I've noticed with windows and USB devices that you sometimes have to hot plug the USB to have windows recognize the device. I have to do that with a flash card reader. I never researched the issue further. Is it connected to USB. Have you tried assigning an IRQ to USB in the BIOS setup - just a shot in the dark.
If it's USB, you might be able to unplug and plug it back in to instead of rebooting until the issue is resolved.
The only time I've seen a printer dissapear is a network share. You should be able to install a printer in XP without having the printer attached. Some devices REQUIRE you to install the drivers before you plug it in. If you don't, windows might load the wrong drivers. I'm just throwing out some guesses at the moment...