How to Install a Printer Driver

Get the software your computer needs to talk to its printer

Your printer may need a specialized driver in order for Windows to recognize it, and on rare occasion, you might also need to re-install a printer driver. This can happen if the original driver is uninstalled, or if you refresh your installation of Windows and need to replace apps and settings. Fortunately, printer drivers are easy to install, and your printer can be up and running in just a few minutes.

The instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8.

What is a Printer Driver?

Some peripherals are simple and standardized enough that Windows can be programmed with everything it needs to know to operate the device. Most mice and keyboards fall into this category, but many accessories need a small piece of software that tells Windows how to communicate with it, and how to use all of its features and options. A printer driver is exactly this. It’s a device driver provided by the printer manufacturer that Windows needs to work with the printer.

The good news is that these days, Windows comes with basic printer drivers for many common printers. Even if you don’t install the full-featured printer driver, you can often get started printing right away, though Windows might not be able to access all of the printer’s advanced features.

How to Install a Printer Driver

Before you use these instructions, review the installation instructions for your printer. If it’s a new printer, you can probably find a quick-start guide included in the box. If you're re-installing the printer driver for an older printer, go to the manufacturer’s web site and look for the printer manual, which is often in the site’s Support pages.

The setup guide for your specific printer may have different instructions you should follow rather than these general guidelines. 

  1. Select Start > Settings

  2. In the Windows Settings search box, type “Device installation,” then select Change device installation settings.

    The Windows Settings dialog box
  3. In the Device Installation Settings window, make sure Yes is selected, then either select Save Changes or just close the window. 

    The Device Installation Settings window
  4. In the Windows Settings search box, type “Printer,” then select Add a printer or scanner.

  5. In the Printers & scanners page, select Add a printer or scanner

    Adding a printer in the Printers & scanners window
  6. Select your printer when you see it appear, then follow any additional instructions to install the printer driver. 

    The Printers & scanners window while Windows searches for printers

Using a Printer Driver Installation Program

While relatively rare these days, some printers might require you to run a printer driver installation program rather than allowing Windows to install the driver on its own.

To do so, go to the manufacturer’s web site and look for the printer driver download file (often found in the Support section). Download the file and double-click it to run the installation and setup. Follow the instructions, and you'll be up and running in minutes.