A printer driver is a piece of software installed on a computer that helps the computer and printer communicate with each other properly. Most printers include a driver on a CD in the box, or the driver can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. There is another option available called Universal Printer Drivers (UPD) that can often support multiple machines with basic functionality, but they come with a few drawbacks that you should be aware of.
When you install a printer driver that was designed for your specific device, you can be sure the driver and its software will support all of the features and functions of your printer. For example, if your printer supports multiple quality settings, the driver and software will provide options for easily changing these. With a Universal printer driver, you may only be able to print, without access to some of the more advanced settings and functions that your printer is capable of. Functions like scanning and copying that are included in some all-in-one machines may not be available at all, or could be limited in their functionality.
Universal printer drivers can also sometimes have problems translating data correctly from the computer to the printer. This can lead to garbled text, corrupted graphics, and other issues on the printed page. The translation needed to communicate with certain printers is not always as reliable with universal printer drivers.
With all of this being said, there are some benefits to using universal printer drivers. If you have an older model and can no longer find a working driver for your printer, using a UPD may solve the issue and give you at least basic functionality, to avoid having to purchase a new machine.
Universal print drivers can also be a good solution for IT departments that must support large numbers of office users who need access to multiple different printers. By installing a UPD that supports most Xerox printers on each user’s computer, for example, they can then print to any supported machine on the network, though it may limit their access to certain features.
While universal print drivers seem like a good idea on the surface, the loss of functionality and potential for printing problems make them best used as a last resort for the majority of users. If you are trying to revive an old machine with no updated drivers available, however, or you are an IT manager looking for a large-scale solution, you may still wish to give universal print drivers a try. You can generally find the proper UPD by doing a web search for the term “universal printer driver” along with the manufacturer of your printer.