Step-by-Step Guide: How to Update Outdated Printer Drivers for Improved Efficiency

Ever found yourself stuck with a printer that’s refusing to cooperate, no matter what you do? The culprit might be outdated printer drivers! As a tech enthusiast, I’ve often seen how keeping hardware drivers up-to-date can be a game-changer.

In this digital era, your printer isn’t just a machine—it’s part of your productivity arsenal. When it’s not performing at its best, it could throw a wrench in your workflow. That’s why understanding how to update outdated printer drivers is crucial.

Hang tight as we dive into the nitty-gritty of printer drivers, why they’re important, and how you can keep them updated. I promise, it’s not as tough as it sounds! Let’s get your printer back in top shape.

Understanding Printer Drivers and Their Importance

What Are Printer Drivers?

Printer drivers, in essence, serve as translators. They act as the intermediate link, helping your computer communicate with the printer. Without them, it’s impossible for your computer to deliver the print command to your printer effectively. They’re crucial for converting the data from your computer into a format that your printer recognizes, making it possible to print documents and images.

The Role of Printer Drivers in Printing

The role of printer drivers extends beyond mere translation. They are responsible for controlling and commanding printer functions. For instance, they manage tasks such as specifying color options, determining the print resolution, and setting the paper size. They also dictate the print speed and manage the communication between the printer and the computer.

Keeping printer drivers up-to-date guarantees optimal performance. When outdated, they might cause issues, ranging from minor annoyances like slow printing, to major concerns like complete unresponsiveness. The connection between your printer and computer could also suffer, becoming erratic or unreliable. That’s the reason updating your printer drivers is not just important; it’s essential for maintaining a smooth, frustration-free printing experience.

Common Signs of Outdated Printer Drivers

Outdated printer drivers can cause a variety of issues. Acting as translators between your computer and your printer, updates to these drivers are crucial for maintaining optimal performance. Let’s explore some common signs that indicate your printer drivers might be outdated.

Unexpected Printer Errors

Facing unexpected printer errors often signals that your printer drivers need updating. For instance, the printer might refuse to print, or the job might keep getting stuck in the queue. These issues can range from simple error messages, which convey problems in communication between your computer and your printer, to more complex ones, like frequent paper jams or inability to perform duplex printing. Often, these errors are a side effect of an outdated driver that no longer communicates as effectively with your computer’s operating system.

Connectivity Issues

Connectivity issues are another common sign of outdated printer drivers and they come with their own set of frustrations. A printer refusing to connect to a computer, Wi-Fi, or network, despite correct configuration settings, might indicate the need to update your driver. For example, a wireless printer that consistently loses its connection to the computer, or a shared network printer that’s no longer accessible to other users, are common circumstances where outdated drivers are to blame.

Poor Print Quality

Lastly, if you’ve noticed a decline in the print quality, it might be time to update your printer driver. Poor print quality includes unclear images, patches, faded colors, or misaligned text which are not obviously due to low ink or toner levels. Indeed, while these issues are frequently mistaken for hardware malfunctions or depleted consumables, it’s often outdated printer drivers failing to transmit the correct commands to the equipment, resulting in subpar print results.

Risks of Not Updating Printer Drivers

Stay vigilant; ignoring timely updates to your printer’s drivers introduces some severe risks that I’m about to discuss.

Security Vulnerabilities

Printer drivers, just like any other software, occasionally come with their share of security flaws. Cybercriminals exploit these vulnerabilities to infiltrate networks and steal sensitive data. Keep in mind, these attacks don’t just target businesses — anyone’s a potential victim. For example, in 2018, the FBI reported 1.4 million instances of cybercrime, affecting individuals and firms alike. Therefore, updating printer drivers proves an effective way of strengthening your security measures.

Compatibility Issues

You can’t overlook the compatibility issues arising from outdated printer drivers, particularly after a system update. That’s because driver updates aren’t just about adding new features; they’re about ensuring seamless communication between your printer and your computer. If this communication breaks down, you may deal with various issues like printing errors and an overall decline in printer functionality. For instance, after a macOS Big Sur update, many Canon printer users reported incompatibility issues due to outdated drivers. Hence, it’s crucial not just to update your system software, but also your printer drivers to keep everything running smoothly.

Step-by-Step Guide to Updating Outdated Printer Drivers

Let’s delve into the systematic approach to updating outdated printer drivers while ensuring an improved printer performance. Remember, the process might slightly vary according to the brand and model of the printer or your operating system.

Identifying Your Printer Model and OS Version

First off, knowing your printer model is crucial. Check the front or back of your printer, where manufacturers typically list this information. For instance, you might see labels like “Epson Workforce Pro WF-4720” or “HP LaserJet Pro M15w.”

Identifying your operating system’s version isn’t a herculean task either. For Windows users, a simple search query “About your PC” in the search box should reveal the information. Alternatively, Apple users can find it in the ‘About This Mac’ option under the Apple menu. Make a mental or written note of the operating system number—like “Windows 10 version 1909” or “MacOS Big Sur version 11.3.”

