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The Windows 10 update process usually goes smoothly, but problems can and sometimes do occur. This is especially true when it comes to printing.
Windows 10 version 1809, which was released in October of 2018, was notorious for introducing printing problems. The reason why 1809 and subsequent versions of Windows 10 sometimes cause problems with printing is that Microsoft began omitting basic print drivers from major updates in an effort to reduce the updates' sizes.
This isn't to say that Microsoft no longer provides basic print drivers, but rather that the basic print drivers are not available by default. Windows 10 still allows you to install basic print drivers. When you do, Windows downloads the requested driver from Windows Update.
Here's how you, as an IT administrator, can fix printer problems after a Windows 10 update.
Steps to fix printer problems after a Windows 10 update
If you upgrade to a new Windows version and find that you are no longer able to print, then the first thing that you should check is whether or not the necessary print drivers are installed. To do so, go to Settings and click on Devices, followed by Printers and Scanners. If you don't see your printer listed, then you will need to install a print driver.
It's usually best to download a driver from the printer's manufacturer because vendor-supplied drivers often provide capabilities not found in the basic drivers. If you prefer to install a basic driver, however, just click on the Add a Printer or Scanner link, click The Printer That I Want Isn't Listed -- assuming that Windows can't locate your printer -- and then follow the Add Printer Wizard's prompts.
If a print driver had been previously installed, then you may find that it is listed on the Add Printer screen (Figure 1). In this case, simply select the printer and click the Windows Update button.
Occasionally, you may find that the screen shown in Figure 1 does not list your printer. If that happens, then you may be able to use the Microsoft Update Catalog to acquire a basic driver for your printer.
To manually search for a basic print driver, open your web browser, and go to the Microsoft Update Catalog. Next, enter your printer's make and model into the search box. If you find a suitable device driver, then click the corresponding Download button, and save the driver to a folder on your computer. It is worth noting that Microsoft usually encapsulates device drivers within a CAB file. As such, you will need to extract the CAB file's contents before continuing.
Now, go back to the Add Printer Wizard, and begin the process of manually setting up a printer. When you get to the screen shown in Figure 1, click on the Have Disk button. Next, simply point Windows to the folder containing the CAB file's contents. Windows should now be able to deploy the print driver.
There is one more printer-related problem that can sometimes occur following a Windows 10 version upgrade. Windows may fail to print, even though you installed the correct printer driver.
This particular problem can occur when the computer is configured to use a vendor-supplied printer driver rather than a basic driver. If the existing driver is outdated, then an OS update may introduce compatibility issues with the existing printer driver. If that happens, you can fix printer problems after a Windows 10 update by simply removing the existing printer driver. Then, download and install an up-to-date print driver.