Windows Wants to Phase Out Third-Party Printer Drivers

Over the next four years, Microsoft will slowly wean Windows off of third-party printer drivers. Manufacturers will lose the ability to publish printer drivers in Windows updates, and the Windows operating system will mainly rely on Microsoft’s IPP Class Driver, which offers native support for Mopria-compliant printer devices. The transition may not be smooth for everyone, but it should streamline printer usage and development, as manufacturers won’t need to tailor drivers to each Windows release.

Microsoft announced its “end of servicing” plan in a support document on September 7th, 2023. The company explains that new third-party printer drivers won’t be included in Windows Updates beyond 2025, although manufacturers can provide bespoke printer software in the Microsoft Store (this kind of software may provide custom printing UI, or extra printing and scanning options). Third-party drivers may also be distributed through manufacturers’ websites, of course, and legacy printer drivers (which are integrated into Windows) may receive security patches indefinitely.

Here’s the timeline, as provided by Microsoft:

  • 2025: No new printer drivers will be published through Windows Updates.
  • 2026: Windows printer driver ranking will always prioritize the Microsoft IPP Class Driver—it will become the default printer driver for all users.
  • 2027: Except for security-related fixes, third-party printer driver updates will no longer be allowed in Windows Updates.

Naturally, Microsoft acknowledges that the end of service for v3 and v4 printer drivers is an “impactful” change. Some users may run into problems, hence the slow timeline. But nearly every printer is Mopria-compliant, so the average person won’t know the difference. If anything, Windows users should spend less time looking for printer drivers (although I’m sure that printers will continue to be the bane of our existence).

Those in IT should know that this change also covers multi-function devices with scanning and faxing capabilities. As explained by Microsoft, “for network devices, the Print and Fax endpoints will work via IPP and IPP Fax Out, respectively, while the Scan endpoint will work via WS-Scan or eSCL.” When using USB devices, the endpoints “will only be accessible when the USB interface is in IPP Over USB mode which means IPP for Print, IPP Fax Out for Fax, and only eSCL for Scan.”

Source: Microsoft via XDA-Developers

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