The Default Printer Is Changing on Its Own
By David Weedmark
Updated August 30, 2019
If you use more than one printer in Windows 10, you're likely to find that your favorite printer is benched occasionally in favor of one of your backup printers. This isn't because Windows thinks your all-star printer has an injury or that your other printers need to get some game-time in.
The reason the default printer keeps changing is that Windows automatically assumes that the last printer you used is your new favorite. So, when you switch from one printer to another, Windows changes the default printer to the last printer you used.
This isn't the only reason your default printer may be changing. Outdated software, faulty drivers or even corrupt registry entries could be causing the problem and giving you a set default printer error.
Both Windows Settings and Control Panel give you access to your printer settings. There are a few different ways of opening these utilities, including keyboard shortcuts.
First, Change the Default Printer Yourself
If you recall switching printers recently, then the fastest fix is to select your preferred printer this time. Windows should make that your default printer from now on.
If this isn't the case, you can change the default printer yourself using Settings or Control Panel.
To open Control Panel, type "control" in the Windows search field and select Control Panel from the list of results. Select View Devices and Printers in the Hardware and Sound section. Right-click your preferred printer and choose Set as Default Printer from the drop-down menu.
If your default printer changes again, try one or more of these additional tips.
Check for Print Software Updates
At its default settings, Windows should automatically update software for your computer, including print-related software. However, if you have disabled updates, you need to do this manually.
Press the Windows and I keys simultaneously to open Settings. Select Update & Security and then click the Check for Updates button.
Disable Windows' Management of Your Default Printer
Using the default settings, Windows automatically manages the default printer. If your default printer keeps changing, you should have no misgivings about firing Windows from this job.
To open Settings, click the Windows menu icon, click the gear-shaped Settings icon and then select Devices. Click the Printers & Scanners option in the left menu and then click the check box marked Let Windows Manage My Default Printer.
Remove Old Printers From Windows
There's always a chance that old device drivers could be causing the default printer problem. If Windows is changing your default printer to one you no longer use, remove it.
To do this, open Settings. You can type "printer" in the Windows search field and then select Printers & Scanners. This takes you directly to the printers in Settings. In the list of printers, click each printer you no longer use and choose Remove Device.
Remove Unwanted Printers in Device Manager
As an alternative, you can also delete printers using Device Manager. Press Win+X on the keyboard and select Device Manager from the list of utilities.
Click Action at the top of the Device Manager window and then select Devices and Printers. Select any printers listed in the new window that you don't need and choose Remove Device. Click Yes when Windows asks if you're sure.
Change the Printer Registry Settings
Unless you're experienced with using the Registry Editor in Windows, this method should be used only as a last resort.
Press the Windows key and R simultaneously on the keyboard to open the Run window.
Type "regedit" in the Run window and press the Enter key. Select Yes when Windows asks if you're sure you want to allow Registry Editor to make changes to your computer.
In the left pane, open the following folders by double-clicking each:
- Windows NT
- Current Version
Once the Windows folder is open, double-click the LegacyDefaultPrinterMode key in the right pane. When the pop-up window opens, change the Value Data setting from 0 to 1. Click Okay and close the Registry Editor.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful technology businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and online publications on computers and other technology topics.