Microsoft releases downloadable tool to fix phantom HP printer installations


The HP LaserJet M106w is one of the printer models that is mysteriously appearing for some users in Windows 10 and 11.
Enlarge / The HP LaserJet M106w is one of the printer models that is mysteriously appearing for some users in Windows 10 and 11.


Earlier this month, Microsoft disclosed an odd printer bug that was affecting some users of Windows 10, Windows 11, and various Windows Server products. Affected PCs were seeing an HP printer installed, usually an HP LaserJet M101-M106, even when they weren’t actually using any kind of HP printer. This bug could overwrite the settings for whatever printer the user actually did have installed and also prompted the installation of an HP Smart printer app from the Microsoft Store.

Microsoft still hasn’t shared the root cause of the problem, though it did make it clear that the problem wasn’t HP’s fault. Now, the company has released a fix for anyone whose PC was affected by the bug, though as of this writing, it requires users to download and run a dedicated troubleshooting tool available from Microsoft’s support site.

The December 2023 Microsoft Printer Metadata Troubleshooter Tool is available for all affected Windows versions, and it will remove all references to the phantom HP LaserJet model (as long as you don’t have one installed, anyway). The tool will also remove the HP Smart app as long as you don’t have an HP printer attached and the app was installed after November 25, presumably the date that the bug began affecting systems. These steps should fix the issue for anyone without an HP printer without breaking anything for people who do use HP printers.

There are four different versions of the troubleshooter, depending on whether you have the 32- or 64-bit version of an Arm or x86 version of Windows. Microsoft will also release an additional recommended troubleshooting tool “in the coming weeks” that will fix the problem in Windows 11 upon a user’s request without requiring the download of a separate tool.

Microsoft has said that, despite the renaming and the download of the HP Smart tool, most basic printing functionality should continue to work as intended for users affected by the problem. But if your printer relies on its own external app to provide additional settings or extra functionality, you’ll need to run the troubleshooting tool (or manually uninstall the phantom HP printer and reinstall your own printer) to get things working properly again.

Listing image by Getty


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