Finding the Correct Driver

Once you’ve identified the printer model and OS version, it’s time to find the right driver. For reliable sources, prioritize the printer manufacturer’s official website. In the support or downloads section, punch in the exact model of your printer. But remember, the location of this option varies by website. For example, on Canon’s website, the option is placed on the main webpage, whereas, in the HP website, it’s under ‘Support.’

Methods of Updating Drivers

Generally, there are two common ways to update printer drivers: manual and automatic.

Manual updates entail downloading the correct driver from the manufacturer’s website and then installing it. Simply download the driver that matches your printer and OS version. Many files come packed in zip folders, so it’s key to extract the files before proceeding with the installation.

Automatic updates, on the other hand, are when the system or printer software takes care of the update process. For instance, the ‘Windows Update’ option–accessible from settings–enables the system to search for and install updates. Alternatively, some printers come with built-in software that can run automatic updates. Be sure to refer to the printer’s manual or support site for specific instructions if you’re interested in this method.

Don’t forget to restart your computer after successfully updating the drivers, as this step ensures that the changes take effect. So, embark on the driver update journey with confidence, knowing it’s a worthy effort to maintain your printer’s optimal performance.

Troubleshooting Post-Update Issues

The maintenance of a smoothly working printer doesn’t end with updating its drivers. Unexpected complexities may arise even after the update, and troubleshooting these issues forms an integral part of the process. Let’s delve into the steps I can take to verify the installation of the updates and the ways I could revert to previous drivers if found necessary.

Verifying the Installation

After updating the printer driver, I’d advise confirming that the installation went through successfully. This process includes three critical steps: checking for effectiveness in communication between the computer and printer, visually inspecting printouts for anomalous results, and finally, noting any error messages encountered.

  1. Test Communication: Initiate a print command to assess if the printer responds accurately. If the printer fires up and performs the assigned task, that’s a positive sign.
  2. Check Print Results: Evaluate the quality of sample prints. For instance, if the printer was initially lagging, the delay should be gone after a successful driver update. Equally, if the problem was poor print quality, the issue ought to be rectified after the update.
  3. Note Error Messages: Any error prompts that pop up on the computer screen can give considerable insight into potential problems. For instance, if a system notification specifies driver issues, it’s a clear indication that the update has not been successful.

Rollback to Previous Drivers If Necessary

In some instances, updating a driver might introduce compatibility issues or new bugs. Hence, it might be necessary to undo updates and return to the previous driver version. Here are the steps I’d follow:

  1. Navigate System Settings: Open the computer’s device management settings.
  2. Select Printer: Find the list of installed printers and select the appropriate one.
  3. Roll Back Driver: Select properties, then navigate to the driver tab. A ‘Roll Back Driver’ option should be evident if the computer system supports it. Clicking on it reinstates the previous driver version.

Remember, keep vigilance for unexpected issues after updating, as troubleshooting can pave the path to optimal printer performance.

Best Practices for Maintaining Printer Drivers

In addition to addressing existing problems, proper maintenance of printer drivers can preempt potential issues. Post-update troubleshooting, as discussed in the previous section, forms just one facet of this maintenance routine. Let’s delve deeper into two key maintenance practices – regular updates and an understanding of driver versions and compatibility.

Regularly Check for Updates

Routine checks for updates contribute significantly to seamless printer operations. These updates, released by printer manufacturers, often include fixes for recognized bugs or enhancements for performance. So, it’s beneficial to stay ahead of possible issues by regularly visiting the manufacturer’s website. You can look up your printer model and see if there are any fresh updates available. For instance, if your printer is a Brother HL-L2390DW, you’ll input this into the site’s search bar and navigate to the drivers and downloads section. Remember, neglecting this exercise tends to exacerbate issues down the line.

Understanding Driver Versions and Compatibility

Getting familiar with driver versions and their compatibility, forms another essential aspect of printer maintenance. Printer driver versions, usually shown as numeric values, can help you keep track of installations and troubleshoot issues more effectively. For instance, a version ‘1.2’ indicates that it’s the second update of the first release. Also, ensuring that your chosen driver is compatible with your operating system is crucial. If you’re using an HP LaserJet P2035 and your OS is Windows 10, make sure the driver supports this combination, as indicated on the manufacturer’s site. Attempting to install an incompatible driver could lead to unsuccessful installation or even cause unintended issues. In line with this, recognizing your current operating system is a must.

Bear in mind these practices as they serve, not merely as remedies to printer problems, but proactive measures to forestall them. Continual attention to your printer’s drivers guarantees smooth functioning that extends its lifespan and improves its output quality.


So there you have it. Keeping your printer drivers up-to-date isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity. It’s a surefire way to prevent hiccups, improve print quality, and ensure your printer’s top-notch performance. Remember, it’s not just about reacting to problems but being proactive in maintaining your printer. Regularly checking for updates and understanding driver versions and compatibility are key steps in this process. By doing so, you’re not just fixing issues, but you’re avoiding them altogether. So, don’t wait for your printer to act up. Keep those drivers updated and enjoy seamless printing operations.