will count it as a new printer against the license’s overall printer count. As the number of identified printers nears the allowable limit, BarTender will present warnings to that effect. While it will allow a temporary overage of printers in excess of the license, eventually the software will prevent any more printers from being added.

BarTender identifies a printer as “new” if it cannot find the same printer in the existing list of currently used active printers. To identify a printer, BarTender uses an internal naming convention that  includes:

  • Printer model defined by its internal printer driver name
  • Printer location defined by either the workstation’s name for a directly connected printer, or the network printer’s IP address, plus the USB or network port, respectively, that the printer is connected to.
  • The port the printer is connected to. On a printer directly connected to a computer, this is the USB port, while on a printer connected to the network, it is that printer’s TCP/IP port.

Two printers – SATO CT4-LX and Test Zebra. With different printer ports, the SATO consumes three licenses while the different locations causes the Zebra to be counted as two printers.

If you do not CONSISTENTLY use the same configuration method when setting up a printer, chances are that BarTender will count each different configuration as a unique printer.  This applies to set ups on both workstations or servers. Printers should use the same exact printer driver on all platforms and their location should be defined the same way.

IT managers must take care to control the setup of new printers on all workstations and network servers. Otherwise, they risk counting shared printers multiple times, as seen above.

Label Testing

Often, design users will run a quick printing test. They may want to test the label setup against different types of printers, or check barcode resolution on printers with different DPI (dots per inch). At EBI, we sometimes print a label to Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF that can be easily sent to a client.

However, each different print destination, including printing to a PDF file, may count against the printers available – at least temporarily. A designer who sent a label design to a PDF file to email as well as a laser printer for sharing physically could use up two “printers” as far as BarTender is concerned.

Port Monitors

Using port monitors, or software that uses port monitors as a means of setting up printers can also cause NiceLabel to identify a shared printer as multiple printers. This is because Port Monitors often assign unique port names per workstation to the same shared printer on the computer. Again, each unique combination of port and printer name counts as an individual printer.

Microsoft’s WSD (Web Services on Devices) in particular is a good example. Using Windows’ Printers & Scanners within Settings and selecting the Add device button to locate a shared printer,  will prompt Windows to look for printers that support WSD. WSD assigns that printer a unique port ID when it is added. This is not the TCP/IP address. As a result, this shared printer now takes up another printer license.

Preventing Unexpected Printer License Consumption

Use BarTender Printer Groups

BarTender allows users with proper credentials to access the Administration console and create Print Groups. By default, any printer that can be found will be allowed within the Default Print Group. Other print groups can be created which will only contain the printers selected to be included. When this print group is active, only the printers within this group will be allowed to print. This places a strict allowance on the number of licenses which can be used, and avoids going over the limit.

A Zebra printer within a BarTender Printer Group.

Set Printers Up Using Standard TCP/IP

In addition to WSD’s automation, Windows allows a more hands-on approach to setting up a printer. Frequently referred to as standard TCP/IP, the administrator defines the printer location explicitly and directly using the printer’s IP address and port. The default port for printers is  typically 9100. This approach minimizes the potential for creating unique location names. As a result, we also minimize the chance that BarTender will these location names as representing an individual printer and deducting them from your available licenses.


The number of actively-used printers drives the cost of a BarTender license. This not only includes the initial purchase, but also the ongoing Support and Maintenance Agreement (SMA) and subscription costs. Better management of how you configure your printers will reduce the number of “phantom printers” consuming printer seats, and therefore reduce your operating costs.

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