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2,862 Tutorials

How to troubleshoot printer problems

Overcome printer nightmares

You probably get frustrated when your document fails to print. We've identified the five worst printer problems and show you how to solve them, as well as ensuring they don't occur again.

2. Stuck in the print queue

Regardless of how sophisticated it is, a printer can print only one job at a time. Sometimes a job will get held up for some reason and block every job behind it. If you've confirmed that the printer hasn't stalled for a mechanical reason, such as a jam or a lack of paper, toner, or ink, check the print queue to see whether a specific job in front of yours might be the culprit.

If your printer is not networked
If your computer has a dedicated printer associated with it, you can get to the print queue directly. On Windows, access is through the Control Panel's Printers program item; on a Mac, it's through the Utilities' Print & Fax program item. Any stuck jobs will be listed there, and you can easily cancel them.

If your printer is on a network
On a networked queue, you have control only over the jobs that you send from your own PC. If another person's job is the problem, you must either contact them for help or ask your IT department to intervene.

How do I avoid this next time?
If the print queue clogs up regularly, your IT staff needs to figure out why it's happening and then address the root cause. Common problems include trying to print a job whose file size is so large that it chokes the network or your printer's memory; trying to print to a special kind of paper - such as letterhead - without loading the paper or specifying the tray in which it's loaded; and requesting a print job that requires you (or some other user) to feed the paper manually, but failing to perform this step.

3. Spilled toner or ink

Printer toner and ink are formulated to spread, adhere and last - but that's supposed to happen on paper, not on the floor.

Spilled toner
Toner can spill inside the printer during regular use, or it can spill onto surfaces, clothing, skin, or carpets when you're replacing a cartridge.

Basic precautions

  • Keep spilled toner dry and contained.
  • Do not use hot water, cold water, or heat for cleanup; use any general cleaning solution with caution.
  • Do not use a conventional household vacuum cleaner, as it might blow the toner out the back.
  • Avoid inhaling the toner.

Three basic ways to remove spilled toner

  • For spills on hard, smooth surfaces, you can use a disposable sweeping device (cardboard, paper or envelope, paper towel) to sweep the toner carefully into a plastic bag or other sealable receptacle for disposal.
  • Special toner-cleaning cloths use static to attract the toner for easy wiping. Regular paper towels or cotton towels will also work adequately.
  • A special toner vacuum is the only kind of vacuum you should consider using. It has attachments designed to reach into small spaces and to pull toner from the interior of a printer or from an unlucky area of carpet, along with a receptacle designed to trap very small particles.

How do I avoid this next time?
Handle toner cartridges carefully, especially during insertion and removal. Before working with toner cartridges, protect surrounding areas from spills by covering them with newspaper or paper towels.

NEXT PAGE: Spilled ink

  1. We show you how to ensure they don't happen again
  2. Stuck in the print queue
  3. Spilled ink
  4. Power loss in the middle of a print job

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