Printers become a crucial part of the system if your work requires printing hard copies. Or maybe you just prefer printing the documents for easy reading. Whatever be the case, the printer driver is critical for the effective functioning of the printer and to relay commands.
In most cases, Windows will automatically locate and install the relevant driver when you connect a printer. But, if the printer is quite old or Windows is unable to locate a driver for it, you might have to install one manually. Also, there are times when Windows downloads the incorrect driver or an older version of it when an update is available, this again calls for a manual driver installation or update.
Manually installing the driver is not particularly a cakewalk and would require both effort and investment of time on your end. But, before we move to the intricate methods, let’s first check if Windows Update is able to locate the best driver.
Note: Before you proceed, make sure the printer is connected to the PC.
Checking for Updated Drivers in Windows Updates
To check for printer drivers in Windows Updates, right-click on the ‘Start’ icon in ‘Taskbar’ or press WINDOWS + X to launch the Quick Access/Power User menu, and select ‘Settings’ from the list of options that appear. Alternatively, you can press WINDOWS + I to directly launch the ‘Settings’ app.
In Settings, you will find several tabs listed on the left, select ‘Windows Update’.
Now, click on ‘Check for updates’ at the right and let Windows scan for any available updates.
After the scan is complete and an update is not be found, scroll down and select ‘Advanced options’.
You will find ‘Optional updates’ under the ‘Additional options’ section where you can check if the printer driver is available. If there’s one available, download and install it to the system.
If you can’t find a driver here, move to other methods mentioned next in the article.
Check if a Driver Sofwtare Came With the Printer
If you have bought a new printer, check if a disc was delivered along with it with the necessary software. If there’s one, it would most likely have the driver. Check the contents of the disc and if you find the driver software, install it on your PC. Also, if there’s a driver there, it’s most likely to contain the installation instructions as well. Read them before you proceed.
If the printer doesn’t come with a driver and the Windows doesn’t automatically install one when you connect it, you can download it from the web.
Download Printer Driver from the Manufacturer’s Website
Most printer manufacturers have a downloads section dedicated to drivers for the users. You can open their website, navigate to the section, and download the driver. Or, you can perform a Google search with the ‘Printer Name’, ‘OS’, and ‘Download Driver’ affixed to it.
Note: This is just an example to help you get acquainted with the process. The website interface may vary for different manufacturers, although the search parameters and the process pretty much remain the same.
For instance, if you are using the ‘HP LaserJet Pro MFP M126 series’ printer, search for ‘HP LaserJet Pro MFP M126 series Windows 11 Driver Download’, and click on the search result that redirects you to the official HP website. Now, click on the ‘Download’ option next to the relevant driver.
After downloading the software, which will most likely be a ‘.exe’ file, double-click on it to launch the installer.
Now follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process. Once the installation is complete, restart the PC if prompted, and your printer should start to work fine.
Download Printer Driver from Microsoft Update Catalog
If you are still unable to find the driver, you can look it up in the Microsoft Update Catalog. It’s a simple website where you can find drivers or updates if you exactly know what you are looking for, since they are no filters available. In the case of printers, you would be able to search with the printer model.
Since this is a lengthy process, we have split it into various steps.
Step 1: Downloading the Driver
Note: For the best experience, switch to Microsoft Edge when accessing the Microsoft Update Catalog website.
To download the printer driver from Microsoft Update Catalog, go to catalog.update.microsoft.com, type the printer model in the search box at the top-right, and press ENTER.
You will now have a list of drivers for your printer. Click on the ‘Download’ option next to the latest version.
Step 2: Extracting the Files
After you have downloaded the driver, you will now need to extract the files. You can either use a third-party tool or execute a bunch of commands in the Command Prompt. We will be using the Command Prompt method.
To extract the files, search for ‘Windows Terminal’ in the ‘Search’ menu, right-click on the relevant search result, and select ‘Run as administrator’ from the context menu.
If you haven’t changed the default profile to ‘Comand Prompt’, Windows PowerShell’ tab will launch by default in Terminal. To open Command Prompt, click on the downward-facing arrow at the top and select ‘Command Prompt’ from the list of options. Alternatively, you can press CTRL + SHIFT + 2 to launch the ‘Command Prompt’.
