Windows can’t connect to the printer? Here’s what you need to do

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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PC can't connect to printer

If you recently upgraded your PC to Windows 10, or did an update to the latest Windows 10 version, and encountered an error that says: Windows cannot connect to printer, fear not.

There are tried and trusted solutions to fix the issue, and this article covers these fixes.

If your printer stopped working and you’ve not updated or upgraded Windows 10 recently, you’re covered.

If your PC runs on Windows 10 S, some printers may not work well with it, or you may experience limited functionality with your printer.

To see whether your device is compatible with Windows 10 S, check with the manufacturer.

Printer not connecting to computer via USB? Fix it with these solutions

  1. Check if your printer is listed under Unspecified Device state
  2. Check if your printer is compatible with Windows 10
  3. Temporarily disable your antivirus security software
  4. Reboot your computer
  5. Check Default printer settings
  6. Perform a Windows Update
  7. Clear spooler files and restart spooler service
  8. Check with your manufacturer if Windows cannot connect to printer

Solution 1 – Check if your printer is listed under Unspecified Device state

  1. Select Start.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Choose Devices.
  4. Click Printers & Scanners on the left pane.
    printers and scanners can't connect to printer
  5. Scroll down to Related Settings.

related settings printer can't connect

  1. Click Devices and Printers.
  2. Go to Devices list and locate your printer’s name and icon.
  3. Check if it is under Unspecified section.

Once you confirm whether it is there or not, do these three things:

  1. Ensure your printer is turned on and connected.

Check the power switch if it is turned on, and ensure the printer’s power cable is plugged in to an electrical outlet. If you’re on a shared printer or network, ensure all computers and routers are turned on as well. Plug in your power surge protector and turn it on. Plug in the printer’s USB cable properly to your PC. For wireless printers, turn on the wireless option from your printer then run the printer’s wireless connectivity test from the menu option. If these are clear, and you still cannot connect the printer to Windows, then your computer may not be connecting to your wireless network.

  1. Uninstall and reinstall your printer

Follow these steps to remove your printer:

  1. Select Start.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Choose Devices.
  4. Click Printers & Scanners on the left pane.
  5. Find your printer and click on it.
  6. Select Remove device.

Reinstall your printer (wireless or local) using the following steps:

  1. Select Start.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Choose Devices.
  4. Click Printers & Scanners on the left pane.
  5. Select Add a printer or scanner.
  6. Choose the printer you want to add then select Add device.

Note: you can print a test page to ensure the printer works correctly. If it is installed but doesn’t work, check the device’s manufacturer website for troubleshooting or driver updates.

To connect to a local printer, plug in the printer’s USB cable to an available USB port on your computer, then turn on the printer.

  1. Update drivers

Driver software is needed for most printers to work properly. In the event you updated or upgraded to Windows 10, you may have to update your current printer driver so that it matches or is compatible with the new Windows version. If you had recent power outages, viruses in your computer, or other issues, the drivers may have also been damaged. Download and install the latest driver using either of these three ways:

  • Using Windows Update. To do this, go to Device Manager, then expand the Printers option to get the list of devices, right click on your device and choose Update Driver. Select Search automatically for updated driver software.
  • Downloading and installing the driver manually by yourself. Do this if Windows doesn’t automatically find a driver update for your printer, or you don’t have an installation disk. You can check the manufacturer’s website then find the latest driver for your printer.
  • Installing the driver software from the printer’s manufacturer. If you have the installation disc, it may contain the software for installing a driver for your printer.

Another method that you can use to update your drivers is by using a tool such as TweakBit Driver Updater. By using this tool, you’ll update all outdated drivers automatically with just a couple of clicks.

This method is perfect if you don’t want to search and download drivers manually, so be sure to try it out.

    –  Get now Tweakbit Driver Updater

Disclaimer: some functions of this tool might not be free

Once you update the driver for your printer, do the following:

  1. Disconnect the printer’s USB cable from the computer.
  2. Click Start.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Choose Devices.
  5. Click Printers & Scanners on the left pane.
  6. Choose the printer you want to add then select Remove device.
  7. Go to the search field box on the taskbar, type Print Management and select the corresponding search result.
  8. Click All Printers.
  9. Find your printer, right click it and select Delete.
  10. Restart your computer.
  11. Plug your printer’s USB cable back to your computer and try to install the software and driver again.

If these steps didn’t work, worry not, there are more solutions ahead.

Solution 2 – Check if your printer is compatible with Windows 10

Some printers may not necessarily work with Windows 10, or may have limited functionality altogether, so you need to check if your printer is in this category before using the solutions below.

Follow these steps to check if your printer is compatible:

  1. Right click Start button.
  2. Select Control Panel.
  3. Click on Hardware and Sound.
    hardware and sound can't connect printer
  4. Select Devices and Printers. You will see a list of devices, and another for printers.
  5. Check under Unspecified section to see if your printer is listed there.

Once you establish whether your printer is unspecified or not, go to the next solutions to fix the issue.

Solution 3 – Temporarily disable your antivirus security software

You can try uninstalling third party software on your computer such as computer cleaner or antivirus.

Note: for antivirus, temporarily disable it because you need it to prevent your computer from security threats. Immediately after you’re done fixing connection error, re-enable your antivirus.

If your antivirus is causing this issue, perhaps this is a good moment to consider switching to a different antivirus software. If you’re looking for a reliable antivirus that won’t interfere with your system in any way, try using Bitdefender antivirus.

Solution 4 – Reboot your computer

This is the first line of action whenever such an issue comes up (or any other issues with your computer and any other hardware you may be using along with it). However, if you restart your computer and nothing happens on your printer, you can go to the last solution.

Solution 5 – Check Default printer settings

If your printer keeps switching from the default one, you can change this setting on Windows 10, from the current printer to the one that you want to be using.

Here’s how to correct the default settings:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Settings.
    start menu pc can't connect
  3. Choose Devices.
  4. Click Printers & Scanners on the left pane.
    printers and scanners printer won't connect
  5. Scroll to Let Windows manage my default printer.
  6. Turn the option off.

Solution 6 – Perform a Windows Update

For a healthy computer, you need to keep updating Windows with the latest system updates, and drivers. This also helps resolve any issues or difficulties you may be experiencing.

Here’s how to check and install Windows Update (manually)

  1. Go to Start.
  2. In the search field, type Windows Updates.
  3. Click on Windows Updates Settings from the search results.
  4. Click Check for update.
    check for updates can't connect printer
  5. Install the latest Windows Updates.

Solution 7 – Clear spooler files and restart spooler service

If the previous six solutions are unsuccessful, you may need to clear spooler files then restart spooler service.

Here’s how to do this:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Go to the search field box and type Services.
  3. Click Services from the search results.
    services search pc can't connect to printer
  4. Under Services, double click Print Spooler.
    print spooler service printer problems
  5. Select Stop then Ok.
    stop service printer issues

After disabling the service, do the following:

  1. Go to the search box again and type %WINDIR%system32spoolprinters.
    windir search can't connect printer
  2. Select the file folder. You need admin privileges to access it.
  3. Delete all the folders in the folder.
  4. Under Services, double-click Print Spooler again.
    print spooler service can't connect PC
  5. Click Start.
  6. Go to Startup Type list.
  7. Select Automatic box.
    startup type automatic printer connection problems
  8. Click Apply then click Ok.

Solution 8 – Check with your manufacturer if Windows cannot connect to printer

If the other solutions didn’t work, contact your printer’s manufacturer for more troubleshooting and support based on your specific issue.

Did any of these solutions work for you? Share with us your experiences in the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been since revamped and updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.


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