What you need to know
Microsoft announces an end to servicing legacy v3 and v4 Windows printer drivers via Windows Update, to be completed in 2027.
Manufacturers will subsequently need to provide third-party drivers via brand-specific support portals.
With a first-party Microsoft IPP Class Driver, printers will function on modern versions of Windows without extra software.
In what might seem like the first genuinely helpful step forward for printer usability in years, Microsoft is ending its support for third-party printer drivers (via Tech Radar) delivered through Windows Update. Though it sounds daunting, native support for Mopria-compliant printers (a certification program promoting interoperability between different models and manufacturers) will be available via its first-party IPP Class Driver, first introduced in Windows 10 version 21H2.
For developers, this means moving printer customization options from a traditional Win32 environment to Microsoft's UWP (Universal Windows Platform) framework. Still, consumers will generally benefit from a more plug-and-play experience thanks to the cross-compatibility across all editions of Windows. Microsoft's roadmap shows its plans to phase out legacy drivers, with no new drivers to be published via Windows Update from 2025.
Will my printer still work?
This doesn't put an end to brand-supplied drivers, only to their delivery via Windows Update. If you connect a new printer to your personal computer or network, you'll be free to use basic printing functionality as provided by the Microsoft IPP Class Driver. Otherwise, manufacturers can host third-party drivers with extra features via the web or even a traditional CD-ROM (yes, some printers still come with these.)
Regarding security concerns, Microsoft professes it will still address any issues related to legacy drivers even after the service period ends if the edition of Windows is within its support lifecycle. Similarly, Microsoft has no plans to deactivate printer-specific features with the legacy driver platform, and multi-function printer/scanner/fax machines will still work over IPP (Internet Printing Protocol.)
By 2027, third-party drivers will have been completely phased out of Windows Update, save for security-related fixes. From then on, you'll be able to connect a printer and send print jobs immediately instead of scouring the Internet for outdated support pages with driver packages built for Windows Vista. Any extended functionality will remain accessible with a manual third-party install, preventing accidental driver overlap via automatic updates. Imagine that.