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How Do I Get Printer Drivers for Linux?

Question: If you’re running Linux as your operating system and you get a printer without a driver CD how do you get drivers for Linux? What I mostly see on printer makers’ sites are drivers for Windows.

What you’re experiencing is sort of the dirty little secret of Linux: lack of hardware support.

Along with getting used to the different user interface, and perhaps not finding a specific needed application, I would wager that driver (hardware) issues are high on the list of things that prevent people from actually switching to Linux.

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Linux support

To be fair, Linux is actually an amazingly good operating system, but it simply is not as complete as Windows.

The problem here is that drivers need to be written or at least heavily modified for Linux specifically. That means either someone in the Linux open source community needs to write one, or the hardware vendor needs to do it.

The good news is that there are a ton of drivers and support already out there. Many things will in fact just work. It’s pretty cool.

Every time I install Linux on one of my machines, I’m fairly impressed by how much of the hardware it simply recognizes and works with; from video cards, to hard disk drives, to random hardware that I’ve got in my machine.

But of course, it won’t do everything. There just aren’t as many drivers written for Linux as there are for Windows.

Linux Distributions

It’s further complicated by the different distributions. Some drivers will work with many distributions; some don’t. There are so many distributions that you might not find your distribution listed in those supported, even though it might actually work.

The hardware vendors for example, particularly when it comes to printers I would assume, just don’t see Linux as a marketplace that’s big enough to justify their expense. And don’t kid yourself: drivers cost the hardware vendors money to write. They’re going to focus on those markets that are selling or using the printers more often: Windows, and to a lesser degree, Apple.

Tux - The Linux MascotSteps to try

So, what to do? Well, first, give it a try. Seriously. You might be very nicely surprised that the drivers you need may already be included or be available for your distribution.

Second, try the vendor’s website. I know you said you’re mostly seeing Windows drivers, but do poke around. Sometimes they’re hidden off in a corner. Sometimes those drivers aren’t placed in the box with the printer, but they are made available as a download.

Third, visit the product support forum for that particular Linux distribution and ask if anyone there knows. You’ll probably get the most knowledgeable response from those types of Linux forums, perhaps even with information about different drivers that somebody may have found to work.

Finally, you could give the printer manufacturer’s support site a try. Chances are they’re going to very quickly brush you off, because like I said, it’s such a small market from the manufacturer’s point of view. Every once in a while you can get lucky that a manufacturer will not only have a driver available, but will actually have someone on their support staff that is interested in getting that driver out there and supporting Linux.

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5 comments on “How Do I Get Printer Drivers for Linux?”

  1. A few years ago I went through a “Linux” period in my life. More specifically, I decided to try to use Ubuntu or Mint only on my two main working computers for a couple of years if possible and see if I could really make a go of it and break with Windows once and for all. Maybe I’m a bit of a technological coward, but it didn’t work out in the end in spite of my best efforts. Not Linux’s fault I am sure. However, I did learn some valuable things about operating systems, and about myself in the process. I discovered that if one is planning on running any flavour of Linux it pays to seriously consider an HP printer. Why? Because of all the printer manufacturers HP seem to provide Linux drivers for most of their models on their web site. And they are not rough and ready but stable, polished, neat drivers – at least in my experience. I am a private individual, retired, and have never had any connection with HP apart from being a modest user of their consumer products. Hope this might be helpful for someone out there looking to make the effort to “Linux-ify”. As always, thx Leo for a great site. I used to be a “Langalist” man, and in my humble opinion you wonderfully fill the void Fred left when the list was retired. Cheers, Peter.

  2. Totally agree with the above comment, very similar to my own experience with Linux.
    High on the list of reasons why I left Linux was as Leo suggested, lack of available drivers and or support finding and installing them. Most of the Linux Distro’s I have
    tried worked very well, but the lack of good third party software makes them little
    more than email checkers.

  3. In recent years, this has gotten much better. Run “Printers” or “Printing.” Click on “Add” or “+”. If appropriate, click on “network printer” and wait a few seconds. By now, your printer has appeared in the list, in most cases, select it and then “OK,” “continue” or “next” until it is installed. (The procedure is almost identical in Windows 8.)

    When I first moved to Linux, I had a cheap Lexmark all-in-one which wasn’t supported. A few years later, it was completely supported; installation was even simpler than the above, something along the lines of, “a printer has appeared, do you want to install it?”

  4. How do I make a Linux mint boot on a USB thumb drive? In other words stick in the USB
    And start the PC. I understand how to set the bios to boot off the USB but not how to set up the USB


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