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Printer Troubleshooting

This article describes a step-by-step method to troubleshoot a local printer. To troubleshoot a networked computer, first verify that the user has the required rights to use the printer. Then verify that you can print from the computer that has the printer attached. The remaining troubleshooting involves network connectivity.

This article starts with troubleshooting a printer that can't print at all. If the problem is that the printer's output is not correct, skip to Check Printer Properties and begin troubleshooting from there. With this method, you should be able to isolate the problem to the application, the computer, or the printer.

Check The Basics

Novice technicians begin with the idea that the cause of the problem is something extremely complex. They assume the user had the foresight to check the basics before calling them. On the other hand, experienced technicians know that 90 percent of all problems are caused by something really simple like the following:

Is the printer power on?
Is the printer on-line?
Does the printer have paper?
Is the paper jammed?
Does the printer have ink or toner?
Is the printer cable secure?

Check The Default Printer

If the user executed print from outside an application, the print would be sent to the default printer. If the user selected print from the File menu in an application, they may not have noted in the "Print" dialog box which printer they sent the print to. Make sure the desired printer is selected in the Print dialog box.

To set a printer as the default printer, select Start | Settings | Printers to open the Printers window. (In Windows XP, Start | Control Panel | Printers and Faxes) Right click on the printer you want to set as the default printer. In the popup menu that appears, select Set as Default Printer.

Check if Printing is Paused

Select Start | Settings | Printers to open the Printers window. In the Printers window, right click on the printer icon. In the popup menu, select Resume Printing if it appears in the menu.

Check The Print Queue

Select Start | Settings | Printers to open the Printers window. In the Printers window, double click on the printer icon to open the print queue window. You may see the name of the document listed in the print queue. Sometimes the document, or a previously printed document, will be corrupt and will be blocking the print queue.

Delete the document and all previously printed documents that are stuck in the print queue. Then try printing the document again.

Memory and Hard Disk Free Space

When you request a file to be printed, it must be reformatted from the data used to present the document on the computer screen to data used to format the document on the printed page. This can require a considerable amount of RAM. To print the document might require more memory than the computer has free RAM. To free up more RAM, quit all other programs that are running, and close all other documents except the one you want to print.

Before a document is sent to the printer, it is written to a print queue or "spooler" file on the hard disk. If there is insufficient free space on the hard disk, the print cannot be placed in the print queue. To check the amount of free disk space, open Windows Explorer and left click on the hard disk icon. Select Properties in the popup menu. In the Disk Properties dialog box, on the General tab, make sure there is at least 100 MB of free space.

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