It is still quite possible to purchase new printers for the vast majority of computers made during the 1990s and more recently. However, care should be taken to avoid some new printers which can only be used with newer computers. Port connectivity and driver availability are two of the major concerns in selecting printers of this type.
One major concern is the type of ports and cable which are used by printers to connect to computers. Some new printer models now only have USB and/or network connection, while many old computers can only be attached to printers with a parallel port and cable. A printer with parallel connectivity is necessary if the computer lacks USB ports (these are small and rectangular) and/or has an operating system which doesn’t support USB (such as Windows 95A or 3.x). If the computer has an old type of port such as a Centronics card-edge (on some 286 and earlier models), it will be necessary to purchase an old printer or upgrade the computer to have a standard parallel port.
More new laser and dot matrix printers are compatible with old computers than inkjet models. Some examples of new printers which are likely to be compatible with many old computers and available at Staples office supply stores include the Epson Stylus C88+ (color inkjet; Windows 98SE or Mac OS X 10.2 and up), Xerox Phaser 3124 (B/W laser; Windows 98 and up), and Okidata ML186 (B/W dot matrix). New printers of this type available from Office Depot stores include the Brother HL-2040 (B/W laser, Win. 95 and up, some Mac OS versions), Hewlett Packard Deskjet 9800 (color inkjet, Win. 98 and up) and Epson LQ590 (dot matrix, Win. 95 and up). All of these printers have parallel port connectivity.
It is best to choose a printer for which the computer’s operating system meets the printer’s system requirements; however, some new printers can be used with an old print driver from the same model series if no current driver exists for the computer’s operating system, although certain features may be unavailable. Windows users can select the “Generic Text Only” print driver if nothing else will work, but will not be able to print fonts or graphics.
Upgrading old computers so they can use USB-only printers is possible, but upgrading the operating system may also be necessary, which could lead to slower operation and/or the need to upgrade memory, the hard drive, or other components. Buying a new printer which is already compatible with the older computer is certainly the easier, and perhaps less expensive, option.