Manage Printers on a Windows PC - dummies

By Dan Gookin

Windows sports a spot for showing which printers are connected to and used by your computer. You can use this box to install a new printer, set the default printer, or remove a printer.

This location has different names, depending on your version of Windows. For Windows 7, it is the Devices and Printers window. In Vista, it is the Printers window and in XP it is called the Printers and Faxes window.

In Windows 7, the Devices and Printers window lists all devices attached to and used by your computer. The printers are grouped separately.


To get to the Devices and Printers window, choose Devices and Printers from the Start button menu. Or, from the Control Panel, choose the link View Devices and Printers, found beneath the Hardware and Sound heading.

In Windows Vista, the window is named Printers, and contains a handy toolbar with buttons. In XP, the window is called Printers and Faxes, and the relevant printer commands appear on the taskbar on the left side of the window.


The buttons and menu, or the various printer tasks, appear in the Printers window only when a specific printer is selected.

The easiest way to summon the Printers window in Vista or XP is by choosing either Printers or Printers and Faxes (respectively) from the Start menu. Either is available, however, only when the Start menu is configured to show it. Follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button and choose Properties.

  2. In the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties, click the Customize button.

  3. In Windows XP, click the Advanced tab.

  4. Scroll the list and put a check mark by Printers (in Windows Vista) or Printers and Faxes (in Windows XP).

  5. Click OK and then click OK again to close the open dialog boxes.

If you desire a desktop shortcut icon for the Printers window in Windows Vista or Windows XP, open the Control Panel and right-click either the Printers or Printers and Faxes icon. From the pop-up menu that appears, choose Create Shortcut.

  • You use the Printers window to install a new printer on your PC. Use the Add a Printer button or link and then work the steps in the wizard to configure the printer.

  • Some printers (hello, HP!) require that you run special software to install them, and not just use the Add a Printer button in Windows. Actually, you can go either way. If you choose not to use the special software that comes with the printer, however, you miss out on some printer features that Windows alone cannot access, such as detecting ink levels or being able to print duplex.

  • You also use the Printer window to remove printers from your computer. Although you physically unplug the printer, you remove the Printer icon by deleting it from the Printers window: Click to select the icon and then press the Delete key on the keyboard.

  • If your printer doesn’t appear in the window, it may not have been installed or it could have been accidentally removed. Check the printer’s USB cable and power cord.

  • A network printer must be connected to the network, turned on, on-line, stocked with paper and ink, and ready to print before it works as a printer.

  • When you disconnect a printer, don’t remove the printer drivers if there is any chance you will want to use that printer again. That way, the job of reinstalling later is easier.