My Old Printer Isn’t Compatible: What’s Next?

Norene from Bakersfield, Ca is struggling with keeping her old technology up with her new technology.  She writes “I have both iPAd & windows 8.1. To my surprise my printer is not compatible with 8.1. I was told that my only options were to buy a new one or reset to eliminate 8.1 , which would erase 8.1 that includes all emails. To buy another printer, which is expensive with the cost of cartridges . Also, how can I even know what else is compatible?”

Hi, Norene.  Thanks for the great question.  I’m sure that you’re not the only one of our readers struggling with trying to make your older hardware work with new systems.  Of course, I’m just assuming that the printer is “older”, which is, I realize, a relative term where computers and peripherals are involved.


Here’s the struggle that we all face when it comes to our technology… obsolescence.  Back when the computer above was still in use, each computer manufacturer would make peripherals for its own computer, and no one else.  The one above was made for the Commodore 64.  So there was no problem with obsolescence and no problem with keeping your computer updated.  The idea of a new operating system was science fiction.  I faced this myself about a hundred and sixty seven years ago.  When I had Windows 3.1, I bought a scanner for my computer that I absolutely loved.  I didn’t use it for much, but I loved the idea of just having something that could scan pictures into my computer.  If I remember correctly, it cost me about $200 new.  When I upgraded to Windows 95, no problem.  Windows 98?  Big problem.


The manufacturer was phasing/had phased this particular scanner out and they were not making a driver for 98.  So basically my beloved scanner became a paperweight.  It’s just the way that technology works.

One thing that I’d like to say here is “don’t blame Microsoft”.  Trust me.  I’m ready to blame Microsoft for just about anything after my experiences with them over the last couple of years, but they can’t be blamed for manufacturers not producing new drivers for their devices.  It all comes down to good old supply and demand.  As the demand for a device drops and the device stops selling, ultimately the manufacturer is just going to stop supporting it.  It becomes no longer worth the money that they put in to it.

Here comes the dumb question… are you saying that it’s not compatible with 8.1 because the manufacturer TOLD you that it’s not compatible with 8.1, or just because you’re having problems with it?  And don’t believe anyone else, either, especially anyone with a vested interest in selling a new printer to you.  If you’re just having issues with it, or someone else told you that it’s not compatible, contact the manufacturer and find out if they have an updated driver.  I would recommend doing a web search, but getting past all of the folks out there who want to sell drivers to you is a nightmare.  Contact the manufacturer.

Now, let’s say that worse comes to worst and your printer is, in fact, functionally obsolete.  It happens.  Give it away, donate it, sell it to a modern artist for $20.  Whatever.  The good news is that printers are not all that expensive these days.  You’re right, though… they do get you with the ink but not nearly as bad as it used to be.  You can buy the same printer that I have on Amazon for less than $100, and that includes wireless printing through your home network.  And the really good news is that the dual-pack of ink cartridges, color and black, sells for about $35.  If that’s still stretching the budget, which I fully understand, there are places out there that will refill your ink cartridges for you, or sell you a refilled cartridge for way less.  Make sure that it’s someone reputable, though.  A badly refilled ink cartridge can ruin your printer.

So, there you go.  Sorry about your printer, but you do still have options.  Be sure to check with the manufacturer for a new driver before doing anything else, though.

I hope that this helps!

~Randal Schaffer

4 thoughts on “My Old Printer Isn’t Compatible: What’s Next?

  1. Downvotes because:
    1: What is teh printer?
    2) what is the version of windows 8 or 8.1
    3) what PC is it to be attached to, and how.
    I am curently running a brother printer that does not have drivers for Windows 7, and it is printing adequately from both Windows-7 32 bit, and a 64 bit version of Windows-10.
    Just had to connect it and then tell the windows to go look for all printers – and select an appropriate driver (One that included similar controlling codes)
    Printers tend to have a selection of usual control-sets.
    The old IBM dot-matrix mode – line of text at a time – see the designations of character codes below 32 (hex 1F and below) (DOS ctrl+p mode)
    HP laser printers – HP —
    PCL 3,4,5,6 etc.
    Postscript – PS1 PS2 etc.
    and Windows printer and PDF tend to be a bit more difficult as they deal with graphics and tend to expect the printer to do fancy things such as resize to the page, multiple ‘pages’ on a side of the paper, 2 side printing and booklets.

    So – don’t give up without asking for help to connect
    ‘name-and-version-of-the-printer’ to
    ‘name-and version-of-the-pc’ using
    ‘identify-the-connetction-type-and-version’ using

  2. I’ll second the observation to not automatically believe your printer is no longer usable. Changes in Windows tend to be “evolutionary” rather “revolutionary” so in many cases even though something is not “officially” rated as “supported” by MS it will still work. Office 2003 is not “officially supported” by Windows 10, but it will still run on Win 10 (granted, it is not a good idea to continue using it … )

    Even if the Printer builder has abandoned your specific printer and has decided not to create a Windows 10 (or 8 in your case) printer driver for it all is NOT lost. Try a printer driver for an earlier version of Windows. If that does not work, makers often create “families” of hardware with similar model numbers. So try drivers for other printers from the same maker. You may lose access to some “higher end” features that you rarely use.

    You can also look for drivers for other printer languages. For example, HP has created the “HP Printer Control Language”, HP PCL. The most current version is 6, but HP also still writes drivers for HP PCL 5. Other printer makers also use HP PCL since is it considered an industry standard.

    There is yet one more option, look for a “Postscript” printer driver for your printer or printer family. Postsript is an alternative printer language that many printers also support.

    Finally, look for a Windows “generic” printer driver. Windows generally has a “one size fits all” printer driver that supports the most basic printer functions. It won’t support many “fancy features” but it will print most documents with simple formatting. Actually, some printer makers also create their “generic” printer drivers for their hardware. I am thinking specifically of HP.

    Almost 10 years ago, when I was running XP I picked up an “obsolete” HP 2400 printer. It was “old” when I got it. I have run it on Win Vista, 7, 8 and now 10. There is not a “windows 10” printer driver for my explicit printer model I was able to find a driver that works.

    Printer ink is probaby the most expensive fluid the average consumer will ever buy. There are a number of strategies you can use to reduce printing costs. My favorite is avoid ink jet printers and stick with laser printers.

    This article goes into some ways to make printing more economical:

    This article:

    figured that in 2013 ink cost around $9600 per gallon. That was equivalent to 2600 gallons of regular gas or 2800 gallons if whole milk.

  3. This article is useless – it gives no tips for making one’s printer compatible. I print about 2500 pages a month for my courses, and have an HP LaserJet 4 workhorse that I got in the 1980s, and which has since printed over 1,000,000 copies with only one repair – and that for address labels stuck in the interior workings.

    I estimate I pay 1/4 – 1/3 cent per page on toner. There is no way I can get a printer with anywhere near that durability or cost savings today. But given how little I get paid as a freelance instructor, and how little compensation I get for my class handouts, I need a printer that will cost me very little and last a long time.

    Currently I have my old HP printer networked through my old (failing) 10 year old Windows XP computer and can print on my Windows 10 computer that way. But I’m trying to find ways to print directly from Windows 10 because the old computer isn’t going to last much longer – the processor sounds like a locomotive. HP says that the LaserJet 4 cannot print via Windows 10 (I called them) but they’re invested in my buying a new printer so I don’t trust them.

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