Why Windows 8 Might Not Need Printer Drivers

Printer drivers are the bane of many a Windows' users life: they're stupidly enormous, they often still demand you disable security software before you run them, and Windows Update often can 't find them, forcing you to hunt around printer manufacturer web sites. Windows 8 is completely redesigning the Windows printing architecture, which will eventually mean many people won't need printer drivers at all.

Picture: Microsoft

In a post on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft engineer Andrian Lannin explains how Microsoft is designing a print class driver framework to replace the current Windows printing system. Supporting printers has traditionally required Microsoft to ship drivers as part of Windows. Ensuring popular printers are supported will satisfy a large proportion of users, but it's a moving target as new printer models are released. The framework is designed as a first step towards not requiring drivers at all:

With a print class driver framework, we can get closer to giving you an experience like driverless printing, where you don't have to actually go and find a driver, but instead the printer just works with the Windows printing system. A true driverless printing experience requires changes to how most printers are designed, and the print class driver framework provides support for this idea, but we also feel that it’s very important to provide as much support for existing devices as possible.

Out of the box, Windows 8 will support 2500 popular printer models. One useful practical consequence of the approach: printer support files take up 184MB in Windows 8 (down from 768MB in Vista and 446MB in Windows 7).

The existing printer driver architecture will also be included in Windows 8 to ensure backward compatibility. I'm really hoping I don't have to use it much.

Simplifying printing in Windows 8 [Building Windows 8]


    I haven't installed a printer driver on Windows for years now (though I imagine it has automagically done this for me).

      How does Microsoft manage to squeeze 2500 drivers into 184Mb? When a single Canon driver is around 6Gb?

    No way they would do this. Microsoft would have a major part of their income based on just certifying drivers and software. Creating a generic driver would just be shooting themselves in the foot. Especially when they just released that there not making a profit any more.

      Not necessarily, printer manufacturers will want the "works in windows 8" logo on their box, that'll cost.

      Less time spent approving drivers, and like the article states - less footprint of your Windows install, all benefits Microsoft would welcome.

      I'm pretty sure Printer certification isn't at the top of Microsoft revenue streams.

      They need something to compete with AirPrint which they obviously cannot use. It's a no brainer if they are moving into the tablet space.

        Pretty much, yeah. The ability to push out a quick group policy update that adds a printer to all mobile devices without worrying about drivers? That's the sort of thing that makes me consider rolling out win8 tablets and phones.

        We'll have to see if it's as good in reality as it looks on paper, but I'm hopeful.

    Yes, but printers are one of the worst things about personal computing. By fixing the huge mess is the current system, it would be a bonus for Windows in the 'usability' market.

    This is great news, now maybe I can keep my little mono laser printer for a few more years :)

    Didn't they try something similar like a Decade ago, may have been MS Office based rather than Windows... my memory's getting a bit rusty.

      And IF they did?

    These are some of the best things about Windows tablets.. full fledged computer abilities whilst still sleek

    I find Win7 already works pretty well for me as far as this goes. Detects my wireless printer on the network, installs the appropriate generic driver, and works perfectly without any HP bloatware.

    My Mac, however, is another story entirely :(

      Word up, my brother. My Mac is about 2 inches from going in the dumpster for these and various other usability reasons.

    I wonder if it will work with multifunction devices. My Dad's HP is not working properly when it comes to scanning via the network. Although it is quite a few years old but I just do not see why he needs to upgrade it as it prints very nicely, and also scanned in very good quality (when he was still using Windows XP and the HP's stupid scan tool).

    I know a fair bit about computers in general, but when it comes to things like BSODs, printer drivers and even setting up a desktop email client, I wonder how people who aren't so educated with computers, get on. I guess some of them just call up the geek in the family, but what about those whose whole family are technophiles?

      ...do you mean technophobes?

      I've wondered the same. A while ago when I needed to hunt for drivers online, the user manuals and troubleshooting guides on the website didn't once send users to manually find drivers -- so too bad if you didn't know about it.

    My mac doesn't need printer drivers..........

      Because they are built in, doesn't mean it doesn't need them.
      Also, Windows 7 already automatically installs drivers as soon as you plug in a printer via usb.

        Not always.

          If there are drivers for it in the system, they install...that is what always means.

      You're right...it needs an OS that can actually not implode upon itself, and it needs its own first party drivers to work wtih its own first party hardware.

    Wonder how it will go with corporate MFDs.... Such as MFDs with saddles and envelope feeders. Also wonder how group policy will play with it.

      Easy they will all still stay on XP where SO many still are now. Who cares about being supported heck some of them refuse to upgrade from IE6

    Windows started doing something like this back during the XP days for scanners.. Check out WIA (Windows Imaging Acquisition). Good to see they're doing it for printers.

    Linux called from 2002 and asked what other ideas Microsoft would like to start using...

      Win 3.11 called from 1995 and asked Linux if it had gotten Photoshop to work without wine yet.

    My hp Laserjet 1000 series does not work with W7 or Vista and there are drivers for it. What are the chances of it working in W8.

      That printer can be used in both Vista and Win 7....BUT... only in 32 bit. Maybe it'll work in 32 bit Win 8....but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

    Should have put there are NO drivers for it and installation disk useless. I tried installing XP as a 2nd o/s on my laptop with Vista and satra HDD but could not find a satra driver for it so installation failed

    Changed from an early Aldi Win Xp computer to a new Dell Win 8. MS has become my worst nightmare. Should have bought a Mac.
    A white useless elephant, I now reverted back to my Aldi Xp, at least I do not have to buy new printers, scanners and other accessories like programs and licences in addition to the purchase price. Should have stuck with XP in the first place.
    Ms has totally lost it big time. XP will not be supported from next year on, obsolete and useless.
    As for B.Gates who is responsible for billions of hours of man hours lost to his f ... ups and frustrations of his MS inferior operating systems. Bye, bye, karma, apples (MAC) has become the top dog !!!

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