Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Troubleshooting Printer Problems

Printer problems are one of the more frustrating issues we computer users sometimes have to deal with.  That's because most of us only have one printer attached to the computer and when we need to print something, we typically need it now. 

There are many different things can cause printer problems, but regardless of the problem, the basic steps to troubleshoot the problem are the same.  Hopefully the steps below will help solve your problem.  If they don't, you may need to contact technical support for further help.

First things first .....

Look for error messages on the computer or the printer itself.  These messages can help you find the cause  immediately.  Some of the common error messages you may see include paper jam or no ink.  Some printers only have flashing lights to indicate problems.  Your printer manual should be able to help you decipher what the flashing lights mean.  If you don't have your printer manual (or can't find it), you should be able to download a copy of it on the manufacturer's website.

Listen to the printer.  If you hear the printer trying to print, then you know the computer is talking to the printer and that the problem is in the printer itself.  It may be that the printer is out of paper, or the paper isn't feeding correctly.  if you don't hear anything, the printer is either off  (or really dead) or the computer may not be talking to the printer (which requires further troubleshooting).

The next step is to check the printer queue.  Every time we click the print button, the print job is sent to the queue and when the printer isn't working, these print jobs can pile up (causing more problems).  Checking the print queue will reveal backlogged print jobs ... and if there are any, you'll want to delete them all.  Follow the steps below to check the print queue.
  1. Click the START button and then CONTROL PANEL
  2. Open the PRINTER folder
  3. Double-left click on your printer icon (a new window opens)
  4. If there are any print jobs queued, they will show up on the window.  When troubleshooting the printer, you want to delete all of these print jobs. To do this, single-left click a job (to highlight it) and then click DOCUMENT and CANCEL on the window's menu. Repeat the process for every print job. 
  5. Once the print queue is empty, it wouldn't hurt to reboot the computer as well as power-cycle the printer.

Power-Cycling the Printer is another good troubleshooting step when having printer problems.  Doing so re-initializes the printer and can clear up some issues.  You can also reboot the computer.  Sometimes it's best to shut down the computer, then power-cycle the printer, and then start the computer back up.  This helps to re-establish communication between the two.

Check the Manufacturer's web site for more help. Most manufacturer web sites have a good support section that details common problems and how to fix them.  They may also offer software patches to fix known technical issues. This step may be too advanced for some people, but this is still an option.

Uninstalling your printer's software and reinstalling is another option ... although, I typically consider this a last resort.  If you do decide to try this, be sure to uninstall through the control panel.  If you don't have your printer disk, you can download the software from the manufacturer's web site. Be sure to get the software that matches your operating system (Winy7, Vista, XP, etc.) and System Type (32 or 64 bit).

Ink Problems are another common issue all together.  Most of these problems can be solved by cleaning the print heads, removing the tape on the ink cartridge, reseating ink cartridges, or changing cartridges all together.  Your printer manual can help you accomplish these tasks. 

These steps won't fix every printer problem, but they do fix the majority of them.  And with luck, they'll fix yours as well.

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