[WORKAROUND] HP doesn’t provide printer drivers for download anymore?! How to skip HP Smart and Easy Start
HP used to provide proper printer drivers for printers. Most printers had two drivers available for download: a “basic” driver that only contained what you actually need, and a “full” driver that also included a bunch of extra software you probably didn’t need at all.
Since 2019, however, new printers seem to only have one option for obtaining drivers: download HP Smart or HP Easy Start and let the software do the download for you. For a normal person at home, that might be okay, but for I.T. professionals, it’s absolutely unacceptable. It’s also awful for people who have low-speed broadband connections because the software doesn’t make the downloaded driver available to the user in their Downloads folder for reuse later, should the need arise. When a user’s data is backed up and restored, the driver being in the Downloads folder is extremely helpful for getting them back in good working order quickly, but HP has taken this away from all of us. Between this nonsense and their abysmal “Scan to PC” printer functionality that constantly breaks, I do not recommend purchasing HP printers anymore.
However, if you’re looking for a direct download for your HP printer driver, there IS, in fact, a way to get it for most printers, without downloading HP Smart, HP Easy Start, or otherwise being forced to accept “help” you didn’t ask for and really don’t want.
First, you need to know what “bitness” of Windows OS you have (for Macs, you’ll just download a DMG file that works on most systems). Most people today have Windows 10 64-bit (x64) but some still have 32-bit (x86 or x32) operating systems. You also need your series and model of printer, such as Officejet Pro 8600 series, DeskJet 2600 series, or LaserJet Pro Color 200 M251nw.
The magic FTP directory that contains all of the actual printer driver installers is here: ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softlib/software13/printers/
This is where it gets more difficult. A lot of drivers are hidden away under directories that can’t be deciphered (for example, the LaserJet Pro Color 200 M251nw is under COL44388) but just as many can be easily found as abbreviated versions of the name of your printer. For example: the HP DeskJet 2600 series driver can be found in the DJ2600 folder, with the basic 64-bit driver installer named “DJ2600_Basicx64_43.3.2479.exe”. You can always try hitting CTRL+F and typing the model of your machine to search the page if you’re unsure. These are most of the prefixes used:
- LJ = LaserJet
- CLJ = Color LaserJet
- DJ = DeskJet
- EN = ENVY
- IT = Ink Tank
- NSL = Laser NS MFP
- OJ = OfficeJet
- OJP = OfficeJet Pro
- OJX = OfficeJet Enterprise Color
- PS = PhotoSmart
- PW = PageWide
- SJ = ScanJet
- ST = Smart Tank
There will occasionally be different versions of the same driver with letters like U, W, and L. It seems that W means “networked” and L means “wireless.” It should be safe to download the version with all of these letters over the version only marked U, if multiple choices exist.
Unfortunately, there are some printer drivers in weird places such as the COL folders, and many printer drivers may simply not be present here at all. Fortunately, most of the basic/full printer drivers that are hidden away like this are actually available on the model’s HP Support driver download page for that model, so you probably don’t need this workaround to get your hands on the driver you need. It’s always best to download the driver from your model’s driver page if you can.
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