Printers, no matter the model, are notoriously inconsistent and liable to breaking down. This has a lot to do with the fact that manufacturers like to practically give them away. When you buy a new computer, a printer is often thrown in to spice up the deal. There are all kinds of bargains and printer giveaways. And while this is great for consumers initially, it usually means little time is invested in thoughtfully designing printers. So from flimsy construction to inept software to ink cartridge scams, printer problems are quite common. Here’s how to troubleshoot the 6 most frequent and frustrating.
Computer Not Communicating With the Printer
Of course, the first thing to do if you get this error is check to ensure all the cables and cords are properly connected. Then try unplugging the printer’s power source, waiting 2-3 minutes, and rebooting. If this doesn’t work, you likely have a driver issue. In Control Panel, select Print Utilities, and uninstall the current print drivers. Then reinstall them from either the CD that came with your printer or from a free download on the manufacturer’s website.
If the error persists, open task manager and look for a process called spoolsv.exe. If you have print jobs queued but don’t see this process, you might have a port specification issue. Make sure your settings for USB or Parallel Port (also found in Print Utilities) correspond to the printer you are using.
Printing at a Snail’s Pace
By far the most common and most frustrating printer problem, it can often be easily fixed. Unless you absolutely need it, lower your print quality to draft mode in File > Print > Properties. This will save both time and ink. If it is an option, you also might consider adding more RAM to the printer.
Another common cause of painfully slow printing is a pileup of queued jobs in the print spooler. Go to “Printers and Faxes” in Control Panel and check every printer for waiting jobs. Also have a look to see if Microsoft Image Writer has waiting jobs. Deleting them should speed things up significantly.
Faint, Spotty, and with Horizontal Lines
This is usually an indication of a print head malfunction. First, try cleaning them, either by using the menu screen on your printer itself or, if you have Windows 7, by opening “Print Utilities” in the Control Panel. Print a test page to see if the problem is corrected. If not, you may need to replace them, which is a fairly inexpensive fix for most printers.
Color Ink Empty, Can’t Print Black
Ink prices are one of the biggest scams in the computer industry. Some printers are especially bad about forcing us to frequently and unnecessarily buy new cartridges. If your printer won’t allow printing in black and white because the yellow ink has run out, for example, there is a quick hack to circumvent the error message. Most printers use a simple light sensor to detect low ink levels. Simply remove the cartridge and put a tiny piece of black electrical tape over the clear sensor window. Make sure your print setting is on “greyscale,” and presto! Problem solved. This method will also help squeeze the last few drops of ink out of low cartridges.
You can also find more detailed instructions and photos here.
Text Printing On Too Many Pages
Many an hour has been wasted trying to solve this relatively simple issue. Condensing data onto a single page is especially helpful for Excel spreadsheets. It also saves time, ink, and paper. On Windows-running computers, select File > Print > Properties. Then look for “Pages Per Sheet” or “Fit to Single Page,” which are often found under the “Page Setup” or “Finishing” tabs, depending on the OS you are using.
Unstoppable Spew of Computer Jargon
Anyone who has spent time around computers knows this inexplicable printer problem. Suddenly the printer begins spewing page after page of random computer language nonsense. It persists even after resetting the printer, and the only way to stop it is to remove the paper tray. Usually this is an indication of a corrupted driver. Uninstall your drivers and reinstall them from the CD or free download on the manufacture’s website. You can do so by going into Control Panel > Printers-and-Faxes > Drivers.
Few things are worse than having your valuable time eaten up by an inept printer. After spending so much time and effort making a document or spreadsheet, the last thing anyone wants is to spend hours battling a broken machine (that was working just fine 20 minutes ago!). Hopefully these quick fixes will take a few headaches out of your work week.
About the Author: These useful tips were contributed by PrinterInks.com. No matter what brand of printer you own, you can find ink cartridges at PrinterInks.com from a range of leading brands including HP, Epson, Dell and Xerox, to name but a few.
Image credit: juhansonin