How to Turn Off Print to File

By Michelle Carvo

Updated October 09, 2017

There are many reasons why you may want to turn off print to file on your computer. Unfortunately you cannot turn off this option as it is built into the operating system, but learning about how it works will help you deal with problems it causes.

Print to File Basics

Print to file is a printing option that has been available on operating systems like Windows and Linux for many years. When you print a document to your printer you can also check a box to “print” the same document to a file on your computer. The printer will print out your document while your computer saves the output from the printer to a .prn file. You can then drag this .prn file to your printer in Windows Explorer to create another exact copy of that print job at any time.

Windows and Linux introduced the print to file option to make repeat print jobs from complicated or time consuming programs an easier process. The print process today is usually as simple as clicking “File” and then “Print,” but when print to file first came out, the process required quite a few more steps.

Print to File Problems

Print to file was once a very useful Windows feature, but it is now something that you may want to turn off. You may get a printer error message because of the print to file box being checked. This happens on printers that do not support print to file even if they do display the check box, which would imply that they do support print to file.

You may also get this message even if you do not select print to file. This is a known problem and can usually be resolved by selecting a different printer to print to and then going back to your old printer after you have successfully printed once.

Another problem with print to file is that your .prn file is specific to your exact printer. What this means is if you try to use this .prn file with another printer, then it will not typically work unless you’re using the same brand and model. This is a significant problem as you may be printing to file to make it easier to print from multiple printers, and print to file can’t do that.

Print to File Alternatives

You don’t have to use print to file as the print or save to PDF option is an arguably better alternative. Print to PDF allows you to save your printed document as a PDF file on your computer that can then be printed again by just clicking “File” and then “Print.” Print to PDF is a built-in feature on Windows 10 and Mac computers. You can use it on other computers through Microsoft Word or browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.