Taming the problematic printer

Dear Larry,

Yesterday, I was printing just fine. Today, I can’t even get a single word to come out of my printer. Any ideas? —F.R.

Dear F.R.,

OK, let’s start with the obvious. Is your printer turned on? Has it run out of paper or ink? Has the cable connecting the printer to the computer come loose at either end? (No? Check again.) Is there a piece of paper jammed within the printer?

Most printers display a solid green light indicating that they’re ready to print. If you see a solid red or yellow light or any blinking lights (even a blinking green light), it’s probably a sign of printer trouble. Solve this problem before you try anything else.

Try turning your printer off, wait 30 seconds, and then turn it back on again. Then try restarting your computer. If you’re asked if you want to delete any outstanding print jobs, do so. Once more, try printing from WordPad.

Let’s check the print queue. Depending on your version of Windows, click Start, Settings, Printers; or Start, Printers and Faxes; or Start, Control Panel, Printers to open the Printers window. Locate the icon representing the printer in question (most likely, it has a checkmark next to it indicating that it’s the default printer). Start by right-clicking this icon; if there is a checkmark next to Paused or Use Printer Offline, click it to see if you can remove the checkmark. Right-click the printer icon again to ensure that all checkmarks are gone. Now, double-click this printer icon to open the print queue. You should see a window with column headings such as Document Name, Status, Owner and so forth. If there are items listed below these column headings, you have a printer bottleneck that’s clogging up the pipes. Click Printer, then click Cancel All Documents in the menu bar. Alternatively, right-click a document name in the list, then click Cancel. If the items in the list persist, try restarting your computer and returning to the Print Queue window. You will not be able to print successfully until this Print Queue is empty. Once the Print Queue is empty, try printing from WordPad again. If you can’t seem to empty the Print Queue by canceling all jobs, skip to the next step.

If you are still having problems printing, you may need to delete your printer from within Windows and then reinstall it. Before proceeding, I recommend you visit your printer manufacturer’s Web site to download the latest software for your particular printer (the disk you received with the printer when you made your purchase may very well be out of date). If you are uncomfortable downloading and installing a new printer driver or if you are uncertain how to properly uninstall your printer before reinstalling it, I recommend you call someone in to help you.

Other troubles may be traced to improperly configured printer ports and even more arcane settings. With a little doctoring from you or a computer expert, you should be back in business in no time.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. PC and Mac services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit Accentoncomputers.com, or send e-mail to [email protected]

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