Troubleshoot a Printer

Edited by Jan Margery Castillo, Anonymous, Monika, Rafah Perlado and 3 others

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No business establishment can function well and smoothly without their own printers. Many popular brands of printer in the market today claimed to be superior over the others. New models every season are released and it seems like they are always the best choice for personal and industrial needs. Manufacturers market their products with the best advertising strategies and visuals but no one would tell you the downside of each and certain models.

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Every technologically advanced product has its own flaw. Sooner or later it will show and we need to accept that. No product, no matter how perfect it seems, will work at its best forever. The latest models of printers too, no matter how impeccable their interior designs are, are susceptible to damage or wear and tear issues. Read on to know how to handle various printer errors and troubleshooting needs.

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Types of Printers

  1. 1
    Inkjet printer.
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    This a non-impact type of printer and is the most commonly used types. You may probably be near a printer of this kind right now. Offices, schools and homes use inkjet printers because of its practicality. But there are other types of printers that has been used even over the years, long before inkjet printers are invented.
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  2. 2
    Dot matrix printer.
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    This is also known as impact printer. It has very thin pins that strikes the carbon attached to the paper. As it strikes the carbon, it creates the letter prints. This type of printer has been used since 1970's. The majority of the users of this kind is from the accounting departments. You may not see this type of printer anymore, but it is used by cashiers and banking establishments. Troubleshooting printers like these could be difficult. Most of the problems that may come up with this printer are hardware-related. Though still on the market, finding replacement for parts may be difficult.
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  3. 3
    Laser Printer.
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    This is the modern type of non-impact printer. It uses laser beam or light to produce fine prints on paper. It is considered innovative and has many advantages over the other printers. If you want your printouts to be vibrant, laser printers are the best choice. However, their toners may be a bit expensive.
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  4. 4
    Thermal printer.
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    This printer is also known as a Receipt Printer. This printer uses heated pins to transfer a black print to the paper. Thermal printers are widely used by huge banking companies on their ATM machines and cash registers. It is also the printer that is integrated with ticketing systems of transportation like the taxi and buses.
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  5. 5
    Photo printer.
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    As the name implies, this type of printers is especially made to print fine photos. Such printers are usually big and occupy a lot of space. These types of printers are considered high-end printers because of their delicate maintenance and the limited type of paper for this printer. For quality prints, recommended paper for this printer is photo paper.
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  6. 6
    All-in-One printer.
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    There are varied types of the All-in-One printer. Some uses laser toners while others use inkjet system. They are called All-in-One because you can scan, print and photocopy using the same equipment. Business establishments like internet cafes and entrepreneurs usually have this because of its efficiency.
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  7. 7
    Wide format printers.
    RafahPerlado wide.jpg
    These printers are used for outdoor signage printing such as billboards, posters, canvass and other huge surface printing.
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How does a printer works?

The inkjet printer is the most common household possession in terms of printing needs. This is because various models are available such that even business establishments and offices use this type of printer. It is the practical choice. It works with the nozzle's very tiny holes, spraying ink strategically onto the paper to print out an image or character. These dots are so small, akin to strands of your hair. Every printer cartridge has multiple nozzles and they combined to produce quality prints. The print head moves line per line on the pages as it sprays ink onto the paper to produce your printout. A printer is connected to a computer using a cable wire. The connection can be a wireless connection through a Bluetooth or WiFi internet connection. A printer device software is usually installed in your computer or Laptop to facilitate the communication between the computer and the printer.

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Common printer problems

  1. 1
    A usual printer problem is when your printer does not print anything.
    Another problem is that it does not produce your expected results. Examples of output issues are broken lines, blurry pictures, inadequate color saturation as well as substitution of colors. In addition to this, you may see pale colors and black smears all over the page. Furthermore, the printer may act as its printing but it when it's done, it gives you a blank page.
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  2. 2
    You know there's a problem if the printer won't turn on.
    If there's no power light even after ensuring and double checking that it is plugged, then the printer may be malfunctioning. It may or may not require a technician. It would be helpful if you could do a bit of troubleshooting before bringing it to a computer or printer technician.
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  3. 3
    After sending the printer command to the computer and the printer won't print, an error message may appear on your screen.
    It will tell you what could be wrong and what can be done so you can finally print your output.
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  4. 4
    Paper jam.
    This is a common problem and very simple to solve. Usually the cause of this problem is the wrong way a paper is inserted. And no matter how simple this issue is, it could cause a serious problem with your hardware, especially if it happens too often.
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  5. 5
    The ink level is undetected by the printer software.
    Suspect some cartridge issues when you try to replace an ink but the software doesn't detect it.
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  6. 6
    As you turn on the printer, a creaking and unusual sound are heard.
    This can happen when a paper got jammed inside the printer and the user turns it off instead of trying to remove the paper. A serious problem that can hurt printers are small staple wires that could puncture the toners or get stuck with the cartridge.
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  7. 7
    Slow printing.
    There are times when the printer prints unusually slow even though it's only printing letters. It takes forever and on worst cases, it stops printing. Sometimes even wireless printing could be very slow even if the internet signal is strong.
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  8. 8
    The all-in-one printer won't scan.
    The photo or document is placed well on the scanner but it just won't scan when hitting the scan button. Or it only appears to be scanning but it results in a blank or black image on the computer screen after.
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Basic Troubleshooting Steps

