How to Troubleshoot Common Printer Problems Easily

Do you get frustrated when you have printer problems? You work hard typing up a document. Then it comes to printing it and your printer won’t work. Really annoying! You start to flap because you might miss your deadline.

So What are the Common Printer Problems you can have?

There are a number of reasons why a printer is not printing. Below are some of the basics to troubleshoot your printer. I know some are obvious but it might surprise you that most IT problems are at the power / cable level.   Therefore, it is important to check these first.

Check Power Supply

Check the power cable is connected and press the on button on the printer.

USB printer cable

If you own an older printer and connect a network (ethernet) cable from your printer to your PC or laptop then ensure it is plugged in. When the cable is not plugged into your printer it will more than likely show that your printer is offline. I know this sounds obvious but I only use my older printer occasionally. Thus, I forget to insert the cable into the printer.

Wifi Connection Printer Problems

Firstly, check the wifi connection. Do this by trying to access Google. If you cannot reach Google then there could be a wifi problem. Secondly, try turning off the PC/laptop. Hold the power button in for 5 seconds and switch it back on. Thirdly, turn the printer off and then back on. Lastly, turn off the router and turn it back on. If all else fails and you have a network (ethernet) cable and your printer supports it, then try this.

Paper Tray

Check there is paper in the tray. However, it will normally tell you on the screen if this is an issue.

Correct Page Size Setting

Having an incorrect page size may cause printer problems. Ensure you have selected the correct page size setting for the document. Also, check the printer settings. and that the right size paper is loaded.

Clean Printhead / Calibrate the Printer

For a printer quality issue then clean and calibrate the printer. Follow the instructions on the printer screen to do this.

Toner / Cartridge Printer Problems

Normally a printer will state if the toner or ink cartridge is low and needs replacing. If all else has failed try putting in a brand new cartridge. When you have completed the checks above then check the common printer problems below.

Common Printer Printing Problems

Why is my printer printing black pages?

Try checking that your toner cartridge is in properly.

Why is my printer showing as offline?

Click on the start menu and either select printers and faxes (or printers and scanners) or type in printers in the search box.
  • This will open a list of the printers set up for your computer.
  • Double click on the printer that you wish to change from offline to online.
  • Go into open queue if it doesn’t already do this.
  • Select the printer tab and you should see the option use printer offline ticked.
  • Scroll down to this option (as in screenshot below) and click on it. It should then take the tick out of the offline box.
I recently had a problem where even though the tick was off use printer offline it was still stating that the printer was offline when I tried to print a document. I fixed this by restarting the spooler. I typed in services in the search box next to the windows logo. Next, I scrolled down the Printer Spooler, right-clicked and selected restart (screenshot below) and this worked.
Printer Spooler Restart

When printer says spooling what does it mean?

If your printer is stuck with a spooling message on it. It is best to stop the spooler service, delete the print job and then restart the spooler service it. This article shows you 3 methods of stopping the spooler – I believe method 3, by using Task Manager, is the easiest

Printer problems – printing blank pages

So your printer is printing blank pages what should you check?

1.   Error Messages on Printer

The first thing to check is if there are any error messages on the screen of the printer. Error messages can help to identify the problem. If there aren’t any, read on.

2.  Correct Paper Size

Check the document has the correct paper size settings.

3.  Cartridge low or not in properly

Check the status of the cartridge – it may need replacing. In addition, check the cartridge is inserted correctly. To do this it might be best to remove it and then put it back in.

4. Clean printhead / calibrate the printer

There may be an option on the printer to clean the printhead and to calibrate the printer. Follow the instructions on the printer screen to do this. If the printer is still churning out blank pages then it would be best to refer to the manufacturer’s website.

Printer not Printing PDF Files

Here are some troubleshooting you can do if your pdf files won’t print:
  1. Open the PDF and press Ctrl and P (printing shortcut) and it should show the printer at the top. If it is not correct click on the change button and select the printer required.
  2. Recreate the PDF if you have the original document. Open the document and then Save As > PDF. Open new PDF document and try to print again.
  3. Ensure the document does not have any special characters in the name e.g. &, % etc. Also, a full stop in the document name (if it is not part of the extension) i.e. text.july.pdf could cause problems. Rename the document removing special characters or full stops (more often than not the .pdf does not actually show on the file name nowadays).
  4. Try closing all applications you are not using. Adobe advises that at least 50% of the computer’s resources should be free when printing PDFs.

Printer Won’t Print Emails

  1. Press Ctrl P (shortcut for printing)
  2. Ensure that the correct printer is selected. Sometimes options such as Send to OneNote, Fax or Microsoft print to PDF may be selected.
  3. To change the printer either select the change button or select the printer from the drop down box.

Printer Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Printer Cables all the Same?

No, not all printer cables are the same.
The most common type of printer cable is a USB cable. The standard type of printer cable that is in use for today’s printers is known as an AB cable. One side of the cable is a USB connection for your computer/laptop and the other smaller end is to go into the printer.
It is best to check your printer manufacturer’s website for details on what cable is required. Newer printers are wireless and as such print over the wifi. These printers do not require a printer cable.

What instances would you use a printer cable rather than wireless?

If you do not have access to a router then a cable can be used. Also, if security is an issue then it is more secure to print using a cable.

Are printer cartridges refillable?

It is possible to refill ink cartridges and here are the instructions for you to follow plus a video.

Farewell Thoughts: As mentioned most printer problems are at the power / cable level. There are simple checks that you can do to resolve the issue. Please leave a comment below on how you resolved your printer problems and I can add them to this list.

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