I get a lot of questions about printers and find it difficult to give specific answers because of the many brands, models and types of printers. I do hear your pain and want to give a few general troubleshooting tips in this column. I’m talking here about a printer that has been working but stopped for some reason. Challenges with installing printers I’ll save for another column.
Printer problems with existing printers fall into two basic categories: connection problems and mechanical problems. Let’s start with connectivity problems which are by far the most common. Learn to access your printer’s controls from your control panel. Control Panel/Printers & Faxes or Devices and Printers depending on your version of Windows. Go to Settings/Hardware on a Mac. Look at the icon that represents your printer and see if it shows an error message. Is it set as the default printer if it’s supposed to be? Is it running off-line? Is it “paused’ for some reason unknown to you? Right click the icon and click on printer properties to open the printer properties dialog box. From there you can send a test print to the printer. If you doesn’t print, look for error messages either on your PC screen or on the printer control panel itself. You may get a connectivity error message or something about a mechanical problem like paper jam or no paper or ink low. If you get a connection error, check all connections whether you are running a USB connection, Ethernet to a router or sharing a wireless connection. Check all the physical connections, and then turn off your printer and your PC and your router if you have one. Now reboot in this order: printer first, router second (give it time to connect and settle down), then your PC. Give all the equipment time to reconnect. Now repeat your test print and see if connectivity issue is solved. If not, you may need more expert help.
For mechanical problems, there are many errors that can pop up especially with ink problems since your printer vendor is trying to sell ink and he misses few opportunities to remind you when you’re low. Sometimes you can override the prompts, sometimes not. If it does not appear to be a jam or lack of paper or low ink; it may be some little glitch in the printer software. Sometimes these software problems can be solved by forcing the printer to reset its on-board computer. I’m talking about turning it off and actually disconnecting the power cord. Wait a minute, and plug it back in and turn it on. Let it refresh itself and then try to test print again.
Problems like print head alignment and poor quality printing can often be fixed by accessing the printer’s built in maintenance utility. If you don’t have an icon on your desktop or on your taskbar, try looking under All Programs and looking at sub menus under you printer brand name. Click around till you find menus like “clean print heads” or “Align” cartridges” and the like.
Print away and till next week, send your questions to: