The Printer Driver Is Unavailable: How to Fix Printer Driver Errors

By: Contributors  | 
ERROR written in colorful block letters against a dark background.
The printer driver is the bridge between your computer and the printer. anand purohit / Getty Images

The printer driver is the connection between your computer and your printer that relays commands to tell the printer how and what to print [source: Canon]. That is, until you see the dreaded "printer driver is unavailable" error message.

There are many possible reasons why your printer driver might stop working. For example, it could be corrupted or incompatible, the settings might be wrong or it might be missing updates. Fixing a printer driver error is often simply a matter of updating, installing or reinstalling the driver.


Understanding the Error

The "printer driver is unavailable" error message typically occurs when your printer's driver is outdated, corrupted, or incompatible with your operating system. Device drivers are essential software that communicates between your system and the printer, translating your computer's data into a format the printer can understand [source: Molinaro]. If the driver software fails, the printer won't be able to receive and process your print commands.


Step 1: Check Your Connection

Before dusting off the user manual, carve out some time to double and triple check the printer's connection. Simple connectivity issues can sometimes be mistaken for driver problems.

If you're using a a USB connection, try a different USB port or cable. If you have a network printer, ensure that your device is connected to the correct network and that the printer is online.


Step 2: Updated Your Printer Driver

Updating your driver is the most direct approach to resolving these frustrating printer error messages. There are two ways to do this:

Automatically Through Windows Update

Windows can search for and install the correct driver version for your printer. Access your system's update settings and check for any updates. Once it's set up, Windows update will download and install recommended updates for your printer automatically. Here's what how to set it up:


  1. Press Start in the bottom left corner of your screen. A popup menu will appear.
  2. Type Update in the search bar, and a list of results will appear. Depending on your version of Windows, you may have to select "all programs" from the first popup menu. Click Windows update and in the left pane, click "check for updates." Depending on your version of Windows, you may have to select "select the updates you want to install" page. You'll then click "install updates" on the Windows update page. Similarly, you may have to select "view available updates" and then click install for the driver you wish to install.
  3. Provide a password or confirmation if you're prompted to do so. This will show that you're authorized to make this type of change. When the process is complete, a box will pop up, saying that the printer driver has been installed correctly.

Manually Through the Manufacturer's Website

In some situations, you may need to look for the printer driver manually. Fortunately, that's fairly easy too. Simply visit the printer manufacturer's website, find the support or download section, locate your printer model, and download the latest drivers. Ensure you choose the driver compatible with your operating system version.


Reinstalling Printer Drivers

If updating the driver doesn't resolve the issue, you might need to reinstall it. This involves removing the current driver from your system and installing a fresh version. Here's a general guideline:

  1. Open device manager.
  2. Find your printer under "print queues" or "printers".
  3. Right-click on your printer and select "uninstall device".
  4. After uninstallation, reboot your computer. Windows should attempt to reinstall the driver automatically. If it doesn't manually download and install the latest driver from the manufacturer's website.


Call Customer Support

When all else fails, contact customer support. The manufacturer's support team should be able to provide you with detailed guidance and support for more complex problems that are specific to your printer model.

While nobody enjoys being on hold, the manufacturer knows their products far better than anyone online. Most companies offer call-back options, or e-mail support to serve those short on time.


Restoring Your Connection

The printer driver unavailable error message can be a roadblock, but it's often solvable with a bit of troubleshooting. By systematically checking your connection, updating or reinstalling the printer driver, and seeking manufacturer support when needed, you can overcome this issue and insure your printer serves you well for years to come.

Remember, keeping your printer's driver up to date is key to avoiding future errors and maintaining optimal printer performance. So don't ignore those update requests, stay current, and stop software error messages before they happen.


Printer Error FAQs

Why do I keep getting a printer error?
There are many reasons why you may get a printing error. The most common reason is an unreliable connection between the printer and the computer. You might also have a paper jam, out-of-date drivers or a print spooler service with bad data.
Which printers are the slowest?
According to experts, the slowest printers are inkjet models because they use a spray gun that has to move around the paper. Most spray guns are small and will have to cover a wide surface area, which makes them slow.
Are laser printers better than inkjets?
Laser printers have been touted as better devices than inkjets when it comes to printing documents. However, inkjets are substantially better at printing high-quality photos. Inkjets also take up less space in rooms.
What does 'printer in error state' mean?
This is an indication of a problem with the printer itself. Check to see if the printer is properly turned on and connected to your computer. Also, see if the paper is properly aligned with the tray and there is enough ink available for printing.