Now that a lot of you are working regularly from home, you’ve probably gotten most of your technology (that you can control) working more or less reliably, but I’m willing to bet there’s at least one hunk of plastic and sand that is regularly giving you fits. Yes, we’re looking at you, laser or inkjet printer! Printer issues are one of the top ten issues we address for clients, but a good percentage of those issues are resolved by a very specific set of “tricks” that most people can do on their own.
“Sit. Roll-over! Print this page…NO! Bad printer!”
If you are having problems printing, here are some of the basics you can walk through to see if you can bring that recalcitrant printer to heel:
- Check the printer queue. If you see a bunch of documents stuck in the queue but your printer seems to be oblivious to them, try canceling the jobs, and then resend them.
- Make sure you are printing to the right printer. Sometimes Windows (and Macs, but less often) will reinstall your printer, but your apps don’t get the memo and will still try to print to a printer that no longer exists. Quit the app and relaunch if you notice this, and make sure you select the active printer when printing. If you have two printers with very similar names and one of them is marked as “disconnected” or “offline”, very likely your apps don’t know that something has changed.
- Reboot your computer. There. I said it. Again.
- Reboot the printer. This one actually still gets forgotten quite a bit. Modern printers have little computers in them and sure enough, those little computers can crash. Or they are waiting to apply an update but need a reboot to get it started, just like the big computer on your desk.
- Check the printer’s built-in display. Most modern printers, even the ones that seem cheaper than the ink they use, have screens that can provide all kinds of information, including the state of the network connection, whether there are jams, or that dang cyan cartridge is empty again.
- Reinstall the printer drivers. This is a little more advanced, but as I mentioned #2, Windows 10 is notorious for reinstalling printers with a Microsoft-version of your printer driver, which often leads to strange behavior.
- Check your printing settings. Make sure you aren’t trying to print a page that doesn’t match the paper size loaded into your printer. Even the simplest apps use a standard print dialog box that has at least a half-a-dozen settings that can cause the printer to just stop, as if to say, “Whatever it is you are trying to print does…not…compute.”
- Make sure your ink cartridges aren’t dried out. Cheap inkjet printers (heck, even the expensive ones), when not used for long periods of time, have a tendency to malfunction due to dried-out cartridges. Depending on your usage patterns, local humidity, and the quality of the cartridges, this period of inactivity could be days or weeks. Make sure you run regular nozzle checks, cleaning and print tests to keep the printer juices flowing.
- Replace that cheap printer. Most of the printers in use today were probably bought pre-Covid, and most likely were chosen because they were cheap and intended for light-duty use. Nine months later and those part-time printers have become essential workers in a role they were never intended. If you are spending more time fixing jams, replacing cartridges and reprinting poorly imaged pages, it may be time to consider replacing it.
Image by pavelkovar from Pixabay