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How to fix everything: the ultimate guide to fixing technology

How to troubleshoot and fix your most common gadget issues

PCs, printers, smartphones, cameras, networks - your stuff will inevitably stop working. Here's how to troubleshoot and fix your most common tech issues.

How to fix your printer

Printers can break, jam, and drop print quality suddenly. Here's what you can do about these common printing headaches.

If your printer jams
You're going to need to get that paper out of your printer before you do anything else.

It pays to check your printer's documentation to make sure you extricate the paper in a way that does not damage your printer's internal mechanics.

Specifically, check the manual for advice on how to get to where the paper is stuck (an access door or release lever), and how to remove the sheet - ideally, in one piece, as removing smaller bits can be a real pain.

If you can't find your manual, the basic rule of thumb is to pull gently on the paper in the direction that it would be exiting - ie, forward, not backward, in the paper path.

If you can't get the whole piece of paper, look carefully for the stray scraps and extract them with tweezers, as they could cause another jam.

When it comes to paper jams, they're easier to prevent than to fix.

Start by taking good care of your paper - make sure it is stored smooth, dry, and flat. Do not feed folded, dogeared, torn, or otherwise less-than-perfect paper into your printer.

Also, don't let paper sit for more than a day in vertical-feed trays, as the pages can bend slightly (affecting their ability to feed smoothly) and the pressure of the paper on the rollers might affect the rollers' functionality.

Finally, adjust your paper tray to fit the paper you're using.

A carelessly set width or length guide can affect how the paper feeds and possibly cause a jam.

If you're having problems with print quality
Start by checking your printer drivers for the following settings:

  • Paper type: Make sure your paper type matches what you're using. Paper weight, for instance, can affect how a printer adjusts its rollers to pull the paper through, and also how long a laser or LED printer 'bakes' the page. Using 'plain' vs 'photo' paper will affect how much ink an inkjet uses to create an image.
  • Quality level: the different levels of print quality, from 'best' to 'normal' to 'draft', affect the speed, precision, and ink usage of the printer. Using draft mode would be reasonable (and economical) if you're just printing something casually for brief or internal use - such as a map, or a document you wish to proofread. Print using the 'best' setting for documents you plan to show to the public, or for a formal letter or nice photo.
  • Document type: Some printers let you specify whether you are printing a memo, a newsletter, or a photo, and automatically adjust settings to fit.

Also, most printers these days have their own maintenance functions that will realign and clean the printer heads. Run through those once or twice and see if that helps.

NEXT PAGE: What to do if your printer is printing slowly

  1. Here's how to troubleshoot and fix your most common gadget issues
  2. What to do if Windows successfully boots, then crashes soon afterwards
  3. How to fix your network
  4. How to fix more networking issues
  5. How to fix your printer
  6. What to do if your printer is printing slowly
  7. How to fix your digital camera
  8. How to fix your smartphone

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