Printer Not Printing: 11 Questions that can Answer the Problem

by tyronenevins on January 25, 2011

Printers have come a long way. It should be obvious that their predecessors are the typewriters. It wasn’t until 1938 that the first “high-speed” printer was developed. Various innovations were made with the printer since then.

They first released the printer that uses a ribbon (as adapted from the typewriter) and then in 1977, the laser printer (based on the Xerox copier technology at that time) was made. Around 1992, HP (Hewlett Packard) released the LaserJet 4, which combined the good points of laser and ink jet printers.

As technology progress, a printer’s application stretches beyond what it’s supposed to do. Nowadays, printers are used in not only printing documents and write-ups but more rampantly, for printing photographs.

Almost all establishments today have printers. Any office cannot run without it. Thus, it will be a pain and in it will cause chaos if you or your office has a printer not printing.

There are a handful of reasons for a printer not printing. The following questions will help you diagnose the problem and have your printer up and running again.

1. Did you make any changes to the printer as of late?

If after you made changes to your printer’s settings and it did not work right after you did, try to reverse all the changes you made. There is a big possibility that you made an error, which caused the printer to malfunction.

2. Is your printer powered?

Printers, when on, will have light indicators. Commonly, it’s green but check your manual to confirm. If it is not lit, check if the printer is plugged to the socket and if the power cable is tightly connected to the printer. Now, as the printer turns on, you should hear some mechanical sound as it gets every component in place.

If you do not hear any sound and the light indicators are still not lit even after you plugged it, chances are high that your printer has hardware problems. It will be a good time to call the manufacturer or if you have a technician, have him check it.

For HP printer owners, HP’s CSRs will be with you every step of the way. I had printer problems in the past and tried to give them a call. They helped me resolve the issue within minutes.

3. Have you checked the Printer’s Connection to the Computer?

For a printer not printing, this is a common problem. The cable that connects the printer to the computer is sometimes loose. Modern printers are connected to the computer via a USB cable. Although convenient, they are not as secure as the previous generations that had screws on them. Needless to say, the printer will not be recognized by the computer. Ergo, you will not be able to print anything.

4. Are the other indicator lights lit?

In the manual that came with your printer, there will be a description on what each indicator light color means. If other colors aside from your “on indicator light” are lit, then your printer may have recognized a problem. So check the manual and confirm it.

5. Are you trying to print on the right printer?

It’s easy to get confused if you have several other printers installed on your computer. You may have set another printer as the default one. This is one of the more common reasons on a printer not printing. To revise it and set the printer you need to print on as the default printer, do the following.

For Windows XP:

1.    Go to Start

2.    Select Control Panel

3.    Click on Hardware and Sound

4.    Choose Printers and Faxes

5.    A window will pop out and will show you all the printers you have installed on your computer

6.    Right-click on the one you want to use

7.    Click on “Set as default”

Notice that the printer you set as default will be checked. This will be your confirmation that you will be able to print on the right one.

For windows Vista

1.    Go to Start

2.    Select Control Panel

3.    Click on Hardware and Sound

4.    Choose Printers

5.    A window will pop out and will show you all the printers you have installed on your computer

6.    Right-click on the one you want to use

7.    Click on “Set as default”

The default printer will be checked.

6. Have you checked the printhead?

A printer works by having its printhead move left and right. If the printhead is obstructed, it will cause a ruckus and you are most likely to here a repeating sound. To see if there are things obstructing the it, try to open the printer and check for packing materials or stray pieces of paper that maybe stuck beside the printhead.

7. Do you still have paper to print on or is your printer fully jammed?

Check that you have inserted the right volume of paper. Most printers will not recognize 2-3 pieces of paper. Likewise, it fails to take in a piece of the stack is too high. Printer manuals will suggest a safe range for the volume or thickness that the paper tray can recognize and handle.

A likely cause for paper jams is too much moisture on the paper to be printed on. Moist paper can easily stick to both the paper rollers and printhead. Secure that the paper tray and paper pieces are dry.

Another likely cause of paper jams is when the rollers are too old and worn out. Replacement printer rollers are readily available for modern designs. It will be hard to find replacements for outdated models. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of trouble if you buy a new printer.

You may need to open a few thresholds to check for paper jams. Try to be subtle when taking out pieces of paper. Jammed pieces of paper need to be pulled out manually in the direction to which the paper comes out. Pulling it the other way can damage the printhead.

8. Does your printer still have ink or toner in it?

Inkjet printers, obviously, prints using ink while laser printers use toners. Both toners and ink are stored in cartridges that are placed within a printer.

The printer will usually have light indicator if the ink or toner cartridges are running low. The manual will define what the light indicators for them. In addition, it will inform the user by displaying a message on the computer if he/she attempts to print. This is another common cause of a printer not printing.

Many shops offer ink and toner refills. Although refills cost less than buying a new cartridge, most experts say that buying a replacement cartridge will be better for your printer’s health.

9. Have you checked your print spooler?

The print spooler manages all the printing tasks that goes through a computer. The problem likely falls on the print spooler configuration if you have checked everything and the computer still fails to recognize the printer. To check and fix the print spooler problem, do the following:

1.    Go to Start

2.    Click on Control Panel

3.    Select Administrative tools

4.    Double Click on Services. It will give you this window.

5.    Double click on Print Spooler and this window will pop out.

6.    Under startup type, click on the drop down menu and change the setting to “Automatic” if ever it is set to manual.

7.    Hit Ok

Print Spooler will start up automatically after you hit the OK button. It will then detect printers, which are connected directly or via a network to your computer.

10. Is the printer shared by several computers in a network?

A shared printer needs more configuration than that of a directly connected printer. Here is what you do to secure that you can print from any computer within your network.

1.    Get the server’s computer name. Go to Start and then right click on My Computer. You will find the computer’s name under the “Computer Name” tab. Be sure to list it down.

2.    Get or Set the printer’s name from the server. Go to Start and click on Control Panel. Click on Printers and Other Hardware and then proceed to selecting Printers and Faxes. It should give you a window that lists all the printers connected to the computer. Right-click on the printer you want to share and select properties. Click on the tab “Sharing” and under it, click on “Share this printer”. Once you do, it will prompt you to set a name for the printer.

After setting the printer’s name, click on the “Apply” button and hit OK. The shared printer should have an “open-palm” icon on it.

3.    Configure the other computers within the network using the server’s computer name and the printer’s name. Go to Start and click on Control Panel. Click on Printers and Other Hardware and then proceed to selecting Printers and Faxes. It should give you a window that lists all the printers connected to the computer. Click on “Add a Printer” that is located at the left menu bar. A system wizard will guide you on the next steps. Just be sure to check “A network printer” and not “A local printer”. When the Wizard asks you to specify a printer, click on the second option that states “Connect to this printer”. When you fill the “Name” field, this should be the format:

\\server\printer.

After you fill in the “Name” field, click on next. It will prompt you for a confirmation so just click “Yes”. Lastly, hit finish and check if the computer already detects the printer.

11. Did you check the Queue?

Printers tend to freeze when too many printing tasks are queued up. This usually happens with a shared printer. To fix this, remove all the tasks, which were queued up, and try to queue them in again but this time, do it one by one.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: