On November 30, a report was made regarding the installation of an unwanted “HP Smart” app on some systems without user knowledge or consent. Initial findings indicated that HP Smart was being pushed via the Microsoft Store on Windows 11 or 10, which remains true. However, the issue is more complex than it may seem. A recent Windows Update has inadvertently rebranded various printers as “HP LaserJet M101-M106” on both Windows 10 and Windows 11 systems. The theory is that this unusual problem results from a metadata mix-up, affecting how printers are identified and displayed in the operating system. Metadata, which is information provided by companies like HP to Microsoft, helps Windows recognize the hardware details of connected peripherals, such as your printer. HP sent updated metadata to Windows Update in late November, which initially caused a metadata mix-up, leading Windows to misidentify various printers as HP models. This mix-up is not apparent in update history but can be found in a .XML file in the “DeviceMetadataCache” folder. If your Windows installation is affected, and you go to the Control Panel’s Devices and Printers, you will notice that all icons and names of printers or related services are incorrectly changed to “HP LaserJet M101-M106,” regardless of the printer’s actual brand. This is a labeling and identification issue, affecting the appearance but not the functionality of the printer. Other printers, including the EPSCON Printer & Scanner, may also appear as HP products. Tests show that the bug affected all PCs that fetched updated metadata from Windows update distributed by HP, unrelated to the PC’s configuration. For example, all of my Lenovo Legion hardware and virtual machines now use HP labeling or icons, even though I have not connected a printer to them. The incorrect identification of printers as HP models seems to trigger the Microsoft Store to install the “HP Smart” app. This may result in the app being added to the Start menu, regardless of whether a printer or HP product is used. The widespread issue of Windows Update rebranding printers to HP M101-M106 has prompted Microsoft to pull the incorrect metadata and work with HP on a workaround. While Microsoft is investigating, there is currently no easy fix for the metadata mix-up, though a clean installation of Windows seems to reverse the rebrandings. Microsoft could release an update to address the issue in the coming days. It is important to note that the bug does not affect the functionality of printers and is only a labeling issue.

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