I needed to print a coupon today, and found that there are no Windows 7 64bit drivers available for my Lexmark Z605 printer, despite the fact that Microsoft’s compatibility site claimed that there was.
So I wondered if I could print from a Virtual PC, and found this guide but I knew this would only work if the Printer was connected to a parallel port. So try method 2 if your printer is on a parallel port.
Method 1 of the guide showing how to set it up as a network printer would not work because I would need a driver loaded on the host OS(in my case Windows 7 64bit).
This is where XP Mode comes to the rescue, because unlike older versions of Virtual PC, it does a great job of sharing USB devices with the guest OS running under Virtual PC. If you don’t know what XP Mode is, it is just a fancy computer simulator which simulates you having a second computer running Windows XP. Follow steps 3 and 4 here to download and install XP Mode and then install the Windows Update which adds Virtual PC for Windows 7 (Note that this Virtual PC is different from Virtual PC 2007, in that it has tighter integration with Windows 7).
After these two items are installed and you have rebooted, you can run XP Mode from Start Menu->All Programs->Windows Virtual PC->Windows XP Mode. After you go through the steps to load up XP Mode, and you are at the Windows XP desktop, select your printer from the USB menu at the top. What this will do, sometimes taking a few minutes, is transfer control of the USB printer from the Windows 7 host to the Windows XP guest in Virtual PC. You should get a little popup in Windows XP from the sytray indicating a device has been attached once it finishes transferring control. Now you can download and install the Windows XP printer driver and setup your printer just as you would have done in Windows XP (32bit), which sometimes is a daunting process in itself. Given that Windows XP has been around for almost a decade, I will leave you to the rest of the internet for detailed info on that.
So this provides a workaround for those who, like me, chose to dive into the 64bit version of Windows 7 and found that their printer is lacking 64bit drivers, or lacking Windows 7 compatible drivers entirely.