Working around printer drivers issues for 64-bit Windows XP

Lack of printer drivers for 64-bit Windows XP creates rasterization problems. Workarounds are scarce. Here's one.

One of the ongoing criticisms of the 64-bit edition of Windows XP is that many hardware manufacturers have elected

not to create suitable hardware drivers for the operating system. Many lower-end or inexpensive hardware devices that have 32-bit XP drivers do not have a corresponding 64-bit version, and often the manufacturer of those 32-bit drivers has no plans to offer one.

More conventional printers that use PCL or PostScript can usually be made to work by using a generic 64-bit driver for the closest analogue to that particular printer. Some of the more elaborate printer features (such as finish-formatting) may not be available with that driver. However, for printers that use the driver to perform the actual rasterization but have no 64-bit driver at all, this is a problem; 32-bit hardware drivers cannot be used in 64-bit Windows at all.

So unless the hardware manufacturer changes its tune, or unless you decide to swap in a device that has 64-bit driver support, there is no easy workaround for the problem. One that is frequently suggested – installing the printer on another computer with 32-bit driver support and sharing the printer out -- doesn't work either, because the other computer still needs a 64-bit driver to print to it.

I found a workaround that's elaborate, but functional. A user had a 32-bit machine with a printer attached to it, and whenever he needed something printed, he simply dropped the file from the 64-bit machine into the 32-bit computer's shared files folder. If the application needed to do the printing wasn't available on the target machine, he used a 64-bit PostScript printer driver to produce a .PS file, which he could then rasterize on the target machine. (His chosen way to do this was to use Adobe Acrobat).

Microsoft has a generic PostScript driver in 64-bit Windows, the MS Publisher Imagesetter, that should handle most output-to-PostScript jobs. For the best possible flexibility, set default settings for the printer's PostScript options as follows:

TrueType Font: Download as Softfont
PostScript Output Option: Optimize for Portability
TrueType Font Download Option: Outline
Send PostScript Error Handler: Yes
Compress Bitmaps: Yes

These settings can be found in the printer's Properties pane, under General|Printing Preferences|Advanced. (You'll need to expand all the available trees to see each option).

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in July 2006

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