I was able to solve this problem but not in a manner that is either mentally satisfying or feels conclusive.
The problem: User reports that suddenly printing from Internet Explorer 7 no longer works on a Windows XP Professional machine. The problem seemed to start without cause this week on Monday (before Microsoft Updates on Patch Tuesday). Independent of the web page printed, the printer selected, and the user sending the print job (standard user, domain admin, local admin) a print job would only be one page long and only show the header and footer of the document.
The footer actually contained some of the most telling information: Where normally the URL would be printed, the print job appeared to be coming from the temporary files C:Documents and Settings[username]Local SettingsTemp[random letters].html. I have to believe that this temporary file was either very related to the problem, if not the exact cause of it.
I could print just fine from other applications, like Mozilla Firefox. Unfortunately, the user was a fan of Internet Explorer and my own desire to solve the problem wouldn’t let it slide with a non-solution.
I was unable to find a matching description after plenty of searches online. As previously stated, this was a Windows XP machine so the problem of IE not having permission to a ‘Low’ folder in the temp files in Vista did not apply. I read a slightly related post about installing Windows Script to remedy the problem and tried installing the latest version and restarting, but the problem persisted.
I adjusted the permissions of the temporary folder. I changed the environment variables for the Temp and TMP directories for both users and system and gave full permissions to these new directories. This changed what was printed on the footer but did not solve the problem. (I then changed the variables back to the defaults.)
I tried re-installing Internet Explorer 7 and restarted the computer. Problem persisted.
Uninstalling IE7 to go down to IE 6.5 wasn’t an option.
I tried security settings and just about everything else in the Internet Options window. Problem persisted.
I investigated registry keys and Internet Explorer bugs. No luck.
I tried reporting the bug to IE but got frustrated when I ran into a dead end at the, linked to from the IE Blog, Microsoft Connect page. I was able to see the catalog of IE bugs, but when required to login to post a bug, was unable to see the page any more.
I installed Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 and restarted the computer. Problem persisted.
I uninstalled Internet Explorer 8 beta 2, IE 7 was restored, and restarted the computer. Problem went away.
Printing returned to normal. Just like that. Uninstalling something that I installed for mere testing purposes (which didn’t work) solved the problem. (Moral of the story: Sometimes tech support just takes a little bit of dumb luck?)
Print jobs were no longer blank, were longer than 1 page (if necessary), and the footer listed the URL instead of a file in the temporary directory.
The problem went away and I don’t know how to recreate it, so I’m at a loss for trying to solve the dilemma and can only hope that installing and uninstalling IE 8 will solve the problem if it should reappear again. Any feedback is very welcome.