when i check which printer drivers are available on mt laptop, i can see that the drivers are there. However when i try to connect a netowrk printer, i get a msg saying the drivers are not available on the network. how can i tell windows to use the local drivers for the network printer?
You can't for network printers, since you are not printing locally. You are sending the print job to the server, and the server is printing it for you.
You can contact whoever is in charge of the print server to add more drivers for the printer (keep in mind that not all printer will have drivers your Windows 7 system can work with), or you can set up the printer with a direct IP connection and use your own local drivers to print. Bellow are the XP intructions, but same steps are needed in Win 7.