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Fix Printer Problems with an Uninstall and Reinstall in Windows 10

Printers and printing have long been their own special source of frustration in Windows. From early days to the present, printers have been known to behave oddly — and even stop working on occasion.

It’s gotten better, especially when it comes to installation, but random frustrating things still happen.

I don’t have a solution for everything, but I do want to share the first thing I do when a printer goes awry. I’d say it resolves over half, maybe as many as 80%, of the cases I’m asked about.

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Use the Windows 10 settings app to remove your printer from Windows and then add it back again. Doing so re-initializes much of the printer’s configuration information. While this approach doesn’t solve all problems, it’s a safe and easy first step to fixing printer issues.

Uninstall the printer

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, the first step is to uninstall the printer from Windows.

In the Settings app1, click on Devices, then Printers & scanners. Click on your printer, and underneath, it click on Remove device.

Remove device button in Printer listing
“Remove device” button in the Printer listing. (Click for larger image.)

You’ll be asked to confirm.

Are you sure you want to remove this device?
Are you sure you want to remove this device?

Click on Yes, and the printer will disappear from the list.

Re-add the printer

Click on Add a printer or scanner. Windows will scan your local network for printers, as well as any that are physically connected to your computer.

Adding a printer
Adding a printer.

When your printer appears, click on it. Windows will reinstall it.

Most of the time, this is all you need.

Adding a printer that’s not found

If, after some time, Windows has not found your printer automatically, click on The printer that I want isn’t listed for a list of alternative ways to install the printer.

Finding a printer by other means
Finding a printer by other means.

These are more advanced techniques, and may require that you have additional information (such as specific printer names or IP addresses) or skills (understanding manual settings) at your disposal.

There’s another approach not listed that’s actually more common and easier to perform: click on Cancel, and then visit the printer manufacturer’s website for the latest drivers and/or installation program for your specific printer. If available, that’s generally as simple as running the program and perhaps answering a few questions (remember, never choose default), after which your printer is re-installed.

What did we just do?

I liken it to a “reformat and reinstall” of your computer, except limited to the printer. By uninstalling and then reinstalling it, most settings are re-initialized to their default state, and the driver is configured for the correct, current state of your machine.

As I said, it doesn’t fix everything, but it does fix a surprising number of problems. It’s a good and generally safe first step when tackling printer issues.

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Footnotes & References

1: While this article focuses on Windows 10, this same technique can be used in prior versions of Windows via Control Panel.

9 comments on “Fix Printer Problems with an Uninstall and Reinstall in Windows 10”

  1. I don’t know if this applies to more recent printers, but I’ve found that downloading the installation file often installs a more featured version of the driver which gives more control over printing options when printing. That might be unnecessary for most people as the options given in the basic driver installation are usually enough. This is especially true for scanners.

    The advice in this article also applies to most installed devices. Often, (probably, most of the time) uninstalling them via the device manager and scanning for attached devices solves the problem.

    Reply
  2. I used the remove/reinstall approach way back with Windows 95 and every versions since then. It usually work great for your printer problems. I also found that this also work very well for most other devices.
    My successful uses include : misbehaving keyboard, non-responsive scanner, apparently dead mouse, dial up modem randomly disconnecting and timing out, video card problems, …

    I often combined this with the installation of drivers coming directly from the device maker’s web site.

    Reply
  3. Well I thought this item was timely. But No. My win 10 computer has stopped seeing my epson sx218. The first thing I did was uninstal and reinstall computer and software. No good. I ran the trouble shooter interesting enough that saw the epson printer.??but couldn’t repair the fault. Yet in settings not only does it not see it it can’t find it when I tried “can’t see my Printer”. On the epson web site this happening is not covered. The printer is OK because it works on my spare computer so something has gone wrong with win 10, but what. Probably something simple that I should have seen but failed. Any idea’s welcome please.

    Reply
  4. Don’t just uninstall and reinstall. Uninstall, then switch the computer and printer OFF, disconnect the printer cable if such is used. If WiFi is used switch the router off. Wait 10 seconds. Switch the computer, router and printer back on, let all of it boot completely. Then connect cable to computer (if used), get the latest driver from the manufacturer and install.
    So many people say ‘it doesn’t work’ but the only problem is that they are impatient and want to start something while there is still a previous operation is in progress. Installation makes deep changes to the system. Don’t do other things while installing something (although you can e.g. download drivers).

    Reply
  5. I have found that when the printer doesn’t work I run windows troubleshooter on the printer and all of a sudden it is fixed and printing. Easier than a uninstall and then reinstall

    Reply
  6. I have used an HP OfficeJet 6958 printer for years but have always had issues with trying to Scan documents. I have sent requests to HP for help but to no avail. I read your article and thought I would give it a try. I am very pleased to say, Your recommendation worked. I am now able to Scan documents. Thanks.

    Reply

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