The V4 Print Driver Model: What Admins Need to Know (Update 2023)

Starting with Windows Server 2012 / Windows 8, Microsoft introduced a new driver model for the printing subsystem called V4 class drivers (V4 print driver). In this post we take at V4 print drivers and what the differences between V3 and V4 drivers are.

V3 vs v4 Print Drivers

The main idea behind the V4 print driver was to eliminate the disadvantages of the former V3 driver model. Basically this old model didn’t change much since Windows Server 2000. Hardware vendors wrote their own printer drivers which were mostly device specific. It was only a couple of years ago that universal printer drivers became more common. But still these drivers contain a lot of vendor specific DLLs.

Over the years, the driver database constantly grew larger. You can see this if you try to install a printer driver using the Windows update. It takes minutes until you get the updated list. This list also contains many legacy drivers of devices which are not in use anymore.

V4 Print Driver – More Print Options Possible

V4 print drivers are available as “In-Box drivers” (included in the Windows operating system), as so called class drivers, as well as vendor specific drivers which are provided by the vendor. The idea behind the class drivers is to support devices compatible with the same printer language, like PostScript or PCL.

This universal approach has a big disadvantage resulting in a limited feature set. Usually, only basic options like color/BW, formats, simplex/duplex for example are available. Therefore, some multifunctional device features may not be supported.

V4 print driver for Xerox Workcentre 5800
V4 print driver for Xerox Workcentre 5800

To eliminate the lack of features for their products and to differentiate through their own interface, vendors provide their own V4 print drivers. If you want to download a V4 print driver, you can do so via Windows update or directly from the vendor’s (Epson, Xerox, etc.) homepage.

Vendor V4 driver for Xerox Workcentre 5875
Vendor Print V4 driver for Xerox Workcentre 5875
Properties of the V4 driver
Properties of the V4 print driver

V4 print drivers are based on the XPS printing path. Printers that can handle XPS directly do not require any additional rendering filters. For all other print devices, the XPS format needs to be converted into their language like PostScript or PCL.

For more details on XPS see:

XPS Printing: Pros and Cons

The disadvantage of XPS printing is that the print job has to be spooled completely before the printer starts to print. For large print jobs this can lead to a big delay which results in a poor user experience.

Another pain point in the past was the distribution of printer drivers for shared printer objects from a print server. V3 print drivers need to be installed on the server and on the client. Via “Point and Print”, the driver is automatically downloaded by default from the server if the user connects to a shared printer. While this is less critical on normal desktops, it can cause big problems in terminal or virtual desktop environments. One incompatible or poorly designed driver influences all users on the server.

To make matters worse, security vulnerabilities in the printing subsystem have led to the “PrintNightmare” in the past. Microsoft recommends blocking the automatic driver download via GPO. As a result, extended rights are required on the client side to connect a print object from the print server if the driver is not yet installed. This involves a higher administrative effort.

Point and Print Drivers

Starting with the V4 print driver class, the distribution model on the print server was changed. If the user connects to a V4 shared printer queue, the corresponding V4 print driver from the local driver store on the client is installed or downloaded from Windows update. If no driver is available, the so called “Microsoft enhanced “Point and Print driver” is used.

Microsoft enhanced Point and Printing driver on the client
Microsoft enhanced Point and Printing driver on the client
Printing preferences with the enhanced Point and Print
Printing preferences with the enhanced Point and Print

The enhanced Point and Print driver provides a standard interface with only limited features. Older versions of the client OS can also print to V4 queues on the print server. In that case the “Microsoft enhanced Point and Print compatibility driver” is used.

A major limitation is that a Type 4 printer driver cannot be connected to third-party print monitors (ports). Keep this in mind when using an application requiring special printer ports, for example accounting or pull printing solutions.

Error message v4 print driver
Error message when connecting a V4 driver to third party port
V4 Print Driver

ThinPrint – Your Partner for Enterprise Print Management

ThinPrint provides all print options, even for V4 print drivers. Whether secure pull printing, high-availability printing or automatic printer assignment – with ThinPrint 13, all time-tested ThinPrint features are also available for V4 class drivers.

Mike Schiffel Avatar
Mike Schiffel
Mike Schiffel has over 25 years of experience with office and high-volume printing solutions. With stations at Kodak and Ricoh, his knowledge gained as a system application engineer allows him to have a perfect understanding of the requirements and demands in this complex and dynamic area. Since 2012 Mike has been a consultant, and team leader, at ThinPrint’s Berlin headquarters.