Tech moves fast! Stay ahead of the curve with Techopedia!
Join nearly 200,000 subscribers who receive actionable tech insights from Techopedia.
A printer driver is a piece of software that interfaces the printer, a peripheral device, and the computer. As the name suggests, it drives the printer to do what is required of it. For example, it is the printer driver that converts the data to be printed into a format that the printer can understand, like a series of instructions telling the printer exactly where to place ink and what color is to be used.
A printer driver is simply a program that allows a computer to communicate with a printer and send print requests to it. It has two main components or functions: the first is to serve as a bridge between the computer and the printer, allowing the computer to understand the details and hardware specifications of the printer, and the second is the ability to transform print job data into a language that the printer can understand. Examples of languages or formats that printers use are Postscript, originally used in the first Xerox laser printers, and XPS, developed by Microsoft.
Each printer has a unique driver written for its profile for each operating system and must be installed on the computer. If configured incorrectly or if the wrong driver is installed, a printer will not even be detected properly by a computer. However, some printers use the generic printer drivers that come bundled with the operating system (e.g., Windows 7), allowing the user to print without installing additional drivers; this, however, can hinder the user from using the full potential of the printer as additional printer-specific settings and functions may be unavailable.