Microsoft to kill off third-party printer drivers in Windows

Go native or go home: End of servicing plan rolled out for legacy printer drivers in fresh update

Microsoft has made it clear: it will ax third-party printer drivers in Windows.

The death rattle will be lengthy, as the timeline for the end of servicing stretches into 2027 – although Microsoft noted that the dates will be subject to change. There is, after all, always that important customer with a strange old printer lacking Mopria support.

Mopria is part of the Windows' teams justification for removing support. Founded in 2013 by Canon, HP, Samsung and Xerox, the Mopria Alliance's mission is to provide universal standards for printing and scanning. Epson, Lexmark, Adobe and Microsoft have also joined the gang since then.

Since Windows 10 21H2, Microsoft has baked Mopria support into the flagship operating system, with support for devices connected via the network or USB, thanks to the Microsoft IPP Class driver. Microsoft said: "This removes the need for print device manufacturers to provide their own installers, drivers, utilities, and so on."

The software giant also said that customization can be performed via Print Support Apps from the Windows Store. It added: "This framework improves reliability and performance by moving customization from the Win32 framework to the UWP software development framework."

While some wags have dubbed the framework the "Unwanted Windows Platform", it's always good to see legacy tech being retired in favor of something with a bright future ahead of it.

Microsoft's timeline for the end of servicing will be staged. The next milestone will occur in 2025 when no new printer drivers will be published to Windows Update – although existing drivers can still be updated. In 2026, driver ranking will be tweaked to bring the IPP inbox class driver to the top, and by 2027 – except for security-related fixes – no printer driver updates will be allowed.

To be clear, the end of servicing applies to drivers provided via Windows Update. Manufacturers will, according to Microsoft, "need to provide customers with an alternative means to download and install those printer drivers." Legacy v3 and v4 Windows printer drivers are facing the end of servicing ax.

Microsoft added that multi-function devices – print, scan and fax – will work via the inbox drivers.

Printing and Windows have long been uneasy bedfellows. While Microsoft hopes the end-of-servicing will take away some legacy driver headaches, there are plenty of other components within the Windows printing subsystem that can occasionally topple when poked the wrong way by a patch. ®

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