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Technology can be strange at times. I can control the thermostat with my voice, but somehow the printer feels as confusing and unreliable as it did 15 years ago. If your printer is giving you errors (or completely ignoring your requests), here’s how to fix the problem so you can get back to work.
Why Won T My Printer Print
As frustrating as they can be, printers sometimes tell you what the problem is so you can avoid trial and error by going through the troubleshooting process. Your printer may display an error message through critical flashing, colored lights on the printer itself.
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It’s not always clear which light means what, so check your printer’s manual to see what it says. If you’ve lost the manual, you can usually download a PDF copy from the manufacturer’s support page for your printer.
When you find an error—the printer is jammed or out of ink—refer to the appropriate section of this manual for further diagnostics. (If your printer does not display an error, continue reading.)
Sometimes, your computer’s print queue may be full of old documents that you can’t print for one reason or another, while saving the right document.
Right-click the printer icon in the Windows notification area, and then click Open All Printers to view the next list of items. On MacOS, you can go to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners > Open Print Queue. Right-click on the old items and delete to re-attach the items.
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Alternatively, in Windows you can restart the print spooler, which will try to print these documents as if they were added to the queue (so no need to purge them).
There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is probably with commands. Open the Start menu, search for “Command Prompt”, right-click on the option that appears and select Run as administrator. Then paste the following commands, pressing Enter after each one:
With any luck, this will bring your printer back to life and you’ll get the document you’ve been waiting for.
This may sound silly, but if I had a nickel for every hour I wasted fixing a problem that wasn’t included, I’d buy a Snickers bar. Make sure that the USB cable is properly connected at both ends, and that the power cable is plugged into the wall. You never know when someone will ask you to charge their phone.
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If you try to print over Wi-Fi, try connecting the computer via USB. If it works, then you know the problem is with the Wi-Fi connection and you can focus your efforts there.
Is your printer receiving a good signal? Verify that the printer is listed in the router’s network list, or try moving the printer closer to the router to see if it is out of range. No joke, my mother-in-law’s printer doesn’t work unless all the top doors are open because they block the already weak Wi-Fi signal.
Again, this may seem basic, but are you sure you’re sending the document to the correct printer? If you’ve been using your computer with multiple printers—say, you’ve moved between your home and office, or you’ve gotten a new printer at home—Windows may try to send documents to the wrong printer. .
Try printing the document again, and choose File > Print from the menu instead of using the shortcut. Next, note the options that appear – if the drop-down menu shows a different printer than the one you want, click to select the correct printer before continuing. Some programs, such as Google Chrome, even let you click View More for a complete list of connected printers.
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When you install the printer on your computer, Windows usually downloads the necessary drivers for you. However, in rare cases, you may need to go to the printer manufacturer’s website, check your model’s support page, and manually download the driver software package. If you haven’t already, try it now.
If you use your printer over Wi-Fi, you need to add it to the list of available printers before Windows will offer it as an option. In Windows 10, go to Settings > Devices > Printers and scanners and click Add a printer or Add a scanner. For Windows 11, open Settings > Bluetooth & devices > Printers & scanners, then click Add device.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners and click the + button. Your computer should search for printers on the network, and when you find the one you’re looking for, click to add the printer to your list. You should now be able to print the document.
You’ve probably made sure the paper is in the tray, but just in case: put the paper in the tray. Sometimes, printers are tricky – there may be paper, but if the printer can’t hold it, it thinks it’s empty. Remove the paper tray and try reloading the paper.
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In other cases, there may be a paper jam in the mechanism. Usually your printer will tell you, and you will need to open the access panel and remove the torn paper. (Again, you’ll need to refer to the manual if you don’t know where to open it.)
In some cases, your printer may say that there is a paper jam even though you can’t see any paper in the mechanism. When this happens, you may find small pieces of paper or other debris stuck to the rollers. That means you have to remove some parts to clear the problem. If you are not comfortable doing this, take it to a computer repair shop.
No, there are a few things you can do. First, the print head may be clogged or dirty, and you can clean it through your printer’s cleaning routine (you’ll find more details in the manual).
Or, if your printer heads are housed in an ink cartridge—the small copper strip that holds the ink—you can wipe it with a damp paper towel to clean it. When the ink begins to flow freely onto the towel, quickly dry the cartridge with a dry paper towel.
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If you have a laser printer, you can remove more toner from the cartridge by turning it upside down and then reinserting it.
Your printer may not know that you have replaced the new ink cartridges. If it doesn’t automatically recognize the new color, the printer may have a setting that allows it to “update” the fill level. Check your printer’s manual to see how your specific model works.
Note that some third-party cartridges may also cause problems, so try genuine cartridges from the printer manufacturer to make sure they work well.
If you’re not sure what the problem is, it can help to run a few diagnostic tests. Both your printer and computer can print test pages, which can help narrow down your problem.
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You can usually test the printer itself by pressing a series of buttons, like the printer boots, that you’ll find explained in the printer manual. Windows test pages can be printed from Settings > Devices > Printers and scanners. Select your printer, then click Manage > Print a Test Page.
On your Mac, open System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, then select your printer. Click Open Print Queue > Printer and select Print Test Page.
If your printer’s self-test page comes up fine, but Windows throws an error, you can be sure you have a software problem. If the printer won’t even print a test page, you may want to focus on repairing the printer rather than driver or software issues.
If you’re lucky, your printer may give you a test code or an error code or some other information you can interpret.
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Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer and tech expert who has been building computers for over 10 years. He eats potato chips to keep his mechanical keyboard from getting greasy. This software will fix common computer errors, protect against file loss, malware, hardware failure and optimize your computer for maximum performance. Fix PC problems and remove viruses now in 3 easy steps:
Your printer is capable of printing single-page or multi-page documents, but many users have reported that the printer does not print the entire page.
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