While most technology gets cheaper and better as time goes on, printers buck the trend. If anything, they’re getting more annoying and expensive. Microsoft can’t make HP stop bricking your cartridges, but it plans to make printer drivers less terrible. In the coming years, Windows 11 will do away with third-party printer drivers, moving to an integrated solution for the OS.
According to Microsoft, the current plan is to rely on an integrated IPP Class Driver and Mopria-compliant print devices. Eventually, this is how all printers will talk to Windows by default, doing away with the buggy printer drivers currently existing for every OEM. Those downloads could still be offered theoretically, but there would be no reason for anyone to bother.
For once, this is a Windows change that’s good for everyone. Users won’t have to worry about downloading a broken or otherwise substandard printer driver. Meanwhile, printer manufacturers will save on development costs. In the FAQ, Microsoft notes that Mopria certification will be required for all HLK (Hardware Lab Kit) devices. That means future printers will be plug-and-play compatible with a wide range of hardware.
This change won’t happen immediately, but Microsoft has a timeline in place. It starts now, in September 2023, with the announcement that third-party printer drivers will be retired. In 2025, Microsoft will stop allowing new printer drivers in Windows Update, but existing drivers can still be updated. The following year, Windows will change the ranking order of printer drivers to prefer the built-in IPP driver. In 2027, Microsoft will stop distributing new printer driver updates, save for special security-related cases.
You should not, however, expect this change to fundamentally alter the terrible things printers do. Modern printers are known for draconian ink upsells, eking out as much revenue as possible after you’ve already paid for the hardware. This could include disabling your all-in-one’s scanner when you run out of ink and charging exorbitant prices for ink subscriptions that won’t even work if your internet goes down. All these features have been exported to the cloud, so a standardized local driver won’t change how these companies monetize the products.
If you do, by some miracle, have a legacy printer that you like and is still operational in 2027, you can keep using it. Existing third-party printer drivers and updates will be available in Windows Update, and you can install them manually via the manufacturer’s download options.