How to add a generic printer in Windows 10

Sometimes you need to add a generic printer in Windows 10.

Windows 10 makes the setup of newer hardware pretty automatic, but if you have a legacy or specialized printer that has to be set up as a generic printer in Windows, the process isn’t intuitive. Here’s how to set it up.

Yes, you can get even this ancient thing to do some limited printing from Windows 10.

First, click in the search bar at the lower left of the screen, next to the Start button. Type “devices and printers” (without the quotes) in the bar and hit enter.

Click “Add a printer.” An option will appear that reads “Add a local printer or network printer with manual settings.” Select that and click Next.

Windows will provide a dialog box to choose your port. LPT1: is the usual choice, but pick the appropriate port if you know otherwise, such as an RS-232 serial printer. If it’s a network printer, select “Create a new port,” and choose “Standard TCP/IP port.” Click next.

Windows will ask for the manufacturer of your printer on the left. Click Generic. On the right, you’ll get a selection of drivers. Click Generic (text only), or try one of the other generic printers to see if you can get more capabilities out of the printer. If you try to print something and the first page is garbage characters, turn off the printer and cancel the print job by right-clicking on the printer icon in the system tray.

Slightly less generic printers

While you’re experimenting, you can always try some other options as well. Most printers can emulate one or more common printers from the past. The most likely choices are the Epson FX-80, Epson MX-80, HP Laserjet II, and IBM Proprinter. As a general rule, dot matrix printers emulate Epson or IBM, while inkjets and lasers emulate HP, so start there. If one of them works, you may be able to print graphics with your printer, not just text.

Further reading

If you also need to connect a network printer to Windows 10, see this entry.

If you’re not completely happy with Windows 10, here’s how to improve its performance.