1. Read the book. I cannot begin to
tell you how many people have brought their printer to my shop with the
User Manual and paid my wife (no computer expert) $32.50 to sit-down, read
the book, and fix the printer. Unfortunately, some printer books
aren't worth reading...
2. Check the manufacturer's web site. The
problem you are having has most likely happened before. If the manufacturer
has a good web site, you may find the answer there and save a lot of time,
money, and frustration. Go to our Manufacturer
Links page to get there fast.
3. Is it plugged-in? Make sure the
printer is plugged into a live outlet. If it is plugged into a surge
protector, make sure it is on. Try moving it from the surge protector
to a known-good wall outlet.
4. Is it on? Ok, you can't print and
Windows, etc. says it can't find the printer. Make sure the darn
thing is turned on and there are no error lights (LEDs) lit. If there
are error lights, refer to the user manual/manufacturer's web site. You
should hear the print mechanism initialize when power is applied and most
printers have at least one light which will be illuminated when it is on.
5. Is it on-line? Most printers have
and on-line LED and button or the equivalent. The computer cannot
communicate or send stuff to a printer that is not on-line; i.e., not connected
to the cable between the printer and computer, and that is what "on-line" literally
means. Again, I have gone to customer sites, pushed the on-line button,
and charged them for my time and travel (I try to accomplish at least that
much on the phone, but some...).
6. Is it beeping at you? Most printers
will beep once or twice during or after initialization. If it beeps
more than that or beeps constantly, the poor thing is either hurt or trying
to tell you something is wrong. Look in the manual or go to the web
site to learn what it is saying. Unfortunately, beep code documentation
can be hard to find, the beep you hear may not listed, or the meaning of
the beep is nebulous. Most, printers will beep when out of paper
or out of ink and those are the most common causes for a printer turning
into a road runner.
7. Does it test-print? Most printers
have a built-in diagnostics program which can be very useful for troubleshooting
problems and test-printing without a computer. They are usually initiated
by pressing a button or two while turning on the printer. Check your
user manual. If the printer test-prints OK, you have probably eliminated
the mechanical print mechanism as the problem.
8. Does it have ink or toner? Is the
Ink cartridge full, ribbon installed correctly, or laser cartridge full? An
ink jet printer may have a black and a color cartridge. Check both
of them or at least set the printer to use a cartridge with ink in it. You
can usually extend the life of a laser cartridge long enough to order a
new one by removing the cartridge and gently shaking it side-to-side to
redistribute the tone. Sometimes you can get a ribbon going temporally
by removing from the printer and manually advancing the ribbon past a worn
spot by turning the sprockets.
9. Is it clean? Most ink jet printers
have a simple user procedure for cleaning the print heads. You may
have to clean them periodically or after the printer has been idle for
a few days or weeks. If you see funny colors or print-outs are missing
colors, a cartridge may be empty or a head dirty. You may have to
clean a head many times to get it working again.
10. Does it have paper? Be sure the
paper is installed correctly and there is enough of it. Most printers
have a paper-out detector. On most dot matrix printers it is a photo
diode. If form-fed paper is not aligned correctly (usually on the
left side) the diode won't see it. DOS may indicate it has lost communications
with a printer which is out of paper instead issuing a paper-out error.
11. Is it jammed? Paper jams are frequently
the reason my wife is able to fix many printers. She's very good
at it (and she has smaller fingers than mine). Always read the manual
on how to clear a jam. Don't be a "gorilla" with
your printer! You can easily damage a printer (strip gear threads,
etc.), or even get hurt, if you do not follow instructions and are not
careful. Turn the power off--unplug it. You have 110 volts
running around the inside many printers. And print heads, gears,
etc. like to nip fingers.
Laser printers have some very fine wires to remove static
charges from the paper near the fuser mechanism which will break if you
aren't very careful. Also, the fuser itself can be very hot (it fuses/melts
toner to the paper).
Don't move a print head unless the instructions direct
it. You can damage the belt, etc.
Address labels cause many paper jams and cannot always
be seen. The old shirt cardboard trick can be used to dislodge them
from many printers. Just feed a shirt cardboard (or cut a piece of
like-sized cardboard form a file folder) through like a sheet of paper
and wiggle the label loose and out.
Staples, paperclips, dog hair, and cookie crumbs are
among the many things we have coaxed out of printers. A staple will
raise havoc with the drum in laser printers. If you see vertical
lines on pages printed by a laser printer (or copy machine), the drum is
probably scratched. Replacing it can be a very expensive repair,
If jams persist, or the printer won't feed paper, there
is a good chance that gears are stripped or rollers are worn-down or have
flat spots. Fixing this sort of problem may require specialized
tools and elaborate alignment procedures and is often best done at a printer
repair depot. It is not usually economically feasible to send
low-end ink jet and dot matrix printers, etc. to a repair depot. Sometimes
roller problems can be fixed by cleaning the rollers.
Changing to a different kind of paper may help. Refer
to your user manual for guidance.
On humid days, slightly damp paper can cause jams by
sticking together causing more than one sheet to be fed at a time. Try
removing the paper from its tray, etc. and fanning it. Make sure
the edges or corners aren't curled and the tray is either not too empty
or too full. Read the book...
Then there are those printers which no one can figure-out
how to dissemble without damaging them...
12. Is it wedged? The printer memory
could be full or there may my a glitch caused by a power spike. Turn-off
the printer, wait a few seconds and turn it back on.
13. Is it connected? The printer test prints,
but it won't go on line... Well, is the cable from the printer to
the computer connected. Screw down the DB-25 connector at the computer
end and clip the Centronics connector at the printer end (your printer
and computer may have different connectors; e.g., USB). Push-in
and wiggle the connectors.
14. Is it connected to the printer port? Some
SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) are physically identical to the
male DB-25 connectors used for standard IBM/IBM-compatible printer ports. Plugging
a printer into a SCSI port can damage the SCSI host board and the printer.
15. Do you have the correct cable? Many
printers now require an IEEE 1284 and Bi-Directional. USB cables
shouldn't be longer than 15 feet.
16. Is the cable good? Check for bent
pins. Try another cable.
17. Is it connected properly? Screw
the PC end down and latch the Centronics end at the printer.
18. Is there something else connected to the
printer port? Disconnect it and uninstall the device drivers
19. Does the printer port have a software security
device on it? These devices attach to the printer port and
the printer cable attaches to the device. They can break. Try
printing without it.
22. Does it print from the DOS prompt? Try
F8 (F8 or hold the Ctrl Key for Win 98) just as Windows starts to boot,
select the DOS prompt from the resulting menu, find a non-zero length text
file (one that is 1-2K would be a good choice) (e.g., autoexec.bat or something
ending in .txt), and print from DOS with:
Click Cancel, turn the printer off, unplug the printer
cable, wait a few seconds, reconnect the cable, make sure the printer is
on with no error lights, restart Windows, and try again.’ Try the
various printer modes in your computer's CMOS Setup. ECP+EPP usually works
with bi-directional printers, but others may fix the problem. Try F8 just
as Windows starts to boot, select the DOS prompt from the resulting menu,
find a non-zero length text file (one that is 1-2K would be a good choice)
(e.g., autoexec.bat or something ending in .txt), and print from DOS with:
If that works consistently, the problem is probably in Windows.