back to article Microsoft to kill off third-party printer drivers in Windows

Microsoft has made it clear: it will ax third-party printer drivers in Windows. The death rattle will be lengthy, as the timeline for the end of servicing stretches into 2027 – although Microsoft noted that the dates will be subject to change. There is, after all, always that important customer with a strange old printer …

  1. 43300 Silver badge

    Are we seeing the first step in forcing people (corporate users, at least) to use the paid-for Universal Print subscription service?

    1. jb72

      Universal Print is not fit for purpose. You have to pay for the service AND pay per print - ridiculous. Also the driver is too basic. We now use Printix for our cloud printing service.

      1. 43300 Silver badge

        "Universal Print is not fit for purpose. You have to pay for the service AND pay per print"

        Yes, but surely that means it's highly fit for purpose - Microsoft's purpose that is; the purpose of extracting as much cash from their customers as possible.

        What the customers actually want or need won't be a consideration.

      2. SVD_NL Silver badge

        Printix is wonderful. Easy, cheap, just works.

      3. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Does Printix require a third-party printer driver?

        Better complain to the EU about MS forcing people to use Universal Print and locking out competition if so.

        1. SVD_NL Silver badge

          With Printix you can choose which driver to use.

          It has some third-party drivers, but it will also upload any drivers used with known printers so you're not locked in.

          It'll push whatever you want it to, including default settings.

          You can also set it up with universal or PDF-based drivers (mostly used with "Printix Anywhere", where you can print to a single queue and get the document out of any printer you want).

          It's often advertised as a drop-in replacement to a print server with added cloud functionality, and I honestly agree with that.

    2. Ilgaz

      It is a good thing

      While people can use an expensive printer from 1980s on a Linux/FreeBSD, they are doing this. One more false "perfect backwards compatibility" claim is gone.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: It is a good thing

        I was thinking that this is Micros~1's way of "picking winners and losers".

        You want YOUR device to run on Windows, right? Pay UP or GET LOST! *WE* control *EVERYTHING* now!!!

        3rd party drivers and the DDK were one of the BIGGEST REASONS windows became "a thing". This new "One OS to rule them all" posture from the latest generation of "It's OUR turn now" [probably woke] 'engineers' is one of the biggest "READY, *FIRE*, AIM" "Shoot your own foot" maneuvers from these "less than highly intelligent" people YET...

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: It is a good thing

        Windows already has good built-in drivers for most printers from that era, though.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

      All I care about is that my current crop of non-Mopria HP printers can continue to be used until I can't get parts for them anymore or I decide I want to replace them.

      1. bjzq888

        Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

        They can have my Laserjet 4100N when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

        1. Dvon of Edzore

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          "We find your terms acceptable."

        2. Orv Silver badge

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          Pretty sure Windows has a LaserJet 4100N driver built in, though, doesn't it? If you're using a third-party HP driver for a printer that age, you're doing it wrong.

        3. fromxyzzy

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          2100TN here, 25 years strong and still spitting out sheets.

        4. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          Can't you just send PostScript directly to those?

      2. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

        2027 is getting awfully close the the finish line for me, by then I won't care as I'm certain there will be no Windoes computers with printing needs.

        1. JustAnotherITPerson

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          Youi think printing needs are just going to vanish? Like, in the next four years no one will ever need to print again?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

            I've been hearing about the "paperless office" since the '90's. You mean it's not gonna happen any minute?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

              The paperless office did, once, exist. Ancient Babylon used clay tablets instead.

      3. Someone Else Silver badge

        Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

        Noticed that Brother (the only printer manufacturer worth a shit these days) is not part of the Morphia Mopria "consortium".

        Wonder what that means?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed

          >Noticed that Brother (the only printer manufacturer worth a shit these days) is not part of the Morphia Mopria "consortium".

          >Wonder what that means?

          It means that you didn't research hard enough. Brother Industries are a member according to Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mopria_Alliance

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, we are seeing the first steps towards people deploying Raspberry Pi like devices as print servers and using generic PCL drivers on Windows.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    HP is involved ...

    so will Mopria include the ability to check that the printer does not have third party consumables installed ?

    Although it cannot be that bad as Debian supports it.

    1. Dvon of Edzore

      Re: HP is involved ...

      SystemDeb is not the benchmark it once was.

    2. Luiz Abdala
      Joke

      Re: HP is involved ...

      We proceeded to apply the picture in the article to all HP inkjet printers in our possession. We made sure to smash them with extreme prejudice and toss them violently in the trash compactor, making sure every single one was torn to pieces.

      We only use bulk-ink Epson ecotank printers - as far as inkjets are involved -, where a 75cc blister costs 10$ and it is legit from epson themselves. We could also buy per pint or per gallon, far cheaper than that.

      As for everything else, we found that even A PLAYSTATION 3 can run our networked epson inkjet printer. Not kidding. Not joking.

      As far as drivers go, Laserjet 4s have been included in every Windows since...

      Joke icon to avoid concerns.

  3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Ah, printing... the deeply unfashionable side of Microsoft's development that has been rolling around in Microsoft's self-made development hell for many years...

    Microsoft had an opportunity to do a good thing with printing, but they chose not to. For example, print preview could have been a standard function for any application - although potentially not all printing devices may have been able to support it. Microsoft didn't do this and instead forced every application developer, including their own, to have to cobble together custom and inconsistent print preview functionality. The core applications in Microsoft 365 don't even do print preview consistently, what hope is there for others?

