Hello AskPerf!  Welcome to day 12 of our Launch Series.  Today we are going to take a look at what’s new in Printing with Windows 8!

With Windows 8, we have redesigned the printer driver model; it has remained relatively unchanged since the introduction of Version 3 or V3 drivers in Windows 2000.  The v3 model relies heavily on OEMs to produce customized drivers for each specific device to make sure that specific features of each print device can be accessed by Windows applications.  Managing a printing infrastructure using the v3 driver model requires the administrator to manage a large number of drivers, and to manage drivers on client machines as well as servers, resulting in the requirement to manage both 32-bit and 64-bit print drivers to support both of these client architectures.

V4 Model Overview

The version 4 print driver model provides a simple but flexible management experience. Some of the benefits of version 4 drivers are:

  • Printer sharing does not require the installation of drivers that match the client architecture
  • Driver files are isolated from each other, preventing driver filename conflicts
  • A single driver can support a single device or multiple devices
  • Drivers are typically smaller than version3 drivers, and installation times are typically faster than comparable version 3 drivers

Using the version 4 driver model, OEMs can provide Print Class Drivers that support features that are common to a broad set of devices that use the same printer description language, such as PCL, PS, or XPS. Print Class Drivers also provide the following benefits:

  1. Driver packages are smaller and printer driver files are less likely to cause stability problems
  2. The administrator has to manage fewer drivers

Version 4 print drivers can be distributed via Windows Update or Windows Software Update Services (WSUS), but are not distributed to print clients from the print server.

Printer Sharing Changes

Printer Sharing has been updated in Windows 8 as well, primarily to meet demands of modern users and to support the new Driver Model.

Previously, we relied on both server and client machines to use identical drivers.  If you have ever had to manage a print server with x64 and x86 print drivers, you know this can be difficult to get working.  Sometimes driver versions may be incompatible and cause client connection errors, or errors when establishing connections.

With the new v4 driver model and the sharing implementation that it supports, the goal is to make the end-user and administrative experience as easy as possible.

The new features that define the changes that were made are summarized here:

  • Clients can use enhanced Point and Print to generate print jobs that the server can use without using a device specific driver.
  • Servers contain the configuration and capabilities of the printer and communicate that data to a client computer in a way that the client can use without needed a device specific driver.
  • With the new v4 driver model the print server will no longer be a software distribution mechanism.  Previous versions of Windows provided a method for print clients to obtain a driver from the print server.  This functionality has been removed for enhanced point and print.  Several reasons brought this change such as security, compatibility, serviceability and reliability.  Down-level client computers like Windows 7 will still be able to receive the enhanced Point and Print Compatibility driver from Windows Server 2012 to enable compatibility with v4 print shares.  Client computers running Windows 8 have enhanced Point and Print support built into the operating system, and they can use standard point and print mechanisms to obtain matching v3 drivers if the administrator wants to continue using older drivers.  Device specific v4 drivers can also be deployed to Windows 8clients, or downloaded from Windows Update/WSUS in order to provide additional features or capabilities, such as client side rendering when connecting to enhanced Point and Print shares.

With the new changes that arrive with Enhanced Point and Print and the new v4 Printer Driver Model in Windows 8 and Server 2012, printing is about to be much easier for administrators and more trouble free for end users!  Thanks for reading, and we hope you enjoy Windows 8.  For more in-depth information, please see the following TechNet article:

Print and Document Services Architecture

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll take a look at Printing within Windows 8.

-AskPerf blog Team