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HP LaserJet Series Printers - Overview / Description of PCL, PS and Universal Printer Driver (UPD) Features

ISSUE: Why do HP LaserJet series printers have multiple drivers?
SOLUTION: A printer driver, a software program, enables applications to access the printer's features. Typically, a printer driver should be installed for each printer, and for each printer language used.

The drivers will be different for each operating system. Some applications print better using a specific driver. If a job does not print correctly using one driver, try printing with a different driver, after making sure all settings are correct.

For example, instead of using the PCL6 driver, try the PS or PCL5 driver. Click here to download the printer driver or printing system for the appropriate product .

The printing system typically includes the following printer drivers as options:

  • HP Universal Print Driver (UPD)

  • PCL 6

  • PCL 5

  • PS (PostScript® emulation) drivers

NOTE: The HP LaserJet 8150 and 9000 printers use Postscript Level 3 Emulation. From within the HP LaserJet 8150 and 9000 PS drivers, the level of Postscript can be changed from Level 3 to Level 2 or Level 1.This might need to be done for compatibility with an older software application. The HP LaserJet 8000 and 8100 series printers use Postscript Level 2 Emulation.

Descriptions of the different drivers

HP Universal Print Driver (UPD)

The HP Universal Print Driver is the single driver that gives users instant access to a range of HP print devices--in the office or on the road--without downloading separate drivers.

Click here for more information on the HP Universal Print Driver.

PCL drivers

HP to provide an efficient way to control printer features across many different printing devices created PCL. PCL was originally devised for the HP Dot Matrix and Inkjet series printers. The first printer HP LaserJet series printer was released in 1984 with the PCL 3 language.

PCL commands are compact escape sequence codes that are embedded in the print job before being sent to the printer. HP PCL formatters and fonts are designed to quickly translate application output into high-quality, device-specific, raster print images.

The PCL printer language is common to all HP printers and provided the commands needed to support color printing. There are six versions (1 thru 6) of PCL. Each subsequent version of the language includes commands not found in older versions as well as the older PCL commands. As a result, printers with more recent versions of PCL are backwards compatible with software that supports older versions of the language.

There are currently two versions of PCL that are used:

PCL 6 driver - PCL 6 uses a new modular architecture that can be easily modified for future HP printers and exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Returns faster to the application after spooling data

  • Prints complex graphics faster

  • Data streams are more efficient for reduced network traffic

  • Better WYSIWYG printing

  • Improved print quality

  • Truer document fidelity

  • Complete backward compatibility

The PCL 6 language is very different from the earlier versions of PCL. One significant difference is the manner in which the commands are sent to the printer. Use the PCL 6 driver to take full advantage of the printer features. The PCL 6 driver is recommended unless backward compatibility with previous PCL drivers or older printers is necessary.

PCL 5 drivers - The PCL 5c driver provided the commands needed to support printing in color. Use the PCL 5e driver to preserve compatibility with documents created for older printers.

PS drivers - The PostScript (PS) was originally designed by Adobe® and is an interpretive programming language with powerful graphic capabilities. A program in this language communicates a description of a document to an output device (such as a printer). Generally, PostScript is recommended for use when the following are necessary:

  • Matching font styles with other users in an organization

  • When printing in a Macintosh environment

  • When rendering graphics in a specific manner

  • When printing with PostScript specific applications

NOTE: Available printing features vary between printer drivers. See the printer driver help files for instructions on using specific printing features.
NOTE: The printer can automatically switch between PCL and PS printer languages.

Additional drivers

Click here to obtain the latest printer drivers and printing software for HP LaserJet printers (

When installing the printing system from the CD that ships with a newer HP LaserJet series printer, the installer automatically detects whether Internet access is available. The installer will request the option to check the HP Internet site for the latest drivers. If the printer drivers or printing software have been updated since the CD was created, the installer will install from the Internet.

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