    Microsoft have also been very, very slow to work with changes and functions in printers and, in particular, multi-function devices. Microsoft could have created common extensions, with an easy and common extension implementation but they didn't. Instead, device manufacturers had to cobble together their own custom hacks into the system in order to implement what is usually very similar functionality to other printers but named and implemented entirely differently. It doesn't help that many of these hardware manufacturers seemed to employ the least well paid rooms of monkeys to mash keyboards until, with compiler warnings turned off, the driver code compiled and was therefore considered complete. This kind of thing was the cause of the multiple "print nightmare" scenarios that Microsoft inevitably but indirectly created. Microsoft's response was necessary, but a half baked and lack of actual control security update that made it near impossible to install MFD printer drivers in a corporate environment was not what we needed. The new common print drivers that are out are near useless, with little actual support for additional functions - even the really common options such as duplex or colour control are frequently just not there, less common options such as stapling and booklet collation (incredibly useful in the corporate world) are nowhere to be seen.

    I really wish that Microsoft had put the effort in years ago when it was obvious that printing was a mess, but they didn't. Some of the most time consuming development tasks I had revolved around trying to work around the deficiencies in Microsoft's OS by way of printer support as well as the vagaries of the printer drivers themselves - not wanting to hard code an application to a printer is a pretty high priority when long term development and support is considered.

    1. Sandgrounder

      Is this wish list for common functionality provided by any other platforms or are we Microsoft bashing? Does macOS or any of the Linux distros provide a common print preview API for example? I actually agree with your post, Microsoft had the resources and could of done a great job, instead of resting on their Windows 3.1 laurels about having a shared printer driver for multiple apps and never moving the sticks on to the next step.

      The only other platform I'm aware of, Android, made printing even more hell than Windows by forcing a separate printer app to be used. Had to save the file to the file system and load up a separate app made by your printer manufacturer (if they bothered) to print anything. I'm out of date on this, maybe Android printing has evolved since the dark days a mere handful of years ago but it was an awful mess.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >> Does macOS or any of the Linux distros provide a common print preview API for example?

        Yes, actually, mac OS does have a common print preview API (AppKit) which 3rd party apps can use, although they are still free to develop their own.

        Hell, even MacOS Classic had a common print preview.

      2. WolfFan

        Apple has a standard in macOS and a different one in iOS. Both are consistent on their respective platforms, both do scanning and printing and, on macOS, faxing. I've never tried to fax from iOS, no idea if it works. The print system is directly descended from that of early Macs. Some time along the way Macs could print directly to PDF, PostScript, and assorted image formats. Most of that isn't available on iOS, but some other features are. Note that some applications (Firefox, MS Office) would rather that you use their print systems, but will use the standards if you hit them hard enough. (Yes, you can print to PDF from inside a PDF editor, even one from Adobe.) On iOS you can use the standard, and, in some cases (Epson, Brother) there's a vendor-supplied item that is usually inferior to the standard. HP might also provide its own item, but I haven't printed to an HP device from iOS in over a decade, mostly because of HP’s shenanigans.

        I have never printed anything from Android. I only had an Android device for a few months before scrapping it and going to iOS.

        Windows is a glorious mess, and always has been, and probably always will be.

        Ubuntu is… Ubuntu. Great when everything works. Somewhat less than great when there are problems.

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          “The print system is directly descended from that of early Macs.”

          No, not really - it just looked like it. The API and user interface for starting a print job may have been carried over, but this article is about drivers, and on that front there was a total break in 2001. For Mac OS X, Apple adopted the open-source CUPS project as the sole driver framework for printing.

          Pre-OSX, print drivers had to map QuickDraw ‘PICT’ format primitives to their own output instructions, which required knowledge of QuickDraw (a rare thing in the 1990s) as well as the target printer - Mac printer drivers used to be pretty flaky for non-PostScript printers as a result. The people behind OSX’s print model made two very good decisions: first the OS adopted PDF as the native image metafile format of OSX. Second, they chose CUPS as a driver framework. These two decisions greatly simplified the driver-writer’s job, especially on printers that had PostScript support already as PDF is relatively simple to convert to and from PostScript.

          But, because CUPS is open-source, any printer with a driver for macOS also automatically has a driver for Linux, which has greatly improved Linux printing support. However, the bigger problem with printing on Linux is the general dog’s dinner around graphics APIs used by applications to originate documents, with many try to everything themselves, so sometimes you end up with a classic Linux pipe-bludgeon of rasterising a postscript file, embedding it in a PDF container, and sending it to CUPS. Yes I know that’s stupid, but... “I got it to work”.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Any printer that supports AirPrint accepts PDF as a native format, so you can skip quite a few steps there and just send the PDF via IPP or whatever protocol you find makes sense to you.

            1. heyrick Silver badge

              "Any printer that supports AirPrint accepts PDF as a native format"

              You might find PDF support lacking or simply non-existant on the cheaper inkjets that simply don't have enough memory onboard to hold an entire page in raster form. For those, you're basically limited to sending URF (or PWG for IPP) in strips.

              1. Orv Silver badge

                Very true. I don't buy inkjets anymore because they always end up clogged. I try to only get laser printers with network interfaces, and most of those will have proper support.

          2. Ilgaz

            CUPS is so important to Apple so they acquired it. Obviously it is still FOSS and they aren't Oracle.

            1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

              Not “acquire” it: the very nature of FOSS makes that impossible. They did hire its lead developer for nearly two decades, and they put a lot of development work into it in the early 2000s, but that’s all freely available thanks to the licence.

              Actually, in that brief near-decade between the creation of MacOS X and iPhone becoming a hit, Apple was one of the better corporate citizens when it came to FOSS. WebKit is another project to which Apple contributed a lot, and for their internally-developed Bonjour/Zeroconf mDNS-based service discovery system they went through the IETF recommendation process (eventually RFC 6762, 6763) rather than keeping it proprietary. The XNU kernel and Darwin user-space are still open source, but now these days Apple keeps the drivers for its own hardware segregated from that..

              Times changed once Apple stopped being a computer vendor, and the Jobs instinct to control everything took over.

