A thorny problem, with no easy solution – how to get my Minolta 1350W printer working under Windows 7.
The problem is simple to understand: Minolta never made a 64 bit driver, and the last driver available for this printer is a 32 bit for Vista.
Now of course, I could use 32 bit Windows 7. Certainly it would solve many, many problems I’ve had with drivers; but I like the large memory space available under 64, and eventually Microsoft will shoehorn us into using only 64, so why wait?
But of course that means my Minolta is a useless lump of plastic and metal (and toner, with about 4,000 pages worth remaining). And that is just annoying. So for quite some time I’ve been looking for solutions to make it work. For instance:
- The easiest of course is to use another machine to run XP or Vista 32 bit, and use the old Minolta PagePro drivers for it. In my case, I’d use this option, and then pass files to it via PDF output. PDF is straightforward; Open Office and CorelDraw do this easily, and amount to the majority of the printing I do, but you can also use the free Bullzip PDF driver, which outputs any printing to a PDF file you can then send over the network. A handy way to manage the two (or more) computers you’ll use is with something called a KVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse) switch; you can get cheap kvm switches on eBay. Using this, I can share a single mouse, keyboard and display between computers, and switch back and forth with a simple keypress or two. And since both computers were on the network, passing PDF files and managing printing was (almost) a simple solution.
- Another option I read about but didn’t use was to ‘fake’ the system out. Again, you use a second computer to run the Minolta driver and connect to the printer, but now you use a networked printer setup, and the Minolta 1400 drivers running on the Windows 7 x64 computer to print to the networked computer. In all fairness, I’ve never tried this, but in theory it would let you print most anything from your current computer (not just PDF files), although you still need to run a second computer for every print job. If this sounds good, you can read more about this at this blog.
- The solution I moved to recently was to run XP in a virtual box on my Win7 system, and print from that. A bit complicated to set up, but no more need to switch computers, or even use a second computer!
The method for doing this is to use a virtual computer, a program that creates a computer within a computer. Using it, Windows XP runs in memory detached from Win7, yet still accessible (they can share the same programs, and even hard drives if you wish). I used Virtual PC 2007 to set things up, but since it doesn’t manage the USB port (which the Minolta uses), it’s no good – and the latest Virtual PC with USB support appears to be just on Win7 Pro/Ultimate, making it inaccessible for most people.
However, all is not lost:
- Use your old copy of XP (you do have an old copy, don’t you?), and download Virtual PC. You’ll need this to set up WinXP – although in theory you can do everything on the final system (Oracle’s VM VirtualBox), I had problems installing from there (imagine, Microsoft making it difficult to use someone else’s software!) Using Virtual PC, do the XP complete install, but stop short of activating it.
- Now set up and run VirtualBox. This program includes drivers for USB, and will let the virtual computer access your USB printer. Create a new system, but point it to the XP drive you just created under Virtual PC. At this point, you can also activate it (or wait a few days until you’re comfortable dealing with the system).
- Now, install the printer driver (remember to do it off the disk rather than using XP’s driver detection routines).
- At this point, you have a driver, XP, but no printer. Now this is the tricky bit; if you turn on the printer, the Win7 machine will try to install it (and fail). What I found worked was to let it try and fail each and every time. However, once it gives up, use the Virtual box to grab the USB device, and from then on you are hooked up, and can print from your virtual box.
While tricky, the advantage is that you can use your Minolta PagePro 1350W for a few more years (or as long as you can activate XP!), and yet get the benefits of a cheap yet good printer (after all, I can buy laser toner cartridges for it at obscenely low prices on eBay). To print, pass your PDF files over via a common hard drive directory, or install the same program in XP and pass actual files over – either way, it sure beats a second computer running for every print job!