Help Me, Tom’s Guide: How Do I Find My Printer’s Drivers?

A writer from our sister site LiveScience.com came to the Tom’s Guide staff with a tough printer problem from her mom:

I got a new HP OfficeJet Pro printer and HP does not have the the printer software for it! Impossible. Is it safe to download something … or should I just return it?

What do you do when the software for your new printer goes MIA? You have a few options. You can dig a little deeper to find the drivers from the manufacturer, you can find the same software from an alternative source, or you may be able to skip the manufacturer software altogether.

Double check your documentation

You may be having trouble finding the link to download drivers for your new printer, but HP and other manufacturers rarely leave customers high and dry. It’d be bad business not to properly support new products, even if they’re new-in-box units of an older model.

But knowing where to look can be confusing. It used to be that manufacturers included drivers with every printer on a CD, but as optical drives have fallen out of popularity, most manufacturers have shifted to an online setup that requires users to download the correct software as part of the new printer setup process.

MORE: The Best All-in-One Printers

This download link may be listed in the quick start guide, the user’s manual, and other included documentation. This will usually be in the form of a URL, but it might not look how you expect. Keep an eye out for shortened URLs, which may use a service like bit.ly and don’t initially appear to be links to the manufacturer’s website.

Look for support pages

If there’s no URL or link available in the documentation, the next place to look is the company’s support pages. Here are a few links to get you started on your quest.

Brother: http://support.brother.com/g/b/productsearch.aspx?c=us〈=en&content=dl

Canon: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/support/drivers-downloads

Epson: https://epson.com/Support/Printers/sh/s1

HP: https://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c05366101

From here, you can search by model name to find driver downloads, along with manuals and other downloads.

Hunting for hard-to-find printer drivers

Support pages can be a bit hard to find sometimes, and manufacturer tools for searching by model aren’t perfect. Other times, the best way to find a support and software downloads may be from the manufacturer’s product page. But if you aren’t finding the needed page or software download through these methods, there are a couple of other methods to try.

First, try a Google search for the software by name. To get more specific results, use this basic pattern:

[Manufacturer name + “Model name and number” + driver download]

If you aren’t finding it using the specific model name, you may be searching for something too specific. Often, there’s a broader family of printer models in the same series that use the same or similar software. Instead of looking for the Canon Pixma TS9120, for example, you could try looking for the Pixma TS series instead. You may also want to try downloading the driver for another model in the same series, since the software may be interoperable between models.

If it’s available, you can also try using a different version of the driver software. You may not be able to find the Windows 10 driver you’re after, but what about the Windows 8 version? Most drivers will offer at least partial interoperability between OS versions, and may even offer an link or an automatic update feature that finds your elusive driver for you.

Ask the company directly

If searching fails, you can reach out to the company itself. Most manufacturers offer some sort of chat-based tech support, and you can try asking for a direct link to the software for your model of printer. You can also reach out via email or social media. An email address for customer support should be easy to find, but if not, just send a message to the company Twitter account or Facebook page.

Look to other sources

If even the company’s own people can’t provide you with the right software, you can try to find the correct drivers elsewhere. While alternate sources will likely show up in the same Google searches you did earlier, there are a few preferred sites for finding out of date drivers.

The first two are driver-specific sites: DriverScape.com and DriverGuide.com. Both offer a broad, searchable catalogue of downloads for models old and new. Both sites are focused on Windows drivers for all sorts of products, but you won’t find drivers for Mac or Linux operating systems. If you need options for other operating systems, you can try Softpedia.com or DriversBay.com, which offer sections dedicated to MacOS and Linux drivers.

MORE: Kodak Photo Printer Mini Review: A Mobile Photo Standout

If you simply can’t find the correct driver for a non-Windows system, you could also try Gutenprint. This package of drivers should get you where you need to go, providing support for thousands of inkjet and laser printers for MacOS and Linux operating systems.

Try a generic print driver

Finally, if you simply can’t find the drivers for your specific device, there are still options that can get your new device printing. Windows has its own generic printer driver, called Unidrv, which comes built into Windows.

You can set up your new printer by connecting it to your computer, and finding the “Devices and Printers” menu in your control panel. From that menu, select the “Add a Printer” option, and when asked to install the printer drive, select “Generic” from the list of manufacturers, then choose printer option that best seems to fit your device and needs. The installation wizard will walk you through the rest of the installation process.

You may have to give up some of the more advanced features offered on the printer – you might even be stuck printing text only – but it may be enough to get you printing.

And, since the original question asked about an HP printer specifically, you’ll be glad to know that HP also offers its own universal driver for Windows. You can find it on HP’s website, and it will download and install just like a standard driver package.

Credit: Shutterstock


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