Printer problems can be very annoying and frustrating. One of my friends just posted a status that summarizes pretty well: “We can send someone into space, robots to Mars, but I still can’t print a Word document!” I myself am very surprised how many problems I have with printers, especially wireless ones.
Over the years, printers have gotten cheaper and better quality, but terrible in terms of ease of use. HP typically includes driver CDs with their printers, which are several hundred MB in size. Indeed? Does my printer really need software the same size as Microsoft Office? I do not think so.
They also have complex installation procedures and require all sorts of installation steps that are just complicated for most consumers. I spent a good hour setting up a wireless printer and I am a technician.
My mom has never been able to install a wireless printer and it’s just sad. Printers don’t have to be so hard to use! In this article, I will try to give you general solutions to many printer problems.
Restart, restart, restart
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had printer problems and I just restarted everything and then printed fine. In my case, I restart the computer, restart the printer, and restart the router if your printer is connected wirelessly or via an Ethernet cable.
I keep my computer on all the time and for some strange reason I sometimes have to restart my computer to properly reconnect to the printer.
If your printer is a network printer, be sure to restart your router. I have an AT&T router and have to reboot it constantly because it just hangs a lot. It is stuck in the wall and therefore gets very hot.
When it overheats, the internet connection is interrupted and the network performance becomes very poor. Restarting definitely helps and usually fixes the printing problem.
Cables and Connections
Cables and Connectors
The second thing you should always be sure is that all connections are correct. You never know when your two-year-old pushed a USB-connected printer and unplugged it slightly. Every time I have a USB printer connected to my computer and I cannot print, I first check the cables to make sure it is properly connected to the printer and computer port.
For wireless printers, you want to make sure your printer has a valid IP address. You should print a network TCP / IP page from your printer and make sure the IP address is not 169.254.xxx.xxx, because if it does, it means it is connected by getting an IP address from the wireless router.
If your printer is disconnected from the wireless network, you will need to reconnect it. Sometimes this can be done on the printer itself, or you have to run the CD or download the Wireless Setup Utility from the manufacturer’s website.
I did a little research and found several tutorials for several major printer manufacturers that show you how to reconfigure your printer so it is back online.
Please note that some of these are for specific models, but this procedure may apply to other wireless printers from the same company.
Lexmark – Wireless Networking Utility
Lexmark – reconnecting to a wireless network
HP – Wireless Printer Installation and Connection Resource Center
Brother Wireless Printer Setup
Dell Wireless & Network Center
Please note that if you have ever changed the settings on your router, or if your router was reset or something like that, the printer may lose its connection to the network. In such cases, you will need to follow the links above and add the printer to the network again.
Problems with firewall and antivirus
Firewall and antivirus issues
One of the main sources of frustration is the firewall. Whether it’s built-in Windows or a third-party firewall, your connection to the printer might be blocked.
The best way to find out if a firewall is causing the problem is to simply disable it and then try to print. If you can type, then this is a firewall problem, and then you can see what exceptions you need to add.
Another major source of frustration is overzealousness in antivirus software. When I was working in a corporate environment and we first installed Symantec, it took IT administrators several days to fix all the settings so we could print correctly!
If you recently installed any new antivirus or internet protection software, etc. on your computer, try disabling it and doing a test print.
The following are various problems that occur in Windows. One of the main problems is the print spooler service. It is included in every version of Windows and manages all print jobs. If something goes wrong with the Print Spooler service, you will not be able to print.
One of the problems that you have probably encountered before is when the print job is not removed from the print queue. The print job mostly gets stuck in the print queue. In this case, you must stop the Print Spooler service and manually delete all jobs in the queue. Read my previous post on removing stuck print jobs.
Another problem with the Print Spooler service is that it sometimes doesn’t work or quits unexpectedly. This can happen for a variety of reasons, and you can read my previous post on how to troubleshoot an issue where the print spooler unexpectedly quits.
You should also go to Device Manager and make sure the printer is listed there and doesn’t have a yellow exclamation mark, question mark, or red X.
You can also try uninstalling the printer and reinstalling it from Device Manager. Download the latest drivers from your printer manufacturer and install them when you reinstall your printer. If the printer driver is damaged, reinstalling the printer drivers will fix the problem.
Here are some simple things you can check to make sure your printer is working properly:
1. Make sure the printer is turned on.
2. Make sure the status light is green. Most printers have a status light to indicate that the printer is ready to print. Be sure to download the manual for your specific printer model to find out what each status light means.
3. Make sure the printer has paper.
4. Make sure you can print a test page from the printer. If there is something physically wrong with the printer and it cannot print a test page, you cannot force it to print from your computer.
5. Make sure the printer contains ink cartridges or toner and is not empty. I usually only install the printer driver and not the additional software that controls the printer, so my computer doesn’t get a message when the ink is low. I need to manually check my printer and make sure it has ink or toner in it.
6. Is there a paper jam you cannot see? If you try to print envelopes or labels, they may get stuck inside and you may not necessarily see them.
7. Is the cable you are using good? If you have a USB cable, make sure it’s not bent at the ends. If you are using an Ethernet cable, make sure the plastic ends are not cut off and the wires are inserted correctly.
This guide doesn’t cover nearly every possible type of printer problem, but hopefully it can help you troubleshoot most of the really common printer problems.
If you can’t print from your computer and have tried pretty much everything, leave a comment here and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!