        2. heyrick Silver badge

          "I have never printed anything from Android. I only had an Android device for a few months before scrapping it and going to iOS."

          There is a built in driver that, in successive versions of Android, consistently fails to work with either of my printers (HP 3630 inkjet, Samsung MW2022 laser).

          Each has its own driver. The HP one is "sort of good" (minus a billion points for the incessant need to be signed in to the HP account) but it allows for rotations, resize, with a little preview that you can drag the content around to get it where you want before printing (if an image), a little less control if a document. But there's a preview so you can see prior to printing.

          The Samsung, on the other hand, lacks all of that and will just spit out stuff to the printer which may or may not be what you wanted.

          What I have noticed is that the drivers tend to have two quality settings. There's the default, which is pretty poor (maybe 150dpi) and a high which is better (maybe 300dpi) but the only thing that even attempts to use the printer's full capabilities is photo printing. The laser is capable of 600dpi, the driver isn't.

          On the other hand, I will concede that my experience with iOS is version 7, and I'm sure things have changed, but back in version 7 AirPrint was utterly dreadful. There was no control over things like quality or monochrome. Printing documents generally mostly worked. Printing images was a complete farce. A screenshot would be zoomed up to fill the page's longest dimension leading to large amounts overflowing the page and not getting printed, and printing smaller images and icons resulted in them being scaled to fill the page (and sometimes being cropped). If you're cropping parts of an icon, you know you're doing it wrong. Unfortunately Apple, being the control freaks that they are, only have the options of "which printer?" and "how many copies?" while managing all the rest automatically. Which would have been fine if it was in any way coherent, but about the only reliable thing was it would probably get it wrong.

          So, like with their desktop cousins, mobile devices work best with custom drivers, so long as those custom drivers are actually useful. Not all of them are.

          1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

            Since a few years back, HP took over doing the drivers for Samsung laser printers, so you're probably in the perverse position of the same HP driver being usable for both of your printers.

            I used to have a Samsung colour laser (a CLP-365W) - well, I say "used to have", I still have it, but after the best part of ten years' use, it needs stripping down and rebuilding so that it starts recognising that it has toner cartridges installed again. Samsung tried to pull the same shit that HP do with putting chips in the cartridges to prove they are "genuine" (yes, I know not all toner is equal, but it's my choice, not theirs which I choose to use), and putting artificial lifespans on things like the imaging drum (which have to be circumvented by wire-wrapping a resistor of a specific resistance around pins in the cover, power cycling, and removing it, to fool it into thinking a new one has been installed).

            Putting HP in charge of their drivers and trying to fill my PC with bloatware was the final straw, and it got replaced with a nice shiny Brother HL-L3230CDW last year. The "starter" cartridges it came with have just started running out now, so I'll reserve judgement on how much of a pain in the arse getting replacements is; the third-party cheap ones I bought seem to work with a bit of jiggling and swearing, but the one thing I'll say is that the printer's build quality is MUCH higher than that of the Sammy one, and it has a proper paper tray, not the horrible bit of plastic the Samsung has.

            Back on topic, the Brother printer works with the built-in Android driver, and although Android tries to suggest installing Brother's own print service, perversely, this doesn't seem to find the printer at all.

      3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        It's an article about the Microsoft printing subsystem, therefore I'd expect it to include Microsoft bashing :)

        It's been a while since I had a need to work with Linux printing and it was a different experience altogether. The core capabilities felt better but driver support was often lacking and to me it also felt that because printing development work is unfashionable that it languished behind in Linux too.

        This was a good few years ago and I haven't had a need to print from Linux for a while, just scanning using a flat bed scanner that Microsoft/HP decided was no longer supported and therefore didn't work but worked perfectly in Linux. I believe there have been improvements in the Windows space for this with 3rd party generic scanner drivers that support these still functional scanners that Microsoft and various vendors have decided to drop.

        1. fajensen

          The printing system in Linux is so incomprehensible that even someone like Poettering has not been able to step up and implement something worse :).

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Many years ago while playing with Linux I wanted to support the Brother inkjet that I had at the time.

            Which meant following the instructions in a lengthy document that appeared to involve tearing out the installed printing system and putting in something else.

            Only it all went to hell about halfway through. I'm not at all familiar with Linux so when it started throwing errors and looking online gave plenty of forum posts that mostly contradicted each other, that's about the point when I shut the machine down and switched the SATA cable back to the Windows setup. I mean, if getting the damn printer working requires deep magic, then screw that for a game of soldiers...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Try it on a modern Linux machine. I have Ubuntu 18.04 and 20.04 that each talk just fine with a Brother inkjet and a Brother laser. Was not difficult at all to set up.

              1. Orv Silver badge

                Linux printing has gotten a lot better since most distributions switched to CUPS with sane defaults.

          2. simonlb Silver badge

            Strange, I have two machines I use at home running the latest version of Linux Mint, one with MATE and one with Cinnamon and both see my network connected Canon printer (printer, mind, not all-in-one) as soon as they boot up and I have never had any issues printing either documents or photos. No driver installation necessary, it just works. However, the Win7 VM I use on one of the machines required having the printer drivers installed, but that was expected.

            Printing under Linux may have been problematic a few years ago but it's much, much better these days, and I've never had any issues when using multiple different printers with it over the past seven years.

            1. Orv Silver badge

              I haven't had to think about setting up print filters in ages, and I love it. ;)

      4. jdzions

        This is The Register

        Of course we're Microsoft bashing. Why did you even ask?

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: This is The Register

          Micros~1 has discovered yet another major new irritation to justify the bashing

        2. Orv Silver badge

          Re: This is The Register

          Eh, this is an area where Apple really does have the edge. macOS uses CUPS and printing -- even network printing -- mostly just works. If you have a big network or different subnets where you can't use Bonjour it gets slightly more complicated, but only slightly. All of our network printers at work can be added to macOS just by selecting AirPrint as the protocol and putting in the printer's hostname. Everything else happens automatically.

