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Troubleshooting Common Printer Problems

written by: Dawn Tan•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/21/2011

This guide shows you what to do to fix your printer problems. Here we will look at different causes for a printer not to function properly and methods for fixing it that will apply to almost all types and brands of printers.

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    Common Printer Problems

    When attempting to fix a printer problem, a very basic and first thing to do is to find out if the printer is connected the computer! Printer cables come with both USB and parallel port connectors. Make sure that the connector is attached to the port properly and not hanging loose.

    Power cycling the printer on and off may reset an error. Then go into Control Panel in Windows, select Printers (or Devices and Printers in Windows 7) and see if any print jobs have become stuck in the queue. You can also clear all print jobs there and send a test page to the printer.

    If that doesn't work, uninstalling then reinstalling the printer driver is often a cure for many common printer problems. Uninstalling driver releases any conflicted hardware resources.

    It is also important to keep an up to date driver for the printer to work properly. To find the latest driver, first check Windows Update. It is designed to automatically detect hardware connected to the computer, and it usually notifies you if updated drivers are available to install.

    If Windows Update doesn’t find an update, it is still possible that one exists. Your printer manufacturer may not have provided it to Microsoft yet, so you can check the manufacturer’s website to look for drivers.

    There are many websites that offer drivers for different types and brands of hardware you can think of. The service might charge you to download a driver but it is worth paying for it because it is one of the easiest ways to find a driver. Driver Guide is one of the great driver search websites I like.

    You can also consult the support section of your printer manufacturer's website for any other model-specific troubleshooting tips.

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    What To Do To Fix Printer Problems

    Listed here are some common printer problems and what to do to fix them.


    Don’t see any paper popping out from printer? Paper jams are among the most common printer problems. It could have occurred because the paper tray is empty and needs to be refilled. If there is already paper in the tray, check for any “misfeed.” Paper could have been stuck somewhere in printer. If the rollers are very dirty, this could also cause a paper misfeed. Make sure you are using the right size of papers in the paper tray. By the way, tweezers are very handy for pulling out a jammed page.

    Important: Always pull out jammed paper in the direction of the paper path; pulling it in an opposite direction can damage the printer.

    Ink Cartridges

    If the printer is not a printing clear picture or if the text is blurred, too, it means you should check the cartridge’s level of ink in it. An empty cartridge can be replaced with new one or be refilled. Note that some cartridge types cannot be refilled. Another reason for this could be the printing preference settings: the print density might have been set too low.

    Most printers would warn you if the ink cartridge is low. If you use an old printer and it doesn’t indicate the error, the label on the cartridge may show you how to check the toner level.

    Toner Drum

    Toner drums in laser printers usually don’t cause any major problems to the printing. However, they do need to be replaced periodically. Most modern printers will alert the user if drum has a problem.

    Network-connected Printers

    A printer connected to a network may have various problems which may or may not be related to networking connectivity. In fact, network printer troubleshooting may relate more to networking than fixing the printer itself. Most popular problems with a network printer include inactiveness of the printer server or hardware problem such as faulty switch, loose connections, incorrect IP, DHCP or DNS settings, etc. Your network administrator is the best person to call upon for fixing network printer problems.

    Printer Heads

    The printer head in an inkjet printer may need cleaning if the images print blurry. Many printers come with a utility that does this job itself. This job often includes cleaning as well as aligning of the printer heads. Consult the printer’s documentation to learn settings for this utility.

    Printing unlimited copies

    If you try to print one page but you see your printer making non-stop copies, it indicates that the pad or roller that separates the paper has worn out. It is available to buy separately and can often be installed easily.


    This has nothing to do with real ghosts but it is a condition when a lighter copy of images also prints when an image is printed on paper. A very old drum in the printer could be a cause of this. It happens also if low voltage is supplied to the printer from the mains.