Updated for MS Windows 10 – How To ‘Really’ Remove Unused Print Drivers From Your Windows XP/7/8/10 PC or Tablet
Updated on August 18, 2015 for the Windows 10 Operating System
One of the perils of being an evaluator of office-imaging solutions is that, gradually, your PC becomes bogged down with the detritus of software that is left over from previous evaluations. The question is, at what point does this detritus downgrade the performance of your test PC enough so that it affects the performance of the product that you’re trying to review?
There are several ways around this. You can use virtual PCs, which is great if you have the time and resources. You can use a “mule” PC that is dedicated to evaluations and nothing else. You can set system restore points, and restore your system to the point that it was before you began the evaluation. Unfortunately, the aforementioned solutions require that you have spare time and spare PCs, something that I have found to be an absolute luxury throughout my career. Nine times out of 10, I’ve found that you’re resigned to the fact that you have to run tests and write reports as quickly as possible using the same PC. Under these conditions, you become quite good at maintaining the performance of said PC through persistent and diligent maintenance.
Sure, you can uninstall all of the software when you have finished evaluating it. Afterwards, you can edit your program menu to get rid of unnecessary Startup items. You can delete orphan folders from your “Program Files” folder. You can scan/edit/clean the Microsoft Windows registry. Nevertheless, that’s not quite good enough and there eventually comes a time when you have to go the extra mile to really remove unneeded software from your system so that it doesn’t degrade your PC’s performance when used as a test unit (or as a word processor for that matter).
One of the biggest offenders is print drivers, which most cleanup programs are loathe to touch. You may be thinking “Print drivers—how can they affect my PC’s performance” Let me count the ways. I have seen PCs with so many print drivers installed on them that evaluators (not me of course) make mistakes during the evaluation process and waste time and prints sending jobs to wrong or non-existent printers. I’ve seen PCs with print jobs lined up in print queues for non-existent or non-connected printers. I’ve spent many hours (days?) cleaning up bosses’ and/or road warrior PCs that have so many print drivers installed on them that they cannot print once they return to the office. I’ve had instances where the existence of an older PostScript print driver has compromised exhaustive testing by corrupting the performance of a newer PostScript printer.
So what’s the big deal? Can’t I simply go into the Printer Folder and delete the offending printer? The answer is “Yes you can.” However, this method only removes the printer icon from your Printer Folder (XP)/Devices and Printers (Windows 7 and 8)–it doesn’t actually remove the print driver software from your system, which eventually leads to PC performance issues.
First Things First
If you have just bought a new printer/AiO/MFP and are ready to install it, you should make sure that unistall any printers/AiOs/MFPs that you no longer wish to use. Locate the software installed during the initial printer/AiO/MFP installation program and look for and select the uninstall icon. If you cannot locate an uninstall icon, you must go into the Control Panel and use Add or Remove Programs (XP) or Programs/Uninstall a program (Windows 7 and 8) in order to uninstall the software suite. Following these steps usually does the trick and removes all of the software, including the print drivers. You will also find that uninstalling any unused software suites can provide a noticeable boost to performance. This is especially true with AiOs and MFPs.
Now, double check whether the printer is removed from the Printer/Devices and Printers folder. If it is not, follow the steps below. We also recommend that even if the icon has been removed, you should double check to see if the actual printer software has truly been removed using the “Print Server Properties” methodologies described below.
Just browsing around and came across this deleting print driver stuff. Having tested thousands of devices here in the US and Japan, Singapore or wherever the methods Terry described are accurate but quite a few manufacturers are still very poor at creating clean uninstall utilities. The worst is when a newer driver is installed from the same manufacturer over an existing older driver and the dlls get overwritten, then it is very difficult to uninstall the older driver or if a different driver from the same manufacturer will cause a similiar problem. Sometimes with these drivers it is faster and more efective to start over with a fresh image of the drive and then reinstall the devices that were lost or just save the current image as is for use later. When you think about it for most, How many devices is an individual really going to install in their personal pc? In addition probably some of the code gets lost in translation. Nonetheless, from the start I would always create a clean system image of the primary drive using Windows bulletproof Backup and Restore which thankfully MS retained in Win10 and in fact labeled it “Bakup and Restore Windows 7” in control panel. This is not the same as using any Restore point or any other built in restore/recovery method in Win10 as it can be used to create an exact “image” of the drive. In fact, at times when traveling when I needed to use the current image I would back that up and then restore it for later use because I needed to look at the drivers for evaluation. If using a pc as the test rig, the first thing is to make the primary partition an acceptable size. Hopefully you do not need 1 Terrabyte drive for a test rig and are not using the pc as your personal pc but it still can be done as any image can be retored to exactly where it was but have to be careful to not delete anything you may need. If using a very large drive it will work too but more time consuming. Probably do not need the entire drive but Windows made resizing partitions convenient too, finally. If right click on “This PC” and select “Manage” the Disk management then create new partition. Once the primary partition is to the size you want with no devices installed and Windows updated. If a mechanical drive I usually defrag the drive and wipe the free space clean because it makes the backup go faster. You do need to create a repair disc as the PC has to be rebooted to restore an image (if the pc has a CD drive or most new pcs, a USB drive can be used). I had to with virtually no available resources available when in another country or in the field somewhere would save a “clean” image to a partition on a separate partition on the internal drive or can save the image to an external USB device, most are relatively inexpensive now. Unfortunately appears I am unable to post any screen shots. Anyway, to create the image after selecting the backup and restore select “Change Settings”, then on the next screen select where you want to store the image, there will probably be several selections. If you have an external drive select that or can use a partition on the internal drive. One the next screen “What do yo want to back up?” uncheck everything in the top part and only check on the bottom which should say, “Include a system image of drives: Windows Recovery Environment, (C:)”. Select Next and then Save settings and run backup”. Windows automatically creates a folder on the selected drive named “WindowsImageBackup”. Multiple images can be stored in the same folder from the same pc or from other devices and if you open the folder you can see they use the PC name. If different pcs images are stored there in the same folder you do have to know the name of the pc you want to restore. If accidentally restore an image fro another pc, then have to start the restore process over. Probably sounds complicated but is quite efficient. It is faster than reinstalling windows though Win10 is better at that and much more reliable than using a restore point which is also better on Win10. The nice part of using this is you can always save the current image in the state that it is in before overwritting it with a “clean” image but have to be observent of the date/time when the image was created. This pc is just a run of mill pc I built, guess I am getting old I still build my own PCs, my C drive is about 75GB and takes about 20 minutes to restore the drive. I guess could use a cloud server to save/restore too. I have tried this on one of my PCs that has a SSD and haven’t ran into any problems either. The process always requires some periodic maintenance in the form of running updates after restoring a clean image but Win10 is quite efficient and usually reliable.
Thanks for the valuable info Ken.