          1. david 12 Silver badge

            Re: This is The Register

            The Mac started out by trying to represent, on the screen, what you would get on your printer. In contrast, MS started out just trying to optimize the screen display.

            In my opinion, they both succeeded.

    2. emfiliane

      WIA was supposed to be that original universal printer interface. It kind of almost worked, but it was half-assed -- which could have been fixed and evolved into something useful, excepting printing isn't sexy so it was abandoned instead -- and it relied way too much on manufacturers making their own UI, print preview, workflow, etc, while replicating all of their features from the Win32 drivers. Go figure, they didn't even half-ass it, and WIA drivers are almost universally pure shite, garbage with nothing better than the most bare-bones functions and rarely if ever updated. Not all of it was because of getting a half-assed framework to start with, but it certainly didn't light any fires, so both sides just abandoned it to the perfunctory lip service. Especially since they weren't phasing Win32 drivers out.

      I mean, these hardware guys can't make software worth a damn in the first place, good luck asking them to support two separate parallel products that each had unique features and missing capabilities.

      The user-mode driver transition was being forced at the same time, and they hated that just as much, but at least in that case they just had to adjust and debug their existing codebase, not start all over from scratch, so WIA barely stood a chance.

      Now the Mopira UWP framework is the new attempt to make everyone wholesale start over with a globally shared functionality, but being a standard created by the most craven leeches in what's now a dying field, they've designed it so they can add hooks everywhere to upsell you. Some of the drivers are genuinely good and stick to the more sensible default, make media keys and other shortcuts both effortless and configurable, hook straight into apps that support it well... and then there's HP, of course. Sigh.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Devil

        WIA

        WIA was terrible compared to TWAIN

        Morpira UWP sounds bad, because UWP is stupid for a desktop OS.

        But it all went wrong at NT 3.1. Print drivers needing to use the GDI? I understood the logic, but it was faulty logic.

        Then when GDI was moved into Kernel with NT4.0 a bad print driver could blue-screen NT.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: WIA

          ... and Windows 9x*. And Windows XP. I fondly remember spending a couple hours of the client's money painstakingly removing the HP print software and drivers the hard way from a machine that would BSOD on bootup due to the wrong iteration of the print driver being referenced, causing the kernal to shit the bed.

          For corporate devices and for 90% of the tasks, the HP universal driver really was universal- If the printer groked PCL of 'some form', or post script, it was a solid, basic driver that offered duplex and limited collation functionality. (But not staple and print, because Mopiers and MFPs were their own damned beasts.)

          I'll be honest, the current desktop uses a MS supplied driver for the brother MFP that I have; I don't scan from it to a computer (I'll scan to a USB stick, though), and doing color correction on it is kind of pointless for that class printer (It's.. OK for photos; lineart and some images work out OK, but I have a photo printer for a reason.)

          * To be fair, it didn't take a whole lot to cause windows 95, 98, and ME to BSOD.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: WIA

            I once had Windows 95 bluescreen on me in the process of automatically ejecting a CD-ROM. I guess back then the OS didn't bother to ask "everybody done with this media?" and something clearly wasn't.

            I consider that to be the lowest low.

            WinXP I could get to reliably crash thanks to a lousy USB serial driver. I don't remember what type, just that it would work for a few seconds and then "argh! blue!".

            But the weirdest one was the USB video capture card utterly did not work with the USB WiFi dongle. Apart, both devices worked fine. Together, complete system freeze. No blue screen, no pointer movement, completely dead. Weird.

            1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

              Re: WIA

              My money is on them both having the same hardware ID - probably something like 00000000-0000-000-000-000000000000, and the poor USB controller getting confused.

    3. Alumoi Silver badge

      Erm, what's that link to xkcd's standards?

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      @Nick Ryan

      Microsoft had an opportunity to do a good thing with printing, but they chose not to. [...]

      Not so much chose not to, but more like were incapable of doing so. The myth that Micros~1 was this engineering powerhouse has recently been exposed as the lie that it is, but it has been a myth for decades. The fact that printing is soooo messed up on Windows machines today is simply a reflection of the fact that those asshats simply don't know how to do it, and haven't know for basically forever.

  4. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Amazing delivery from Reg article, as always.

    > While some wags have dubbed the framework the "Unwanted Windows Platform", it's always good to see legacy tech being retired in favor of something with a bright future ahead of it.

    How do you manage to type that stuff with a straight face? Bright future, oh goodness me.

    So, if this horror comes to pass, to make full use of a printer's cleverest bits, I'll have to stop ripping out the whole Windows Store and all the UWP stuff? I suppose that might make the OS setup a little easier (a few clean ups to be stricken from the action list), but not looking forwards to having to live with the end result. When it gets to that stage, guess I'll not be bothering with any clever bits that require customisation to access <shrugs>.

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Amazing delivery from Reg article, as always.

      《it's always good to see legacy tech being retired in favor of something with a bright future ahead of it.》

      Probably a typo for legacy tech being retired in favor of something with a bright future behind it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confused

    So will that mean a ban on installing old printer drivers on Win11? Or just no automatic finding them in the OS?

    I can already tell how happy some of my clients will be when I tell them we have to scrap perfectly good printers "because Microsoft said so".

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Confused

      Scrap Microsoft instead, because the printers say so.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        "Scrap Microsoft instead, because the printers say so."

        At least Windows can run my Samsung Laser printer without some hell on earth kludge job, unlike Linux....

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Confused

          You know that up until now, printer manufacturers provided the print drivers for Microsoft to include in their driver repository.

          So it was not really Microsoft who made support work for printers...

          This latest move is effectively Microsoft saying to printer manufacturers "If you're outside of the clique that we endorse, then we won't carry your drivers for you" (and this may well extend to having them signed!)

