It’s incredibly frustrating when the Printer driver is unavailable error message pops up exactly when you need to print an important document on your Windows PC. Many users encounter this error, though, which you should be able to fix without turning to your printer’s manufacturer for help.
Why does my printer say Driver Unavailable?
When there’s something wrong with your printer’s software, you should expect error messages such as the Printer driver is unavailable error. It could happen because your printer isn’t properly connected to your PC or your printer driver is obsolete or incompatible.
In other cases, there might be a corrupt file in your operating system that’s affecting multiple parts of the computer, including the printer. No matter what the root of the problem is, the result is the same: you can’t use your printer.
How to fix the Printer driver is unavailable error
Before starting the troubleshooting process, you should perform a basic checkup in case the problem is mundane and can be easily fixed:
- The printer should be plugged into a power source and connected to the computer through Wi-Fi or by using a cable
- It should be turned on and not currently in sleep/hibernation mode
- If you’re trying a remote printing job by sending a task through email, make sure that you specified the correct email address and that it wasn’t changed (some addresses are dynamic)
- Wi-Fi printers can be tricky. In some cases, it’s necessary to connect your device to the same Wi-Fi network as the printer in order to start a task
- Check that the cables are properly connected to the computer
- Try using a different cable in case your current one is damaged
- If you have a USB-enabled printer, connect to another one in case the current USB port is malfunctioning
- Ensure that the printer ink cartridges are not empty and that you have paper
If you still receive the Printer driver is unavailable error message after this checkup, you should set up a system restore point before starting with the solutions below. It will allow you to revert system settings to their original values as a backup measure.
1. Update your operating system
Windows 10 gets updated weekly, even with software related to printers and printing drivers. You shouldn’t miss out on these updates, no matter how annoying they can become sometimes. Here’s how to run Windows Update:
- Click the Start button, search for Check for updates, and press Enter
- Press the Check for updates button if the checkup doesn’t begin automatically
- If Windows finds anything new, click Download
- Do not shut down or restart your PC during the update. All your computer activities will be slowed down during this time
- Once the update is complete, try to use your printer
2. Reinstall the printer device
Your printer device might not be plugged into the computer correctly due to a software error. But you can easily fix this with the help of Control Panel or Device Manager.
How to uninstall the printer device from Control Panel:
- Press the Win key, search for Control Panel, and open this app
- Go to the Devices and Printers area
- At the Printers category, right-click your malfunctioning printer and select Remove device (you need admin rights)
- Click Yes to confirm
How to uninstall the printer device from Device Manager:
- Right-click the Start button and go to Device Manager
- Click the arrow button next to Print queues to extend this group
- If you don’t see your printer on this list, open the View menu and select Show hidden devices
- Right-click your printer and select Uninstall device
- Click Uninstall to confirm
- Once the device was uninstalled, open the Action menu and select Scan for hardware changes
- Restart your PC. Windows should automatically reinstall the missing device
- Try to use your printer now
3. Update the printer driver
The Printer driver is unavailable error message can be caused by an outdated driver. For instance, if you have recently migrated to Windows 10 from an older Windows version, it’s possible that your current printer driver is no longer supported by Microsoft’s latest operating system.
Normally, the driver should get automatically installed, particularly when running Windows Update. In case it doesn’t, you can make this happen in a few steps:
- Click the Start menu, search for Device Manager, and launch this app
- Expand the Print queues category
- Right-click your printer device and select Update driver
- Click Search automatically for drivers
- If the online search doesn’t return any results, click Search for updated drivers on Windows Update
- Restart your computer and try to use your printer
Windows 10 often fails to find newer drivers with the help of Windows Update. If that also happens in your case, then it’s up to you to manually download the latest driver from the manufacturer website of your printer. For example, if you have an HP printer, then you should visit the HP support page and look for a driver compatible with your printer model and Windows version.
Then, return to Device Manager and retrace the steps above until you reach the Update driver section. Only, in this case, click Browse my computer for drivers, indicate the driver setup file, and follow the on-screen instructions to finalize the driver setup.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to deal with this hassle and risk getting the wrong driver version, we suggest opting for driver update software. This kind of application is specifically designed to detect all obsolete drivers on your PC, find newer versions on the web, and automatically install them to your PC.
4. Roll back the printer driver
If you accidentally installed a driver that’s not compatible with your printer and operating system, it could be the reason why you keep getting the Printer driver is unavailable error message. A simple way to fix this problem is by rolling back the driver to a previous version, provided that you still have it on your computer. Here’s what you need to do:
- Press Win key + R, type devmgmt.msc, and press Enter to open Device Manager
- Expand the Print queues category
- Right-click your printing device and go to Properties
- Switch to the Driver tab
- Click Roll Back Driver and follow the instructions
- If the button is greyed out, it means there’s no previous version saved on your PC, so you can’t perform the rollback
- Restart your Windows PC and try your printer now
5. Reconnect plug-and-play printers
The best part about plug-and-play printers is that you can easily unplug and reconnect them to your device to get rid of the Printer driver is unavailable error message. Here’s what you should do:
- Unplug your printer’s cable from the PC by removing all cables
- Wait for a bit, then reattach the printer cables to the PC. Try using a different socket this time if you have another one available
- A configuration wizard should start immediately. If it doesn’t, right-click the Start menu and go to Settings
- Select the Devices section
- Switch to the Printers & scanners area
- Click Add a printer or scanner and wait until Windows identifies your printer
- If it can’t find it, click The printer that I want isn’t listed and follow the step-by-step instructions
6. Set the default printer
If you have or had multiple printers and scanners attached to your computer, your operating system might have a hard time trying to tell them apart and identify the default printer. It can also happen if Windows is in charge of managing your default printer.
