Explanation of a Printer Driver and Printer Spooler

15. December 2012 06:00 by Calvin Yu in Technology News  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments

With so many special printer terms out there, it's easy to get confused. For example, many people don't quite know the difference between a printer's spooler and driver. In fact, some folks think printer spoolers and drivers are the same thing. In reality, they couldn't be more different. If you use a printer at all, it definitely pays to have a basic grasp of these and other common printing terms. For the purposes of this article, however, we're going to focus on printer spoolers versus printer drivers. By the time you're finished reading, you'll have a clear understanding of what each one is and why it's important.

Printer Drivers: The Basics

From time to time, you may be prompted to update your printer's driver or drivers. Like most people, you probably just click through the prompts, update your drivers and move on with your life. If you've ever wondered what a printer driver actually is, though, you've come to the right place. A printer's driver plays a crucial role in the interactions between a printer and a computer. Without printer drivers, there would be no easy way for various applications to communicate effectively with different printers.

The primary purpose of a printer driver is to act as a go-between of sorts. A driver makes it possible for computer programs and applications to communicate with different printers. With so many new printers being released all the time, expecting software companies to write programs that are compatible with all of them is not practical. Drivers handle this issue gracefully by translating information from computer programs into language that can be understood by a printer. Most people take printer drivers for granted and assume that all printers work with all programs, but that just isn't true. Without drivers, fast, easy printing wouldn't be possible.

Printer Spoolers: The Basics

There is nothing about a printer spooler that makes it similar to a printer driver, unless you count the fact that it makes printing fast and efficient. A spooler collects print files and puts them into a queue. When several print jobs are lined up, they are spooled by the spooler and stored temporarily on a printer's memory. After the documents have been printed, the temporary file is erased from the printer's memory. The entire process is automatic and seamless, so you would never have an inkling that it was even happening.

Without a spooler, print jobs would be lost all the time. Computers would also slow to a crawl whenever jobs needed to be printed. Thanks to spoolers, all of the information that's needed by the printer is sent directly over to it from the computer. If the information sat around in the computer's memory, it would interrupt other processes and have a negative impact on performance. In fact, that used to be one of the biggest drawbacks of printing at home. Thanks to spooler technology, however, these issues are basically things of the past. You can click the print button and keep using your computer without interruption.


As you can see, printer spoolers and printer drivers have hardly anything in common. Other than making modern printing as fast, efficient and effective as it is today, spoolers and drivers serve very different purposes. However, you wouldn't want to go without either of them. Each one is important in its own right. If you run into error messages about either one, make sure to resolve the issue quickly. Similarly, always update your printer drivers right away. When drivers are out of date, printing can be negatively impacted. With prompt updates, your computer and printer should keep performing optimally.

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