In the ‘Command Prompt’ tab, enter the following command to navigate to the Downloads folder where the downloaded files exist.
Next, type or paste the following command to create a folder by the name ‘Printer’ where the files will be extracted to. You can create a folder with another name as well, simply replace ‘Printer’ in the command with the name you want.
Finally, enter the following command to extract the ‘.cab’ file to the ‘Printer’ folder you just created.
expand File.cab -F:* %HOMEPATH%\Downloads\Printer
In the above command, replace ‘File’ with just the name of the file, since the extension has already been included in the command. For instance, the file name in our case was ‘20599218_231bb6a09f22a2d4f10ed7901fbec5bcad85a34f’ and the command became as follows.
expand 20599218_231bb6a09f22a2d4f10ed7901fbec5bcad85a34f.cab -F:* %HOMEPATH%\Downloads\Printer
All the files will now be extracted and the status will be displayed in Command Prompt. Once the extraction is complete, close the Windows Terminal window.
It’s now time to install the driver.
Step 3: Installing the Printer Driver via Device Manager
To install the printer driver, press WINDOWS + S to launch the ‘Search’ menu, enter ‘Device Manager’ in the text field at the top, and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
Now, double-click on the ‘Printers’ option to view the devices under it. Now, right-click on your printer and select ‘Update driver’ from the context menu.
You will now be presented with two options, either to let Windows search for the best available driver or to browse and install one manually. Since we have already downloaded the driver, select the second option, i.e., ‘Browse my computer for drivers’.
Next, click on ‘Browse’ to navigate and select the ‘Printers’ folder we earlier extracted the files to.
Now, locate the ‘Printer’ folder, select it, and click on ‘OK’ at the bottom.
Now, click on ‘Next’ at the bottom to install the driver.
Once the driver is installed, close the window, and restart your PC. Your printer should now work fine.
Adding a Printer from Settings
If the above steps didn’t work, you can add the printer via the ‘Settings’, choose the driver you downloaded earlier and finish the setup. This process will require the driver files to be downloaded and extracted beforehand, as discussed in Step 1 and Step 2 of the previous section.
To add a printer, launch the ‘Settings’ app as discussed earlier, and select the ‘Bluetooth & devices’ tab from the left.
Next, click on the ‘Printers & scanners’ option at the right.
Now, click on ‘Add device’ next to ‘Add a printer or scanner’.
Wait for a few moments for the ‘Add manually’ option to appear. Once it does, click on it.
You will now be presented with five options, select ‘Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings’, and click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
Now, select the ‘Create a new port’ option. Then click on the ‘Type of port’ drop-down menu, select the ‘Standard TCP/IP Port’ option, and click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
Next, enter the IP address corresponding to your printer in the ‘Hostname or IP address’ text field, uncheck the ‘Query the printer and automatically select the driver to use’ option, and click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
Note: To find the IP address corresponding to the printer, execute the ‘netstat -r’ command in the Command Prompt, and jot down the IP address for the printer.
In the ‘Install the printer driver’ window, click on ‘Have Disk’ at the bottom-right.
Next, click on browse to locate and select the required file.
Now, navigate to the ‘Printer’ folder to which we earlier extracted the driver files, select the ‘.inf’ file with the installation instructions, and then click on ‘Open’.
Next, click on ‘OK’.
Now, that you have chosen the driver, click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
You can now change the printer name, if required. It’s recommended that you use the default printer name for clarity. Now, click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
You will now be presented with two options pertaining to ‘Printer Sharing’, select ‘Do not share this printer’, and click on ‘Next’ at the bottom.
The printer has now been added to your system along with the relevant driver. Finally, click on ‘Finish’ at the bottom to close the window.
You can now start printing efficiently without any errors throwing up.
That’s all there’s to installing the latest printer driver on Windows 11. While the earlier methods work fine in most cases, you can always go with the ‘Settings’ method in case the earlier ones don’t seem to work for you.