As a result, it won’t work properly and show you the Printer driver is unavailable error message instead. But you can fix this issue by setting the default printer. Here’s how.
- Type Win key + R, type Control Panel, and press Enter to open this app
- Head over to Devices and Printers
- Identify your printer in the Printers category
- Right-click it and select Set as default printer
- Click OK to confirm
- Try a printing task now
7. Run the printer troubleshooter
Windows 10 comes with troubleshooters for all important components, including the printer. You can use it to solve the usual problems that prevent your printer from working properly. Here’s how to find it:
- Right-click the Start button and select Settings
- Visit the Devices section
- Go to Printers & scanners
- Scroll down to Related settings
- Click Run the troubleshooter and follow the wizard steps
- Try to use your printer
8. Restart the printer services
There are multiple Windows services responsible for how your computer interacts with your printing devices. And these services must be able to run normally. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be surprised when you receive the Printer driver is unavailable error message. Here’s how to restart them:
- Press the Windows key, search for Services, and open this app
- Find and double-click Print Spooler to access its properties
- Set Startup type to Automatic
- If the Service status says Stopped, click the Start button
- Click Apply and exit
- Right-click Printer Extensions and Notifications to visit properties
- Set Startup type to Manual
- Click Apply and exit
- If you have other services with printer in the name, make sure to set the manual startup type
- Exit Services
- Try to use your printer now
9. Power-cycle your devices
You can refresh all your household devices by performing a power cycle. It means unplugging everything, waiting for a while, then plugging all back in. Here’s how:
- Turn off your computer and printer, then unplug them from the power source
- Do the same for your router and modem
- Wait for a few minutes, then reconnect everything
- Try to print something now
10. Check your PC for malware
You might not realize it, but your computer might have been recently hit by a malware attack. It happens if you don’t turn on your antivirus application or don’t keep it updated with the latest virus signature updates.
If you don’t have a third-party anti-malware application set it place, it means that Windows Defender is in charge of everything (it’s actually quite effective). Here’s how to use it to find and remove malware:
- Press the Win key, search for Windows Security, and press Enter
- Select the Virus & threat protection area
- Click Scan options
- Select Quick scan and click Scan now
- If the malware scan doesn’t show anything, run another one using the Windows Defender Offline scan option
- After Windows finds and removes all infected files, reboot your PC
- Try performing a printing task now
11. Start Windows in Safe Mode
Booting Windows 10 in Safe Mode is a great way to disable any non-critical drivers, services, or processes that might be affecting your computer and causing the Printer driver is unavailable error. Here’s how:
- Open the Start menu and click the power button
- While holding down the Shift key, click Restart
- Windows 10 will boot in Recovery startup mode with a blue screen
- Select the Troubleshoot area
- Go to Advanced options > Startup Settings
- Click Restart
- Press F4 to enable Safe Mode
- After Windows boots, try to use the printer
12. Roll back Windows 10
If you still can’t figure out which unfortunate software event has caused the Printer driver is unavailable error, you can roll back Windows 10 to a restore point.
Just pick one that was created before the printing error began. But keep in mind that applications installed after the checkpoint will be deleted, so make sure to back up everything first.
- Press the Win key, search for Control Panel, and hit Enter
- Select the Recovery section
- Click Open System Restore (you need administrator rights)
- Choose a system restore point and click Next
- Follow the step-by-step instructions and restart your PC
- Try to use the printer now
13. Inspect the printer logs
At this point, it’s time to get in touch with your printer’s manufacturer and request assistance. Before doing so, however, it’s a good idea to gather the error details. Here’s how to easily make it happen:
- Right-click the Windows button and select Device Manager
- Open the Print queues group
- Select your printer device, right-click it, and go to Properties
- Switch to the Events tab
- Copy the details about each event
- Contact your printer manufacturer and share this information
To review, the printer driver unavailability error message occurs when there’s an issue with your printer, computer, or software. It’s pretty common and can be usually fixed without too much hassle.
For instance, you can update Windows 10 to the latest version, reinstall the printer device, update the printer driver, roll it back to a previous version if it’s not compatible, as well as reconnect your plug-and-play printing device.
Furthermore, you can set the default printer, run the built-in dedicated troubleshooter, restart all printing services, and perform a power cycle on all household devices.
It’s also a good idea to run a computer scan and remove any malware agents, start Windows 10 in Safe Mode, revert the operating system to a previous restore point, as well as inspect the printer logs when sharing details with the manufacturer.
How did you manage to fix the Printer driver is unavailable? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.