There are two ways or in other words methods of installing a print driver in Windows. In this tutorial I will show you both methods and give you some inside about the pros and cons of these two methods.
Most of the Hardware Vendors provides “*.exe” executables which includes the printer driver for the end users. The printer driver is in reallity a “Page Description Language” (PDL).
Two Popular PDL’s are Available on the Market
1. PS (PostScript) :
Mostly used by Adobe products to get the best result for Vector Graphics. If you plan to print photos from Adobe products a PS driver will be the best for you.
2. PCL (Printer Command Language) :
PCL is an Object Oriented Language optimized to print from GUI for Windows. Basically if you plan to print mostly from Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF a PCL printer driver will be the best choice for your
Based on the above information you can choose the right printer driver for your environment and needs.
Printer Driver Installation Methods (Pros and Cons)
Method 1 :
The first method is by double clicking the executable provided by the hardware vendor. With this method beside the driver installation the hardware vendor can install additional printer related software on your pc or server.
Packaging a printer driver into an executable file gives the hardware vendor also the option and freedom to save the driver files outside the spool folder.
Based on Microsoft all driver files should be saved under the \spool folder which is under the following path C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers .
If a vendor doesn’t want to save its printer driver files under the \spool folder because of compatibility reason they are packaging its driver files into executables. This is the only way to prevent the copy of files into the spool folder.
If they would install its drivers via the *.info file they would be forced to install its compoents into the \spool folder.
Installing a driver via the executable makes the printing envionment less stable and more problems can occur during printing and managing the printer.
Method 2 :
The second method to install a printer driver is via the *.inf file. If the printer driver with the *.inf file is not provided seperately by your harwdare vendor, you have to extract the *.exe file to get the raw driver. To do this you can either use 7 Zip Tool or right click on the *.exe and click on “extract all”.
The raw printer driver will be inside the *.exe file. If you install the driver manually via the *.inf file the driver files will be forced to go to the C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers folder.
This method provides the most possible stability with your printer and your printing environment. Installing a printer driver via the *.inf forces the vendor to follow Microsoft’s guidelines.
It is possible that some of the advance printing features can be limited but in opposite this method provides a more stable printing environment.
Printer Driver Installation Steps
In this examle we use the “HP Universal Print Driver for Windows PCL6 (64-bit)” driver.
Steps for Method 1 :
1. Double click the *.exe file provided by your hardware vendor. It will ask you where to extract the driver files.
2. Once extracted the *.exe will automatically prompt for your consent.
3. Click Yes and continue.
4. Accept the End User License Agreement.
5. Select your Mode.
6. In our current example we select the Traditional Mode because in Dynamic Mode the Printers can disappear from time to time. Traditional Mode is more stable.
7. Click on Finish.
8. Once finished you will be able to see your Printer Object in Control Panel > Devices and Printers.
Steps for Method 2 :
1. The second driver installation method is the manual one via the drivers *.inf file instead of double clicking the *.exe provided by the hardware vendor. You can right click on the *.inf file and select the “Install” option.
2. Once discovered please select you printer or click on “The printer that I want isn’t listed”.
3. Select “Add a local printer or network printer with manula settings”.
4. Select “Create a new port” and from the drop and down menu “Standard TCP/IP Port”.
5. In our test we select the “General Network Card” because it’s VM without physical connection.
6. Click “Have a disk” and navigate to your vendors printer driver *.inf file.
7. Select your driver.
8. Click on next to install.
9. Now you can print a test page.
10. The printer appears as MyHPPrinter in Control Panel > Devices and Printers.
Good luck !