Whatever brand of printer you use, there's always a universal way of troubleshooting this machine. One should not panic in case the printer does not work, instead, remember that there are four simple steps in finding out what could be wrong. Always keep in mind the letters PCDA which stands for Product, Connection, Driver, and Application.

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Product

This pertains to the printer itself as a stand-alone product. It is important to test if the printer, works before moving any further. A quick way to check if the printer is working fine is to do a copy test. This is possible for multifunction printers that has scanners on top of it.

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  1. 1
    Lay down a document on the scanner, facing the glass, and press the copy button.Check if the quality of the printout is good.
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  2. 2
    If it copied correctly then the printer is working fine.
    If the outcome is poor, like the colors are pale or it did not scan all the objects on the page, then you could run a nozzle test. A nozzle test helps you to diagnose if there's some trouble with the nozzle. Here's how to run a nozzle check:  
    1. Turn on the printer.
    2. Load a letter size paper properly on the sheet feeder and make sure you open the output tray.
    3. Then, press and hold down the power button and the paper button at the same time.
    4. Release the power button first once you hear the printer starts printing the nozzle test.
    5. Continue to press down on the paper button until the printer stops printing.
    6. There should be seven boxes of different colors filled with about 7-10 jagged horizontal lines.
    7. Look closely to see if all the lines are perfect, check if the pattern is complete or if the colors are vibrant.
    8. If there is no missing line at all and the colors are perfect, then it means the printer is working well and you are ready you move on to the next step. However, if there is at least one single line missing, or if the colors are not right, then there's an issue with the printer.
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  3. 3
    The next step would be to clean the print head.
    One or two of the nozzles could have been clogged.
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    RafahPerlado nozzle.jpg
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    Cleaning the print head is one way to resolve print issues. One or more of the nozzles might have been clogged because the printer has not been used for quite a long time, or perhaps the ink cartridge might have not been installed correctly. Here's how to clean the print head using the printer as a stand-alone:  
    1. Make sure the ink light on the printer is off and only the power button light is on.
    2. Press and hold down the ink button for three seconds. You will hear a sound which indicates that the print head is already moving. Remember that it uses a few ink to clean the print head.
    3. When the print head cleaning is done, run another nozzle test and check if the lines are complete.
    4. The printer is ready to use if it generated the same image or characters as you see on your monitor (no broken lines, exact color match, no smears). Otherwise, do another printer head cleaning.
    5. Keep on doing the same process until you get perfect lines in the nozzle check. After cleaning the printer head for three times and it doesn't generate the required quality of output, open the ink cartridge and reset.
    6. Lift each cartridge up and re-install into place. Close the lid and it will automatically recharge the ink. Then run another nozzle check.
    7. If it's still not printing after a nozzle test, bring it to the nearest service center and have it checked. Bring along the receipt and warranty card in case that it requires a part replaced. If the printer is beyond repair, then consider buying a new one.
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Sometimes the printer no longer works because you've been using it for several years. If you've bought a refurbished printer, it may not be on its optimum functioning, thus the printer issues.

Connection

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There are two ways on how to connect the printer to your computer. One is through the use of a USB cable and another is wireless or through Bluetooth or WiFi internet connection. Once your product has passed the product test, you should check if there might be something wrong with the connection. Here are the steps for checking the printer status via USB connection:

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  1. 1
    On your Windows Desktop, right click on the Computer icon and click Properties.
    Click on Device Manager. A new window will open and there will be a whole list of connectivity.
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  2. 2
    From the list, you will see Universal Serial Bus Controllers.
    Click on the plus sign beside it to open up another list. On the list, look for USB printing support. If it is present, then the connection is good.
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  3. 3
    However, if there's no USB printing support, it could be that your machine is not properly connected.
    Now, turn off the printer and unplug the USB cable. Then re-plug it, checking both ends of computer and printer port.
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  4. 4
    Turn the printer on again and check if the USB printing support is present.
    USB cable.jpg
    If not, turn the printer off again and try using a different USB port on the computer. Make sure that the cable you are using is not more than 6 feet and that it should be directly connected to the computer.
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  5. 5
    Check again if you see the USB printing support on Device Manager.
    If there's still none, try using a different computer or Laptop just to determine if it's a connection issue or a computer issue. Connect the printer to another computer and see if there is USB printing support under Device Manager. If USB printing support appears in the Device Manager when you switch Laptop or computers, then it is computer-related. If after switching computers or Laptop and both does not reflect the USB printing support, it is hardware related. Call the manufacturer's support center and report the issue. They will have to replace it if it's under warranty.
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Printer Driver