          Since Cups became the dominant printer mechanism for Linux (it wasn't always there, and printing in Linux before then was REALLY hairy), all the printer manufacturers had to do was make sure that a Gutenprint or Ghostscript backend for their print engine existed, and provide a PPD file, both things that they had to do to get MacOS working. And yet, some didn't (Lexmark, I'm looking at you here).

          Samsung/HP (Samsung sold their printer business to HP Ink [sorry, Inc.]) have done this for Samsung printers for a while. I did not have a problem installing the driver for an Xpress M2020 a few years ago.

          But Cups is on the road to do something similar, stardardizing on IPP printing and deprecating all the support for the older Gutenprint/GS model.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Confused

          Sometimes CUPS lags with 'bleeding edge' printer support. Solution: get a slightly older model, check for CUPS support beforehand. Save money. If it was bleeding edge 3 years ago, should be just fine now. Printer tech does not change THAT fast.

          And if you check with the MFG they may have CUPS drivers, or if they support postscript even better!

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: Confused

            It's gotten easier since most printers added native PDF support in order to support AirPrint. In a lot of cases, even if CUPS doesn't have a specific driver, you can just select "CUPS PDF" as the driver and things will work fine.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Confused

              I've found that using the CUPS PDF printer description actually does not allow many of the more advanced features of things like duplexers, multi-tray support, and extended colour gamut to be selected, and you can forget about staplers and booklet mode features.

              The IPP format (which implies PDF) seems like the lowest common denominator, and in one case I tried to set up, only enabled greyscale prints on a colour printer (it was complex, involving remote printing through another server).

              If there is a PPD file available for a printer, it is best to actually use it. Most printer manufacturers actually make a PPD file available, even if it is not in the CUPS package in the repository for your distro.

              I don't think it works as well as used to, however. I remember back in the days of Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron, one of the best Ubuntu releases IMHO), I plugged an HP OfficeJet 5610 MFP in and was astounded by the fact that it configured completely automatically, both the printer and the scanner, and I think that it also set up a fax queue for me, not that I ever used that feature.

    2. Test Man

      Re: Confused

      Not a ban, as said within artlce it just means they won't be distributed via Windows Update

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Confused

        This is Microsoft, so can expect the current “open” Windows print services to be depreciated - why have a print service that can be extended by third-party (non-MS store) drivers when you restrict it to UWP and Microsoft’s variant of Mopria.(*)

        (*) Given previous performance with Standards: PDF, Office document formats, HTML, we can expect MS to vary from the agreed Standard.

      2. zuckzuckgo

        Re: Confused

        Not so sure. The article says printer manufacturers can provide their own drivers under the new system, that does not guarantee that legacy drivers will still work. Since it seems unlikely that printer manufacturers will write new drivers for old printers it could still make old printers obsolete.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Confused

          I have an older 'all in one' print/scan/copy/fax that works well with CUPS and WIn 7. Yeah it is an HP but HPLIP is fine with me.

          Had to use Win10nic this year to do taxes (did not want cloudy version), corporate AND personal.. Did it in a VM. Using 'windows update' print driver hung the driver, left paper stuck in printer with nothing printed on it EVERY! SINGLE! TIME!!!

          I gave up, wrote to PDF (which TurboTax lets you do) and then used atril on FBSD to print stuff.

          Maybe I can find a GENERIC postscript driver for Win1X that is compatible with CUPS and set up CUPS for internet printing - anyone?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confused

        I've not used Windows Update for a printer driver in years... so hopefully that is fine then. I just reinstall the same old Win7 64-bit driver I've been using for ages. A simple reason for that - it works.

        Next day I return and client is asking why Win1x has added a heap of random broken drivers that say "there's an app available" cluttering up their list of printers...

        Or you click on that HP Smart app and the first thing it is trying to do is gather personal data... It is this they want to bring us more of via that UWP mess that makes interfaces look like a kids toy.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Confused

          "the first thing it is trying to do is gather personal data."

          that's when you just tell lies. Use 'example.com' for e-mail address, occupation "drifter" or "bikiini inspector", name "Mike Hunt" or "Seymore Butts", etc. etc.

    3. Wayland

      Re: Confused

      "it's always good to see legacy tech being retired in favor of something with a bright future ahead of it." - according to the article, so your clients will be overjoyed.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Axe

    It’s axe, please. Whilst ax is technically yes a correct spelling, the one we’re taught in school and is the most common spelling is axe.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Axe

      AX is so good in Scrabble though.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Axe

        UNWAXED would be a lot more Scrabble points because it's a Scrabble Bingo!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Axe

          "Nazify" with the Z on a triple letter

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Axe

            "Nazify" with the Z on a triple letter

            That has to be the most benign instance of Godwin's Law yet seen.

      2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: AX is so good in Scrabble though.

        You will never normally hear me say this, but AI can be extremely useful.

        ===

        Q What's the difference between the animal AI and its hi-tech namesake?

        A The animal comes down from the trees to defecate.

    2. zuckzuckgo
      Coat

      Re: Axe

      So you want them to axe ax? Think of all the labour, energy and bandwidth required to support that extra letter! Next you will have them adding extra 'U's all over the place for no explicable reason.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Axe

      El Reg has a Perl script to Americanify English and they're going to use it.

  7. Daniel Feenberg

    business reasons for annoying policies

    The current system had important business justifications when it got started For Microsoft, having a different driver for every printer model helped discourage use other operating systems. Since many printer vendors would only provide a Windows driver, it made OS2 and Linux second-class operating systems. That helped Windows go from "dominant" to "monopoly". For printer vendors, having their name on the list of drivers that popped up when you started to install a printer was a little advertisement for their brand. A truly compatible printer wouldn't need a new driver, but the user might not realize it was supported via another vendor's driver.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: business reasons for annoying policies

      It predates that by a long way. With first releases of Windows, MS realised they could never provide drivers for everything. That's why a standard framework was created to push the work (correctly) onto the device manufacturers.

