How to Use Your Old Printers in Vista
The problem many people have with new operating systems is that they need to replace their hardware. Even if the basic computer specifications are adequate for the new operating system, there is always some device that is not compatible with the new OS, or no drivers are available.
Windows Vista is no exception, a lot of older hardware is not supported under Vista and Windows 7 for that matter. Even if there is no direct conflict, new drivers simply are not created. Printers are a classic example of this problem, the printer is working fine, but Vista has no support for it.
The first step is of course to check if there are compatible drivers available for the printer. But if that fails, then what?
Use Old Printer Drivers
When you are upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7, you do have the Windows XP compatible drivers for the printer. These however might not be compatible with Vista or Windows 7. Maybe they are not signed, or do not have the right driver architecture.
So how do we tell Vista to allow the use of these old printer drivers? Well that is possible by a change in the group police editor.
Follow these steps to change the group policy settings:
- In the Run box at the Start menu, type GPEDIT.MSC and press Enter. This will start the Local Group Policy Editor.
- In the Local Group Policy Editor, under Computer Configuration, select Administrative Templates.
- Then select Printers.
- In the righ-hand panel, right-click the entry called “Disallow installation of printers using kernel-mode drivers“, and in the popup menu select Properties.
- In the new dialog box, select the Disabled radio button, and click OK.
- Close the Local Group Policy Editor and then restart your computer.
After the reboot, you should be able to install the old drivers for your printer. The kernel-mode drivers have a more direct level of access to the OS, and as a result can do more harm if something is wrong with the driver, so make sure you have a reliable set of drivers for your printer.
If Vista does not allow you to execute the driver installation program, make sure to use these tips from Microsoft.
Of course there are other options that will allow you to keep using your old printer in Vista (or Windows 7). You can use a Virtual Machine, like Virtual PC, VMWare, etc. to create an XP instance on your Vista or Windows 7 system and install the printer there. Another option is to use a second computer, install XP on that, install the printer, and then connect through the network with that computer.
HP even keeps a list of alternate printer drivers for some older HP printer models that can be used under Windows 7.
All viable options, but they do demand you know a bit of computing and you definitely need to ask yourself whether the printer is still worth it…