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One possible fix for a printer that won't print

Once you've exhausted all the usual troubleshooting steps, check your printer's ink cartridge. It could be faulty.

My poor dad has the worst luck when it comes to technology. Seems like every day he's bumping into some new problem with his phone, laptop, or an accessory.

The latest: His Lexmark inkjet printer suddenly refused to print.

Because my dad lives some 1,300 miles away, I used my favorite remote-access solution--LogMeIn Free--to connect to his laptop and poke around for problems.

What I discovered was that the print queue contained a number of failed print jobs--and Windows wouldn't allow me to delete them. Thankfully, I know about Stalled Printer Repair, a free utility that does what Windows seemingly can't.

But even then, the Lexmark would not print. I had Dad power-cycle the printer, unplug it from the laptop, reboot the laptop, and so on. I uninstalled and reinstalled the printer driver. In other words, I tried every troubleshooting step I could think of, but nothing worked.

Then Dad mentioned in passing that the printer was fine with the old ink cartridge, which he'd recently replaced because the output was getting light. (How quaint: Lexmark doesn't force you to buy a new cartridge the moment the ink level gets low.)

Aha! I asked Dad if he still had the old cartridge, and, luckily, he did. I told him to swap it back in, and guess what? The printer printed. Clearly the problem had been the new cartridge.

It's unusual, but it happens. Inkjet cartridges are notoriously finicky beasts, whether they're misreporting how much ink they have left or getting clogged because they haven't been used in a while. As it turned out, this "new" cartridge had actually been purchased six months earlier, so the receipt was long gone. But Dad was only too happy to buy a new one if it meant he didn't have to buy a new printer.

Moral of the story: Windows isn't always to blame for printer snafus. Occasionally the problem lies with the printer itself. So add that to your list of troubleshooting efforts.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at [email protected], or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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