    2. Smirnov

      Re: business reasons for annoying policies

      >> Since many printer vendors would only provide a Windows driver, it made OS2 and Linux second-class operating systems.

      Only for bottom-of-the-barrel printers which were too cheap to have their own processors and relied on the host CPU instead (like GDI lasers).

      Pretty much everything business class supported at least one HP LaserJet emulation, and in most cases PostScript as well, and these worked just fine under OS2, Linux or MacOS.

      And even for cheap printers, many manufacturers still offered drivers for other operating systems than just Windows.

      >> That helped Windows go from "dominant" to "monopoly"

      I'm pretty sure that it wasn't printer drivers which made Windows a monopoly OS on desktop PCs, but rather Microsoft's anti-competitive practices such as paying PC vendors to only offer Windows with their PCs.

      It also ignores that Macs have, over the last 30+ years, been the dominant platform in the DTP space. Which would have been impossible if the platform didn't have excellent printer support as designers still had to pre-print before sending jobs to the EFI.

      >> A truly compatible printer wouldn't need a new driver, but the user might not realize it was supported via another vendor's driver.

      I'm not saying such users don't exist, but in general the overwhelming majority of users have been able to use compatible drivers since at least the early 80's (using compatible drivers like Epson FX for line printers has been pretty common).

      I would be lying if I said what you wrote here made any sense.

  8. Mishak Silver badge

    Does that mean...

    My "ancient" multi-function laser from Samsung HP, which has seen "no love" since HP took over Samsung's business, is going to become useless on Windows at some point, or will it still carry on as it is?

    I've only just got it working under Windows 11 - the drivers provided by Windows "Add printer" claimed there was no duplexer, and I had to use the "manual install" HP drivers to get that going. Still, at least Windows does now automatically install drivers (it didn't when I switched to Mac 15 years ago*).

    * this Window machine is provided by work to access a "secure" system - I still find printing on Mac easier, but it's getting close these days.

    1. emfiliane

      Re: Does that mean...

      Microsoft just won't include them in the installer or the automatic check via Windows Update.

      However, if HP doesn't bother to update them over time and the certificates expire, then you'll have to go through some heroics to get them installed without your system acting like it's a janky beta test. Drivers are pretty locked-down these days, even user-mode ones.

    2. Wayland

      Re: Does that mean...

      I remember a client had a year old printer on his Apple then he updated the OS and the printer never worked again. Simply unsupported.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Does that mean...

      My HP Laserjet has just celebrated its 20th birthday! I've recently put in a new toner cartridge which should see me through the end if the decade!

    4. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Re: Does that mean...

      My "ancient" multi-function laser from Samsung HP, which has seen "no love" since HP took over Samsung's business, is going to become useless on Windows at some point, or will it still carry on as it is?

      It sounds like it will be killed off. Many of my old HPs (a LaserJet 4050, for instance,) still works on my systems on which it was installed back in 1809, but new loads of 22H2 do not have its driver. A couple of colleagues have had to rip printer drivers from previous Windows 10 releases to get them to work on newer machines.

      This has the potential to turn Microsoft into a print gatekeeper. Microsoft will dictate which printers may be used by not allowing third-party drivers. That also means me e-waste as otherwise perfectly fine printers will get junked. Build your printer to our driver specs, which will likely have to be licensed, or piss off.

  9. Wally Dug
    Angel

    Printer Features

    Off topic, admittedly, but 30-odd years ago, the printer drivers supplied by Commodore-Amiga were abysmal. A divine being call Jeff Walker was bemoaning the poor output resolution of his Canon BubbleJet printer (BJ10 IIRC) in his magazine Just Amiga Monthly and a German reader called Wolf Faust took it upon himself to try to make a printer driver that took advantage of the printer features, such as the higher BubbleJet resolution (360*360) over the standard ink jet printers (300*300) of the time. Don't laugh, I did say it was a long time ago!

    Long story short, not only did Mr Faust create a brilliant printer driver, then a suite of controlling programs, but Canon were so impressed that they gave him all the latest models so that he could develop for them and they could support the Amiga. Many Amiga users, myself included, specifically bought Canon BubbleJets because of Mr Faust. (And as a side note, most of my printers since have been Canon.)

    My point being: Who is best to provide a printer driver that supports all the features of the printer? The manufacturer or a global alliance of printer manufacturers via Microsoft? Will all the features of my printer be supported or will only the main features be supported? Are printers and printer features now so indistinguishable from each other that an OS provider can distribute generic drivers? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Printer Features

      I think you may have the wrong end of the stick

      the printer manufacturers can provide features limited to Microsoft's software capabilities to support them but what features does one printer have that no others have, or have been thought of?

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Printer Features

        That reminds me of this...

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine_Identification_Code

    2. runt row raggy

      Re: Printer Features

      surely you don't mean features like resolution. PostScript has has that problem solved for decades. so what super fancy features would not be supported by a generic driver?

      1. Wally Dug

        Re: Printer Features

        That's part of my ignorance as I don't know the ins and outs of modern printers and what features they can offer - how does one manufacturer differ from another these days to get your business as it surely cannot be on price alone? But as Reg Commentard Nick Ryan said above:

        The new common print drivers that are out are near useless, with little actual support for additional functions - even the really common options such as duplex or colour control are frequently just not there, less common options such as stapling and booklet collation (incredibly useful in the corporate world) are nowhere to be seen.

        Even pre-Covid I rarely printed, but in previous jobs I have certainly used stapling and booklet collation, both features selectable via the non-Microsoft supplied printer driver.

      2. Mage Silver badge

        Re: Printer Features

        Decent booklet / brochure / paperback book printing?

