How to Find Device Drivers with Windows Update

January 8, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Upgrading to Windows 7 can often mean a new PC or laptop – and as a result this might lead to you being unable to use your old printer, scanner or some other device. This might be because your new computer doesn’t have a suitable port, or it might be because there are no Windows 7 drivers for your hardware available. While you might be able to get your hands on an adaptor to connect your old device to your new computer, finding a driver might be trickier.

However, all is not lost. Using the Windows Update tool in Windows 7, you can find device drivers for your older hardware such as printers and digital cameras without worrying about whether or not they can be replaced.

Using Windows Update in Windows 7

Install Device Drivers for Old Hardware with Windows Update

Despite the relative low cost of printers (a desktop inkjet printer is commonly around the price of two ink cartridge refills), many users are reluctant to replace these devices until they stop working.

The result of this is that users rely on printers they bought with their Windows XP computer in 2003. Many older printers can deliver results comparable with modern devices and only lack bells and whistles such as duplexing devices and network printing, so it makes sense to stick with such a device.

An example is the HP LJ 1100, an office-class laser printer from the early 2000s. Connecting such equipment up to a Windows 7 computer will prompt you to install the driver disc – however drivers for Windows 7 aren’t available on the disc as the printer predates the operating system and you won’t find the driver on the HP website.

The way around this is to use Windows Update. Instead of browsing the web looking for a driver, take advantage of the latest version of Windows Update, and use the Add new hardware wizard option to check online for suitable drivers for your device.

Note that this can take a bit of time, but once complete you will be able to use your old printer, scanner or whatever piece of hardware with Windows 7!

Install Device Drivers in Compatibility Mode

In addition to employing Windows Update to install device drivers for older hardware, you might choose to take advantage of the Windows 7 compatibility mode settings.

This is going to be hit and miss – some hardware can be installed in this way, some cannot, and anything you do successfully install may not work as intended.

If we consider that Windows Vista and Windows 7 are quite different to Windows XP and 2000 then it should be obvious that device drivers aren’t necessarily going to be compatible between versions. Additionally, while Windows Vista and Windows 7 are very similar, there is no guarantee that device drivers for one will work with the other.

As such, taking advantage of compatibility mode (right-clicking on the driver installer file and choosing Troubleshoot compatibility) should only be used as a last resort, a solution to be employed when there are no device drivers available for your Windows version either on the manufacturer’s website or via Windows Update.

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