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What to Do if You Lose Your Printer Driver Disk

There was a time, not so many years ago, when you probably needed to buy a new printer if you found yourself in this position. Today, all you need to do is go onto your favourite Web search facility and type in: “printer disk for (fill in the blank) printer”. This will at least get you started. If you are reading this online you probably don’t need me to tell you this.

When men were MEN and disks were DISKS

Remember these? Now they look like something from a museum.

Printer disks have changed, though. Way back when, before everyone had access to the Web, a printer disk was not a CD but a floppy disk. Its contents were the single, critical, essential cog in your system that let you use your printer: the printer drivers. If you lost this disk, you were a hard-disk crash or a corrupted file away from losing the use of your printer. And you lost it, in all likelihood, for good. You were not going to print, ever, until you installed new drivers.

So those of us who depended upon our computer systems for a living hoarded these disks like family heirlooms. We kept them, all safe and secure, in a special place where spouses, kids and the cat could not get at them. We copied them and stored them in different places. Every now and then we took them out and inventoried them. Really.

The rise of bloatware

But then came the near-universal usage of CDs and the Internet and then printer manufacturers, eager to offer extra value and to differentiate their printers from the competition, began expanding the contents of that disk: printer “utilities”, meaning, software applications you didn’t know you needed. Typefaces. Digitized versions of your user’s manual. Setup videos. And marketing bumf. Welcome to the wonderful world of (fill in the blank) printers.

What’s really important in the midst of all this noise is still the same: drivers. Without them you’re not going to print. Just like always.

Taking aim at your target

Target

Your printer driver is out there, somewhere. The key is to know exactly what your looking for.

So you’re not really looking to replace the whole disk. It might take you hours to download all that (let’s be honest) useless media and put it onto a CD. No, what you need is what us oldies hoarded like our original birth certificate. You need to find and download the right printer driver.

Your first step is to figure out exactly what system your computer runs. I have long been astounded at the number of users who do not know this. Your Windows or your MacOS or your linux system has a version number. Get it and write it down if you don’t think you’ll remember it. Get the kids to help you if you need to.

Then figure out the precise make and model of your printer. It might be Brother DCP-385C or HP LaserJet 2100TN. Write that down too. You might think you’ll remember it but trust me, when you get to the crunch you won’t.

Now you’re ready. You can probably get there from here – patience is the key.

Tips for owners of printers from major manufacturers

Finding Canon printer drivers

Go to Canon’s download centre.

All you do is select your country (if you’re a personal user), or language (for business users), your product (printer, presumably) and your model. Click on “Go” and you’re taken to a page with another dropdown where you select your operating system and your language – I don’t know why you should have to select your language a second time – then click on “submit”.

There is a good chance, depending upon the machine you have, that you will have to select software and not manuals or firmware, and the only choice you will finally arrive at will be Desktop Manager (remember what I said about “bloatware?”) but you are essentially home free at this point. Just click on the item you need and follow the cues as they come up.

Finding Dell printer drivers

Go to Dell’s download centre.

This company adds an interesting twist in that you can enter your machine’s “Service Tag” – a link tells you how to find this number on your device – and Dell’s database will return just about everything you could conceivably want to know about it, including what drivers you need for it.

If you don’t want to do this for some reason, you can still select your product and model number from a series of dropdowns. If you want to download an entire series of data files onto a Windows system, Dell will make you first download and install something called the “Dell Download Manager”. This might get a little complicated, but Dell provides you with a pretty detailed Frequently-Asked-Questions presentation that answers just about everything, including how to uninstall it once you’re finished.

Finding Epson printer drivers

Go to Epson’s integrated support and download centre.

Just enter your model number (Stylus SX415 or whatever) and hit your enter key. Epson’s site sniffs your operating system and asks you to confirm it, then presents you with a list of options, Drivers and Software being the one you’re interested in.

Epson give you meaningful details at every step of the way – file sizes for instance – and give you the opportunity to get updates emailed from the company. It’s very neat and very well done.

Finding HP printer printers

Go to HP’s driver download page.

HP was one of the leaders in the “bloatware” movement, so you might expect this to be a full-featured experience. Well, you won’t be disappointed. For one thing, there’s a Detect your product option on this page that, if you have a newer Windows installation and it’s all properly configured with an up-to-date browser, will scan your system and tell you what HP hardware you have installed and present you with a range of choices for it. Pretty nifty.

If Detect your product doesn’t work for you (it doesn’t for me) than all you have to do is enter your printer model in a search box and then select your operating system. HP include a link to an application that will try to check your system to see whether your HP drivers need updating, but this doesn’t work for everyone. Me, for instance. You, maybe.

The download page you will finally arrive at gives you a wide variety of options to choose from: HP Managed Printing Administrator (read: printer utility you didn’t know you needed), HP Easy Printer Care Software (more of the same) and even CD-ROM: HP LaserJet 2100 Printing Software (order the entire CD). And finally your printer drivers. Click on one of the Download links and you’re home.

Lexmark printer drivers

Go to Lexmark’s support and download.

Lexmark presents you with a series of, well, idiot-level links and photographs to help you arrive at the correct download page for your device. Once you’re there, you will discover a range of truly useful links, depending upon your system: Detailed Information on Installing/Troubleshooting Wireless is one. Upgrading to Windows 7? Is another. Down at the bottom is a link that says, Drivers. You can select either a full package that includes a setup utility or a “core package,” just the basic driver for you to install yourself.

Finding Samsung printer drivers

Go to Samsung’s “Global Download Centre” is here.

The first thing you will notice here – after you accept the user’s agreement – is the eye-popping assortment of products Samsung make. Printer is way down the list. Select your model and the site will take you to a download page where you can select the driver you need and click to download it. It will probably be a “zipped” file. If you don’t know what to do with a “zipped” file you might need someone with a little technical savvy to give you a hand.

If you conclude from this that Samsung’s driver download facility is a little less developed than the other vendors here, well, I’d say your right. On the positive, they seem at least to have provided all the drivers you’re likely to need.

Brother printer drivers

Go to Brother’s UK download.

The presentation here is not slick and sophisticated, but it works. All you do is click on the options as they appear – product category, series, model number, downloads, operating system, language, and finally, on the download page, the particular file you want.

Brother give you a wide range of downloads including a “Full Driver & Software Package,” a “Driver Deployment Wizard” to walk you through the installation, and finally just the bare drivers, for those of us who think we know what we’re doing. There’s even an “uninstall” tool, a repair tool for network printers, and firmware updates for the printer itself.

This is an impressive selection of downloads. If there were a “No fluff, just the stuff” award for printer support sites, Brother would take home the prize.

A final word

If your printer manufacturer is one of the ones not listed here, don’t despair. You might well find just what you need on the Web and go straight there, download a data file and install it yourself in a matter of minutes. Or you might have to dedicate an afternoon to it. But you’ll get it done.

My final bit of advice: steer clear of third-party software vendors. Some of them are perfectly fine, but some are not. The original manufacturers have made a huge investment in developing and updating printer drivers, and there is no reason to go elsewhere.

About the author:

James has been a writer all his life. As a technical writer he pioneered online documentation and wrote end-user documentation for several computer manufacturers. His manuals have been praised in PCMagazine and Wired, among others. During a 14 year career in the U.S. navy (as a carrier jet aviator) James wrote a number of technical and classified publications. James has also written two novels and one stage play.

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  • User Gravatar Eric Murphy
    August 12th, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    HI James, I saw you guest article on techtricksworld.com(one of my favourite site). I liked your post there and was willing to see your blog so I am here. You have a very nice blog here about the printers. Loved your blog.

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