        How does the old Alps model with opaque "inks" including white work?

        Punching / binding / stapling?

        Vinyl cutting?

        PCBs (either direct milling or UV head)

        Cropping?

        Tiling giant image to 100s of pages?

        Some of these have been done by applications and some by printer / plotter driver in the past. Plotter drivers often were installed as "printer" drivers, though "printing" from other than vector based app was crazy. Then there were plotters that really were inkjet printers. They rasterised the vectors.

        Mills and 3D printers have tended to use custom applications and communication.

        I can't imagine really, and MS is even less likely to. Any alliance with Xerox or HP or Lexmark is bad for customers.

        1. Wayland

          Re: Printer Features

          You're spot on. There are loads of things a robotic machine should be able to do when connected to your computer. Why is it limited to printing on one side of A4 paper? Why can't it print a brochure or paperback book? Load it up with blank business cards and have it print them, or postcards or a birthday card.

          All of these examples are a total pain to do on a printer but at least if they wrote their own drivers there was a chance printers would one day do these tasks easily.

    3. Wayland

      Re: Printer Features

      It seems as if they're saying there can be no innovation in the printer market from this point on.

      In the graphics card market there are after market drivers to support legacy cards.

  10. Kurgan

    Still printers will hang and drivers will be bloated

    What we know for sure is that even in 50 years printers will crash and malfunction, and "drivers" will be gargantuan bloatwares that include every sort of useless functions, spyware, and adware.

    1. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Still printers will hang and drivers will be bloated

      " and 'drivers' will be gargantuan bloatwares that include every sort of useless functions, spyware, and adware"

      You sound familiar with HP drivers.... LOL

    2. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Still printers will hang and drivers will be bloated

      If you want to see a true example of this, look no further than:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4QJRLsVtys

      And YES. it really is every bit as bad as in the video and YES, it really does comes with a USB memory stick containing cracked pirated software stuffed full of malware.

      I know. I had to deal with one someone bought from eBay for..... £2,500 !!!!

  11. Fred Daggy Silver badge
    Devil

    Oh gawd no,

    I really hope that they take the time to make this an MDM option. We had good security around our laser printers, with nice windows queues, (mostly) sensible default and as cheep as possible toner, etc. However, first thing that every nob with a company credit card did was buy their own crappy, very crappy, printer for their desk. Because their fat bloated waste of oxygen could not be arsed to walk out of their office and perhaps 10 meters down the hall.

    At least this was helicopter spend. We never accepted a chargeback for ink or repairs. But most of the crunts wanted us to support their shitty printers. Mostly we won that battle.

    Was probably a badge of honour to have a personal printer. It was treated by IT was a sign that the owner was a f*cksticle of the highest order.

    At least this might kill the 10gb printer "driver", I mean advertising for subscription.

    1. Snapper
      Happy

      Re: Oh gawd no,

      Late 80's here. I went into a quasi UK government department where people were using Macs, and found that every person had their own Apple LaserWriter IINTX (about £5,000 then) sat by their desks. As a Mac consultant I gently wondered aloud why this setup had come about as Apple printers were net-workable with Apple's LocalTalk cabling or Ethernet adapters,

      The answer was that they had recently moved over from a printing hell caused by MS-DOS computers and the nightmare of getting networked printers to work, and it was thus department policy to provide printers to all staff.

      I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall of the sales meeting of the Apple Dealer who got THAT gig! "THIRTY-FIVE LaserWriter II's!!!, Here's my youngest daughter, bring her back in moderate condition tomorrow!!"

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Oh gawd no,

      I worked at a place like that. We tried to consolidate everyone onto workgroup printers, but were told it was a sign of status to have a printer in your office.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: it was a sign of status to have a printer in your office

        Ok sure, the most obnoxious nob gets a printer in their office: The Workgroup Printer.

  12. Spanners Silver badge
    Linux

    My first question

    Is this going to be a way to make printers only work with the latest version of Windows?

    I see this as a way to

    1. Punish all the people who don't jump to the latest shiny version of Windows quickly enough. and

    2. Make anyone who wants to sell a Windows-compatible device have to make it everything else incompatible.

    Someone will mark this down as it is paranoid. It's not. It is based on Microsoft's actions in the past.

    I have a Laserjet Pro MFP. I had to install drivers for Windows. My Chromebook and Android phone, saw it on the network and just added it. I prefer that to adding drivers. If MS can follow this example, that will be nice.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: My first question

      I agree. Microsoft doesn't do anything that won't improve its bottom line and/or lock-in.

  13. darkrookie28

    This sounds like they are taking away the option to add a printer the old way with the driver from the manufacture.

    The only thing that consistently works for all the computers here? That the only selection I trust for installing network printers is TCP/IP Device.

    This sounds like a fun headache in a couple of years.

    1. Dvon of Edzore

      As others have already noted, the fine article says manufacturers will be free to provide their own crapware, sourced from their own servers. However we both know the next thing will be under-the-table encouragement for makers to stop doing that in favor of the "universal" solution, which locks users into whatever the cartel decides is most profitable. After that comes bankruptcy or merger of the weaker cartel members into the stronger. Eventually a sole source for printing emerges which appears immune to anti-monopoly laws, but speculation there is a government back door involved somehow never gets printed.

  14. Gerlad Dreisewerd

    This is going to be "fun"

    I can only speak to my recent experience with Microsoft taking over the printer drivers for my HP 3830 printer. A Microsoft update took over the printer drivers for my up until that point reliable printer. I was never able to run my 3830 on Windows 10 again. On the other hand, it was quite easy to install my 3830 printer onto my Linux laptop. I could print and scan there.

    After a few months using my Linux laptop as a printer server, I decided I needed to upgrade my printer. My new Epson runs a whole lot better than my admittedly aging 3830. This sucks for HP; I won't be buying printer cartridges for that printer anymore.

