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  1. #1
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    Printer Installs as 'Unknown Device'

    This is a problem I think I've had before... but I'll only go through the most recent episode.

    I'm on a business trip and in a hotel. I need to print off my flight boarding passes and the hotel has a courtesy computer, complete with printer. Due to security needs I plug the printer into my laptop, thus bypassing the hotel's computer entirely.

    So far so good, but the printer installs as an 'Unknown Device', despite Plug and Play and despite the fact that the device was enumerated (correctly) as a Canon i2101 (or something, don't remember the exact model). The connection was via USB. In the end I never get the printer working this way and have to use the hotel's computer, plus I am frustrated by what should be a simple device recognition process!

    The laptop runs Windows 7 64-bit.

    My browsing on the Net suggests the problem is that Windows could not find a device driver. Here are my questions:

    1). I thought that Microsoft maintained a database of device drivers online, to supplement the built-in Windows driver database. Am I misremembering the functionality of PnP?

    2). When you can't find a device driver, Windows only shows you the original Windows GA device database. Which by now is old as the hills and routinely doesn't have what you want. The only alternative is the "Have Disk" button and this is entirely useless in the hotel scenario, not to mention sounding like it's about 10 years out of date (disks, really?);

    3). What's the best path to success here? Do I have to dig up my own driver from the Canon website? Since this is a transient use case, I want the most efficient answer.

    4). Why are the Microsoft error/notification messages in this circumstance so bad? In fact, I don't recall getting any message at all. It was only after I dug through the Printers section of Control Panel that I found the Unknown Device entry.


    What particularly galls me is that the PnP system is 20 years old. It ought to be smooth and efficient. Yet I know that I've been stymied repeatedly by the old 'printing from a hotel printer' situation. I need to work this out, if only for my own sanity!
    Last edited by BHarder; 2015-10-05 at 18:18. Reason: clarify device model

  2. #2
    Silver Lounger lumpy95's Avatar
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    Could it be that the hotel has the printer blocked in some way from installing on any outside computers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BHarder View Post
    This is a problem I think I've had before... but I'll only go through the most recent episode.

    I'm on a business trip and in a hotel. I need to print off my flight boarding passes and the hotel has a courtesy computer, complete with printer. Due to security needs I plug the printer into my laptop, thus bypassing the hotel's computer entirely.

    So far so good, but the printer installs as an 'Unknown Device', despite Plug and Play and despite the fact that the device was enumerated (correctly) as a Canon i2101 (or something, don't remember the exact model). The connection was via USB. In the end I never get the printer working this way and have to use the hotel's computer, plus I am frustrated by what should be a simple device recognition process!

    The laptop runs Windows 7 64-bit.

    My browsing on the Net suggests the problem is that Windows could not find a device driver. Here are my questions:

    1). I thought that Microsoft maintained a database of device drivers online, to supplement the built-in Windows driver database. Am I misremembering the functionality of PnP?

    2). When you can't find a device driver, Windows only shows you the original Windows GA device database. Which by now is old as the hills and routinely doesn't have what you want. The only alternative is the "Have Disk" button and this is entirely useless in the hotel scenario, not to mention sounding like it's about 10 years out of date (disks, really?);

    3). What's the best path to success here? Do I have to dig up my own driver from the Canon website? Since this is a transient use case, I want the most efficient answer.

    4). Why are the Microsoft error/notification messages in this circumstance so bad? In fact, I don't recall getting any message at all. It was only after I dug through the Printers section of Control Panel that I found the Unknown Device entry.


    What particularly galls me is that the PnP system is 20 years old. It ought to be smooth and efficient. Yet I know that I've been stymied repeatedly by the old 'printing from a hotel printer' situation. I need to work this out, if only for my own sanity!
    You're ignoring the fact that USB printers need to have most (if not all) of their software installed BEFORE you connect the USB cable.

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    ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲

    Which means you have to install the printer onto the computer before you can use it.

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    WS Lounge VIP mrjimphelps's Avatar
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    As a temporary fix, here's what I did once when I needed a document printed at a hotel: I asked someone at the front desk for assistance, and she had me email her the document. She then printed it on the printer behind the front desk.

    However, that doesn't fix your printer issue. What will likely fix it is if you install the driver for the printer. Did you try downloading and installing the printer's software?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJDetroit View Post
    You're ignoring the fact that USB printers need to have most (if not all) of their software installed BEFORE you connect the USB cable.
    What can be helpful it to install the HP and Canon Universal Printer drivers on your laptop. I'm not sure who else makes a similar one, but these two cover a lot of printers out there.
    Graham Smith
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    You're ignoring the fact that USB printers need to have most (if not all) of their software installed BEFORE you connect the USB cable.
    You're probably right. My counter though is that I plug in devices into USB ports all the time (headsets, flash drives, just yesterday a Logitech Bluetooth mouse/kb controller). They routinely auto-install drivers to control the device, smooth as silk. At the very least this leads to mismatched user expectations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lumpy95 View Post
    Could it be that the hotel has the printer blocked in some way from installing on any outside computers?
    There's no technology or system for doing this that I know of. Perhaps on large enterprise printers, but this was a small personal printer. Therefore I really doubt this is the reason.

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    There is much more involved with a printer though as you will know from perhaps installing your own - that it isn't a case of just plug 'n play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JJDetroit View Post
    You're ignoring the fact that USB printers need to have most (if not all) of their software installed BEFORE you connect the USB cable.
    Quote Originally Posted by BHarder View Post
    You're probably right. My counter though is that I plug in devices into USB ports all the time (headsets, flash drives, just yesterday a Logitech Bluetooth mouse/kb controller). They routinely auto-install drivers to control the device, smooth as silk. At the very least this leads to mismatched user expectations.
    It doesn't always work that way with printers.

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    What can be helpful it to install the HP and Canon Universal Printer drivers on your laptop.
    Aha, I like this idea! I didn't know Canon made a universal printer driver but it makes sense. Lexmark makes one of these as well. Hmmm...

    The one thing that bothers me is that some manufacturers, especially of personal printers, install various ancillary bits like elaborate device monitoring software, imaging programs, and non-essential utilities. It's not so bad when this is your primary printer but if you use a lot of different printers as I do, it's just cruft that gets in the way. Not that we're going to fix that situation here!

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    There's no perfect solution to this since printer manufactures are notorious for creating all kinds of non-standard drivers with tons of extra features, all designed to "make your life better in every way". Techies tend to think more in terms of "making things a living hell" which is why we make terrible marketing types.
    Graham Smith
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    Techies tend to think more in terms of "making things a living hell"
    Ha!

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    Thought I would update the case with my findings.

    - I found a Lexmark Universal driver, up-to-date and everything;
    - HP says they have one but I only found a stub installer. You know, one of those goofball programs whose sole purpose is to reach out across the Internet to retrieve the real installation program;
    - Canon, yeesh. They appear to have something but they segment their printing strongly by lines and target market. Thus I think I saw combined drivers for their PIXMA segment, another one for business class printers, another one for commercial graphics arts printers, another one for inkjet printers, another one for laser printers... In short they don't really appear to have what I'd call a universal driver or even a universal installer. You have to know the class and segment of printer you will be using first. Frankly I gave up trying to figure them out.

    The HP stub installer is better than nothing. However I'd rather have a functioning driver (or driver installer) on my laptop than to have to assume networking functionality on the road. Even an older driver is better than no driver at all. And while networking is more available than ever, I've also experienced courtesy networks that don't work and the on-site staff were technically challenged to the point that you can't resolve anything with them.

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