Troubleshooting Your Non-Printing Printer – Five Things to Check

Has your printer stopped printing? This always seems to happen as you try to print the boarding pass for your Caribbean cruise. Please try these five checks first before you kill your printer.

Several things can fix printing. Some are easy simple checks and others are more complicated. This article presents the five things you can do to repair printing. After that, you are free to get a hammer, take out your frustration on your device, and buy a new cheaper one. We begin here with a simple easy checks and then progress to the more complex issues to resolve.

Check 1: Printing devices must be powered-on to print. Please make sure that the power is turned on and that the power-on light is lighted. At this time it is best to make sure that all cables are plugged into the device and that there are no error indicators lighted. A quick check of the paper tray and paper hopper is in order as well. These should have a sufficient supply of fresh paper in them.

Check 2: Please make sure that you are using the printer you are expecting. To verify this when using Microsoft® Word, please click on the upper left menu item “File” and then “Print” from the drop down menu. This reveals the printing panel to the right of the drop-down menu. In the printing panel on printer drivers the upper left is the print button. Immediately below that the printer is identified. If the name of this device is not the printer you are expecting to use, there is a triangle pointing down on the right-hand side. Clicking on this triangle reveals a drop-down list of printers to which your computer can send the document for printing. Please make sure you have selected the printer that you expect. There are similar selections another computer programs that permit you to verify and to select the printer you wish to use.

You can print on a different printer as a test. When the document prints on the other printer, your printer has the problem. This helps you identify precisely the problem hardware and software components.

Check 3: Please verify that the documents waiting to print are not stopped. When a printer encounters any problem printing a document, it just stops printing. Any document that is subsequently sent to the printer cannot be printed until the previous document is completely printed.

Printers print one document at a time. This is similar to cows crossing a stream. If the first cow comes the stream and does not cross, all remaining cows wait in line to cross the stream behind the first cow. If the first cow does cross the stream, the other cows follow. When one of the other cows refuses across the stream, the cows following it stop and do not cross the stream.

Similarly, printers print all documents in the order that they are sent to the printer. If the ink runs out, if there is a paper the error, or if there is some other malfunction that stops a document from printing, that document and all remaining documents stop printing. After the error is corrected, the document may or may not automatically start printing. Sometimes you must restart the document printing for that document and subsequent documents to print.

The printer document waiting line on Windows 7® is found by clicking on the “Start” button and opening “Devices and Printers”. In the “Devices and Printers” window you select the printer you are using. Clicking the right mouse button opens a pop-up menu from which you select “See what’s printing”. This opens the printer queue. If there are no documents listed, then Windows® believes that all documents have been sent to the printer and printed.

Sometimes a printer is set to work offline. In this event nothing can print because the device is offline. When a printer icon is colored light grey, the printer is likely set offline. In the “See what’s printing” window, clicking on the “Printer” menu item produces a drop down menu. The “Use Printer Offline” selection appears about three lines from the bottom of this menu. Since Windows 7® is context sensitive and displays only the possible menu selections appropriate, the “Use Printer Offline” menu selection is often not visible. To place the device online, please un-check the “Use Printer Offline” menu item.

Check 4: Many printing problems are caused by the loss of connection between the computer and the printer. To check the printer connection on Windows 7® you again click on the “Start” button and open “Devices and Printers”. In the devices and printers window you select the printer you are using, click the right mouse button to open a pop-up menu, and you select “Printer properties”. The printer properties window should open on the “General” tab. In the lower right should be the “Print Test Page” button. Clicking on this button is a quick way to test whether the computer is connected to the printer. It should immediately print a test page on the printer. If it does not print a test page, then the link to the printer may not be functioning properly.

To verify the computer’s connection to the printer you select the “Ports” tab. The “Ports” tab identifies the port that connects the computer to the printer. When the printer is connected by a USB cable to the computer, the port label identifies a USB port. Sometimes unplugging a USB cable and plugging it into a different USB port re-establishes the connection between the computer and the printer.

Driver programs connecting Windows to the printer port may not be functioning properly with Windows. In this case reinstalling the latest printer driver programs can resolve this issue. The driver programs must typically match exactly the version of Windows on the computer. Often separate driver programs are used for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows®. The latest driver programs are found at the printer manufacturer’s website.

If the printer is a network printer, a standard TCP/IP port is checked. A TCP/IP port connection can be broken when the incorrect printer IP address is used. To reconnect the printer to the computer, make sure that the IP address on the computer is the same as the IP address assigned to the printer. When the printer is a wireless printer, verifying the connection becomes more difficult. Similar to any other network connected printer, a wireless printer must have the IP address match the address used by the TCP/IP port on the computer.

Sometimes the printer may be identified by name and not by IP address. If the name is correct, a test page should print on the printer. When a test page does not print, the most direct resolution of the problem may be re-installation of the printer. This would require the original printer installation CDs or a download of the installation software from the printer manufacturer’s website.

Check 5: Wireless printers often lose their connections to the network. This can be verified by going to the printer and selecting from the printer menus a print out of the network configuration. An alternate test is to use a different computer to print a test page to the wireless printer.

When a wireless printer has lost its connection to the network, the simplest and most direct solution may be to reinstall the wireless printer on the network. This again would require an installation CD or a download of the installation software from the manufacturer’s website. Wireless printer installation differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some printers require an active USB connection into the printer to complete wireless network installation. Other printers can be installed without such a USB connection. Wireless installation requires knowing the network key or password. Sometimes the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security must be used for the printer to connect into the wireless network. The older Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) does not permit some printers to connect to the network properly.

Performing these five checks should at the very least identify where the problem lies. You should be able to then zero-in on the root of the problem.

If a printing problem is caused by physical damage, it is not cost-effective to repair the printer. In this case it is best to get out a big hammer and take out all your pent-up frustration on the device. Next go to the store and buy a newer, faster, and better one.


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