Inkjet printers that are connected via USB cable are easily detected by the computer because it uses the plug and play system. Even without an installer, the computer will automatically detect the hardware and present step by step processes of installing the program. If your printer works fine and the connection is good but it just won't print, then it could be the driver. Here are the steps in checking if the printer driver is working:

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  1. 1
    Click the Start button on your Windows computer and go to Control Panel.
    Go to devices and printers and check if there are more than one printer icon. If there is and all of them carries the name or model of your printer, it means the printer driver has been installed many times and the computer is confused which one to communicate.
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  2. 2
    Delete all the printer icons.
    Turn off the printer and turn it back on after a few seconds. Turn on the printer then check devices and printers again. A new printer icon will appear and there should be a green check on top of the icon.
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  3. 3
    If there is no green check on the icon, right click on it and choose set as default printer.
    The check symbol should appear afterwards. If it still doesn't print, check if there are pending documents in queue. Right click on the computer icon and choose Open. Then under the Printer menu, click Cancel all Documents.
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  4. 4
    Then try to print a simple document and see if it prints.
    If it does print then the issue has been resolved. Otherwise, you would have to uninstall and re-install the printer driver. To do this, click first the Start button and go to Control Panel. Click on Programs and look for the name or model of your printer.
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  5. 5
    Click on Remove or Delete to uninstall your printer Driver.
    Then turn off your printer and unplug the USB cable from your computer. Delete the printer icon in the Devices and Printers too.
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  6. 6
    Once you've installed the driver successfully, it's time to re-install it by re-plugging the USB cable.
    The computer will automatically detect the printer and will lead the user to install the printer driver.
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  7. 7
    After driver installation, go to Devices and Printers once again and see if there's a printer icon with a green check mark on top of it.
    This means the printer is online and ready to print.
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  8. 8
    Try to print a test page if everything looks good.
    To do this, print a simple document and see if it prints correctly. If it does, then you have resolved your printer problem. But if it doesn't, then again, it's a hardware issue. You may need to call your printer manufacturer to replace it if it's under warranty.
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After installing a new wireless or wired router. My printer connects but cannot print

Although that your printer is connected to the WiFi network or wired to the router via Ethernet cord. There are instances that you cannot print, although it was working previously. This is due to a port IP that does not match the in your printer settings when you first install it. Remember that not all router has the same IP addresses and even if they have the same IP as what you have before. It may or may not work within the local network you have at home or in your small office. See the steps below on how to resolve this kind of problem if you encounter such incident upon changing router.

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  1. 1
    First thing that you need to know is the IP address of your new router.
    This can be determine by doing an ipconfig on your computer's DOS command then take note of the Default gateway. Normally, router's IP address can be found on a sticker that is on your router, check the back or bottom of it.
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  2. 2
    Once you know the IP address of the router.
    Simply go to the properties of the printer then change the port IP that is in the same range as your router to meet in the network and print wirelessly or over the network.  
    1. Go to Start button
    2. Go to Control Panel
    3. Go to Devices and Printers
    4. Look for your printer
    5. Right click your printer and click Printer Properties
    6. In the printer Properties, go to Ports tab.
    7. Look for the TCP/IP and delete
    8. Click Add and standard TCI/IP then select New port.
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Follow through the wizard and type in the IP address you want to have in your printer to work normally printing over WiFi or LAN network

What if my printer is no longer under warranty?

Whether you have lost your original receipt upon buying your printer or not, there is always a way to find out if your printer is still under warranty. You can call the technical support agent to report your concern about your printer and all the troubleshooting actions you've made. The technical support representative would most likely walk you through and try to save your printer by doing some troubleshooting steps too. However, if it is confirmed that your printer is already busted, they will ask you to check the serial number on the back of the printer. They will have a record whether your printer is still under warranty basing from your printer's serial number. Here are a few tips and suggestions you can choose if your printer is no longer under warranty:

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  1. 1
    When buying a similar printer model, you can choose a refurbished printer instead of a new one.
    This will help you save because these printers are discounted.
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  2. 2
    Buy a new printer model.
    Newer models are better but make sure you read the reviews. When buying another printer and you don't know which one is best for you, take note of the reason you're buying a new one. If you are mainly printing documents, an ink-jet printer would be the best choice. If you need to scan and copy documents, and print them at the same time, then you need to buy a good all-in-one printer.
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  3. 3
    Switch to a different printer brand.
    Now you might want to try another manufacturer if you think you are not satisfied with your former printer. Read reviews well and ask friends and relatives too on what brand of printer do they think is the best for you. Normally printer manufacturers give a one year warranty for every printer bought.
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Categories : Hardware

Recent edits by: Eng, Olivia, Rafah Perlado

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