Posted by: kurtsh | September 22, 2006

INFO: How to remove a bad Printer Driver

Anyone that’s heard one of my talks in the past on Windows operating system reliability has heard me say that the number one problem with Windows reliability has been without a doubt, the stablity of hardware drivers and if we had to focus on one particular type of driver that’s caused users the most problems… it’d be printer drivers.

Bad printer drivers can cause actual crashes, erratic behavior, intermittent freezes in the UI, complete and total freezes of the system… a whole littany of problems that people often attribute to the operating system instead of a 3rd party piece of code.

A good example of this is the HP Laserjet 5 PCL driver back in the late 90’s.  The driver was sooooo bad that most people resorted to using the old HP Laserjet 4 PCL driver which, while not being able to use any of the advanced features of the LaserJet 5 hardware like double-sided printing, was extremely stable and reliable.

Another example of "bad printer drivers" is how some people try to install unsigned Windows 95/98 printer drivers into Windows XP.  THIS IS A SERIOUS NO-NO, PEOPLE.  Yes, it might work but it’s gonna come back to haunt you.  Never install a printer driver into Windows XP that isn’t specifically a Windows XP printer driver.

What’s my point?  Well, recently someone asked me how to uninstall a printer driver:  Not just uninstall a configured printer… the actual driver itself.  It was suspected that the printer driver itself was causing problems and under Windows XP, the typical user thinks to go to Computer Management under Administrative Tools, and look under devices for a Printer driver to uninstall.

The only problem of course is that Printer drivers aren’t located here.  Chalk this up as a brain fart on our part.  This is how you go about removing a defective or misbehaving printer driver in Windows XP:

  1. Go to Printers & Faxes
  2. Delete the printer configuration in question.  (For safety’s sake, you may want to consider deleting all printer configurations to ensure that you aren’t still using some element of the driver in another configuration somewhere.  Remember that a driver is often times more than just a single file.  It may involve shared libraries in use by multiple printer configurations.)
  3. Go to File –> Server Properties
  4. Go to the Drivers tab.  You will be presented with a list of drivers.
  5. Select a Driver and press the "Remove" button.

Now, if this doesn’t work, it may be possible that your Print Spooler services is hosed.  This was a problem that I once encountered that can usually be fixed using a Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit tool called CLEANSPL.EXE.   You can download the whole ResKit from here.   (Thanks to Bruce Sanderson for this explanation.  He has the problem of fixing the Print Spooler well documented on his web site.)


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