    So now the Microsoft collective is taking over my Epson printer? Microsoft should remember that they need me as a customer. The converse is not necessarily true.

  15. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    ” Microsoft has made it clear: it will ax third-party printer drivers in Windows“

    Axe.

  16. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Strnage move by Microsoft, i always thought their greatest sales point was backward compatibility.

    1. ITMA Silver badge
      Devil

      "backward" certainly figures in numerous decisions Microsoft have made in the past.

  17. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    To be fair Apple did something equally stupid when they killed off 32 bit app support which basically killed a bunch of old printer drivers which have been abandoned including mine.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Neither this nor killing off 32-bit support is 'stupid'. Frustrating to a subset of users for sure, but such is the march of progress; you can't expect obsolete tech to be supported forever.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: you can't expect obsolete tech to be supported forever.

        There is a difference between obsolete due to the march of progress, and that which arises from wilful trashing of tech that is embarrassingly successful.

        1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: you can't expect obsolete tech to be supported forever.

          There absolutely is a difference.

          32bit was killed off because the address spacing wasn't able to keep up with modern technology and therefore to keep it viable, required additional development, security and provisioning costs when deployed along with x64 which weren't justifiable. Not exactly 'wilful trashing of tech'.

          3rd party pri... you know what? I can't even be bothered. You know the answer as well as I do.

          Be well.

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Not exactly 'wilful trashing of tech'.

            Ok, a couple of questions...

            Why did MS take steps to hobble installation of Windows 7 on new hardware?

            Why did all Office updates for Office 2000 get mysteriously removed from the web?

            1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

              Re: Not exactly 'wilful trashing of tech'.

              No idea, and no idea. If this ever happened.

              Even if it did, it’s a strawman argument. We’re talking about 32bit and legacy printer drivers that will be EOS after 2027.

  18. arachnoid2

    It just sounds like more unnecessary land fill as older functional hardware gets cut off in its prime .Just like when MS changed the driver model which prevented older drivers loading unless they were signed and manufacturers refused to pay to update older drivers.

  19. a pressbutton

    Printers meh

    I am sure that smart paper pads that you could display docs on and once done, blank or replace with another doc were promised

    Like a multi page colour etchasketch

    It was due at some point between fusion and flying cars

  20. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    Paperless office

    55 comments in, and no one has remembered how PCs were supposed to presage the paperless office ?

    1. Spanners Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Paperless office

      ... the paperless office...

      I remember hearing about that being imminent, when I was at college in the late 70's/early 80's!

      I still don't have a flying car either!

    2. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

      Re: Paperless office

      They have. Offices are now *mostly* paperless. It's months since I had to print anything personally, and the last thing I had to print for work was a shipping label about 2.5 years ago.

      However there are occasions on when paper still wins. It can be read and annotated without power.

    3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: PCs were supposed to presage the paperless office

      Don't give MS the idea that they are somehow the good guys in this.

      I would be interested to know the ratio of sheets printed containing intended printed communication* compared to test pages printed since the dawn of time.

      *I'm not including configuration sheets which convey - for instance - the current IP address at which the printer is currently hiding. Grrrr....

  21. MarkMac

    except if the windows driver is borked...

    Umm, so will microsoft guarantee their drivers work properly with every concevable printer model? I think not...

    If i allow windows to install the default drivers for my Brother MFD, printouts come out A5 in the centre of an A4 page.

    The driver *thinks* its printing properly, previews look normal, paper size correct etc - except it isn't...

    When i reinstall the driver from Brother, everything works fine.

  22. Tubz Silver badge

    Universal drivers should have been part of Windows 7 and later. Microsoft should have told hardware manufacturers to either make their hardware work with standard windows drivers or it doesn't get compatibility validation and nobody will buy ! I believe this is the way Apple do things ?

  23. Binraider Silver badge

    How will HP Instant Ink survive this?

    And when is the court case, because I'm sure there will be one.

    1. Dvon of Edzore

      Subscription plans will survive quite nicely, as the supplies will be automatically ordered from the Microsoft Store using the payment details you've already given them. Failure to keep the payment info updated will be a violation of the terms of service, a criminal offense under the latest Computer Misuse Act. Your trial will be held by ChatGOV, and your punishment for kidnapping applied promptly.

  24. bpfh
    Coat

    So no more 400 meg installs?

    Can they do the same for wifi drivers? I remember when an Intel driver was about 2 meg, then ballooned to 50 then 140...

  25. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    What happens when a core component is broken beyond repair

    In other words, after the print spooler security vulnerability exposed a few years ago, Microsoft has tried desperately to fix it and just continued to muck things up and break functionality, security, and drivers. It cannot be fixed so it must be replaced.

    To be fair, the print subsystem is something that I and many of my colleagues have agonized over for over a decade. This may not be such a bad thing... if it works.

  26. Bitman
  27. Palladini

    I got rid of windows after the end of support for Windows 7. These days I have Linux Mint and Manjaro installed, and both of those recognize both printers I have

  28. Derezed

    So

    Windows 11 doesn’t recognise my aging Samsung printer. They talk the talk…but they don’t walk the walk

  29. Tim 11

    When are scanners going to be properly supported?

    For 20 years now it's been relatively painless to install a standard (non-MFP) printer in Windows using MS drivers.

    How come installing a scanner or MFP is like going back to the early 90's?

    So much faffing around with different versions of custom drivers, bespoke apps and control panels, some devices not working with some apps etc.

  30. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

    How is this not cartel behaviour?

    I think this is something the EU and the FTC should be investigating. It definitely smells anti-competitive to me.

  31. jollyboyspecial

    Who?

    Who actually prints anymore anyway?

    Our office printer was out of action for almost a year. In that time about three people wanted to print.

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

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