The 'printer driver' is a piece of software the printer manufacturer provides. Basically, it intercepts information directed to the printer and translates it into language the printer can understand. Any print jobs; from a web browser, email account, word processor, etc. are routed through the printer driver. Without a correctly installed driver, a printer will not print correctly. If a hard disk is 'recovered' or reformatted, the printer driver must be reinstalled.
When the driver begins translating a print job, the first thing sent to the printer is a 'setup string' that tells the printer basic information about the job being sent. Things like page formatting - landscape or portrait - fonts, margins, etc. preceed the body of the document. If a print job is interrupted by a paper jam, ink out error, etc. and the printer is subsequently turned off, or reset, this 'setup' information is lost. If the print job is not cancelled before the printer signals the computer it is again 'ready', the rest of the print job will likely come out as several pages of 'garbage'. This is because the rest of the 'translation' makes no sense without the original 'setup string.'

No matter what brand of printer is being used, the printer driver will have quite an effect on the outcome of all print jobs. Printer drivers are also very useful for troubleshooting print quality problems.

There are a couple of easy ways to access to the printer driver. The direct path to get to the printer driver, in a Windows environment, is to click on the Start button. Highlight Settings, and click on Printers. This should bring up the printers file. In this file will be icons for "add printer" and an icon for the printer that is installed on the computer. To access the printer driver, right click on the printer's icon, and then click on properties. Another way to access the printer driver is to have a print job that is ready to print. To access the driver from a document, click on file, and then click on print. This will bring up the print box. Inside the print box, the default printer's name will be displayed. Somewhere nearby, there should be a 'button' that says, 'properties'. By pressing the button, the printer driver will be opened.

Upon opening the printer driver, there are several settings that can be changed to manipulate print quality. When printing simple text documents, print quality is generally not a premium so factory defaults can be used. When printing photos, however, it is a good idea to experiment with paper settings (ie photo paper, glossy film etc.) and print quality (ie microweave, photo quality, etc.). These settings will make quite a difference in the final print.

Printer drivers are also very useful in troubleshooting print quality problems! Most drivers have a tab designated as "maintenance" or "utility." Under this tab are some basic steps to determine if the printer is in need of service. Most have a test print button, and/or a "nozzle check" button. A nozzle check will show whether all of the printers nozzles are firing. If not, there are also buttons for head cleaning. If the printer's print quality has deteriorated, print a nozzle check pattern then perform a head cleaning. Follow with another nozzle check pattern to see if the nozzles are clearing up. There are also head alignment buttons if the printer does not have good bi-directional or color alignment.

Print drivers are an excellent tool for getting the best quality print from your printer but require a bit of experimentation to become familiar with their capabilities. Give it a try!

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