Problem of the week: My computer won't print

Tips & Hints

My computer won’t print

26 September 2001

A computer refusing to print is probably the most common problem that computer users encounter. Fortunately, most printer problems are simple to fix. This week we’ve put together a simple checklist that covers most things that can go wrong with a printer.

  1. Shut down and turn off both the printer and the computer. Resart the computer first and once it has started, turn on the printer.
  2. Check the printer cables are connected firmly. Screws should be done up firmly, but not too tight.
  3. Check the printer is on. If there is an on-line button, make sure it is on-line.
  4. Are there any lights flashing on the printer? If so, find out from the setup manual what those lights represent. An error light could mean there a sheet of paper stuck in the printer or the printer is out of ink or toner.
  5. Are you printing to the right printer? Check the correct printer is set as default in the Printer folders (start>Settings>printers). Windows users should also check the printer hasn’t gone off line, networked Windows computers are notorious for this. Mac users should select the correct printer in Chooser.
  6. When you try to print are there any messages displayed, and does the data received light appear? If so, data is getting from the computer to the printer.
  7. Does paper feed through the printer when you try to print? If there is, there may be a problem with the cartridge. There could also be a problem with the printer’s paper feed.
  8. Try printing from different programs. If you can print from some programs, there is a problem with the program. Change the program’s printer setup.
  9. If there is another device connected to the printer, such as Zip drive or backup unit, remove them and see if the printer works.
  10. Uninstall and reload any printer software.
  11. Check the printer on another machine, preferably with another cable.

Printers don’t last forever and the cost of repairing cheap or old printers is usually far more than they are worth. But don’t jump to the conclusion that the printer has died. Many good printers have been thrown out because an ink cartridge has dried up, or a scrap of paper has been caught in the paper train.

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