Troubleshooting Printers – CompTIA A+ 220-1101 – 5.6

It can be challenging to troubleshoot the various types of modern printers. In this video, you’ll learn about testing the printer, resolving bad output, color calibration, and more.

When you’re troubleshooting anything relating to the printing process, you may be wondering if the printer itself is working properly. One way that you could test this is by using the test page feature that’s built into Windows. This is in either the Windows settings, or it could be in the properties of the printer itself. In both of those Windows locations, there is a print a test page or Print Test Page button.

This will send a message to the printer that will print a standard test page from Windows. This will confirm that your Windows configuration is correct, that the connection between your device and the printer is working properly, and that the printer itself is able to print documents.

There might also be diagnostics built into the printer itself. There may be test functions built into the printer console. Or you may be able to log into the printer through a console and be able to perform tests that way. Many printers might also have utilities that you could get from the vendor. And there might also be third-party utilities on the internet that can help you with other printing functions.

And when you print your test page, it should look something like this that displays the properties of the printer, any of the print driver details, and all of the files that are used by the print driver. If you look at the test page and the output does not look how you would expect it to be, then you may want to research what’s causing this problem.

If you’re using an inkjet printer and you have a line that goes all the way down the page, then it’s time to clean the print heads or to replace the print heads on that inkjet printer. If this is a laser printer, then there’s probably a scratch on the photosensitive drum. And everything that’s printed on that device will have a black line all the way down the page. To resolve that, you’ll need to replace the photosensitive drum, which may also involve replacing the toner cartridge.

If the output on the page is very light or difficult to read or the output is completely blank, then you might have a problem either with the toner if it’s a laser printer or the ink if it’s an inkjet printer. And if you find that items that you print on one part of the page are showing up later on down the page, then you may have a problem with the cleaning process in a laser printer. This will create a ghost or shadow of information that you had previously printed on the earlier drum rotation.

Here’s what a scratched photosensitive drum looks like with a line going all the way down the page. Any of the toner will stick to that scratch and then gets transferred to the printed page inside of the printer. If the problem is associated with the cleaning process on a laser printer, then you might have a normal part of the page on the top, but then you’ll start to see parts of that page repeated later on down the page.

Sometimes, you’ll send a document to the printer. And instead of getting what you expected, you’ll get a page that has a lot of strange characters on it. This garbled print could be created because you’re using the bad printer driver, or you’ve specified the wrong model of printer in your printer configuration. This is often because you’re printing on a PCL printer, but you’re sending it postscript. Or you’re printing on a postscript printer, and you’re sending it PCL.

In these cases, you should run a test print from the printer itself so that it will print what it normally would expect during a print out. And then you can check the application you’re using to see if it’s printing to the correct printer model. You may need to change the printer driver or just the configuration of the existing printer driver so that it matches the configuration of the printer.

It may be that you receive a printout from a laser printer, and everything looks perfect until you touch part of the output and you find that it begins to smudge. In this case, the toner has not been properly fused to the paper, so simply touching the toner on the page causes it to come off on your fingers.

This is almost always related to a problem with the fuser assembly. It’s either not heating up or not working properly inside of your printer. And fortunately, most of these fuser assemblies are relatively easy to replace. On this printer, there are hooks keeping the assembly in place. You can remove those hooks, slide the assembly out of the printer, replace it with a new assembly, and lock the new one in place.

Our printers can support many different sizes of paper. But if you send output to the printer that is expecting a different sized page, the printer will stop and give you an error message that there’s some type of mismatch between the page that you would like to print and the paper that happens to be installed in the printer.

Normally, this will give you a message on the screen that says you will need a certain size of paper being installed into a particular tray of the printer. And that will give you a chance to replace the paper that’s in that tray and continue with the printing process. In those cases, you may be able to modify the configuration on your device so that it matches the configuration of the printer.

Some of the paper paths inside of these printers will twist and turn. And it becomes very easy for the paper to create a paper jam. In those cases, we’ll need to remove the paper from the printer while being very careful not to rip any part of that paper and leave pieces of that page inside of the printer.

We might also have problems with the printer picking up a page to send it through the print cycle, or it’s picking up multiple pages at the same time and sending all of them through simultaneously. You’ll want to check the printer tray itself and that it’s in good working order and there’s no damage. And then you’ll also want to check the status of the pickup rollers. They should be able to pick up a piece of paper and send it through one page at a time.

If those rollers are worn or damaged, then you’ll want to replace those individually or replace them as part of a maintenance kit. And if you find that your pages are creased when they come out of the printer, there may be a problem with something along the paper path, or you may be using the wrong weight of paper. Make sure you check the documentation for your printer, so you know exactly what type and weight of paper is optimal for your system.

There may be times that a particular print job causes the entire print queue to crash. These corrupted print jobs may cause the entire process to stop, which would cause multiple print jobs to be added to the queue but nothing printing on the printer. The default configuration for the print spooler service has already taken this problem into account.

And if it fails the first time, it will automatically restart the print spooler service. If it fails a second time, it will also restart the service. But any subsequent failures will cause the service to have no action, which means it will not automatically restart. And if that’s the case, you’ll find the print spoiler is in a stopped state. And you’ll find a lot of print jobs waiting to print in that print queue.

If the print spooler continues to have these crashing issues, there may be information that can help you troubleshoot inside of the Windows Event Viewer. You’re looking for any events that may have been tagged with the Windows print service option. This will give you more details about what happened during that crash and what the subsequent events were.

It may be that just one single print job is causing all of these issues and simply deleting that print job will have the print spooler back up and running again. You want to continue to monitor that print queue to make sure that the job that you deleted is the one that was actually causing this issue.

Another challenge with color printers is that you may want the printer to provide exactly the same colors what you’re seeing on the screen. This might be very important if you’re a designer and you want to be sure that everything you’re designing on your screen looks exactly the same when it appears on the printed output.

You can start with calibrating the screen to ensure that all of the colors that you’re seeing on the screen are correct and accurate. You may be able to do some screen calibration without any additional tools but having a third party calibration tool makes the process easy and you know that the final output will be as accurate as possible. We’ll then want to calibrate the colors on the printer. We’ll want to use a color of paper that gives us the best possible representation, and that’s usually something that is bright white.

We can then run a calibration tool that’s built into the printer, or it may come included with a secondary utility. This will provide exactly the right amount of ink or toner to be able to represent what’s on our screen. Here’s an example of a color calibration from a printer. And from here, you can start comparing the colors that you’re seeing on the screen with the color output that you’re getting on the printer.

If you start to hear grinding noises come from your inkjet or your laser printer, there may be a problem with the mechanisms inside of the device. It may be that there’s paper that is jammed inside of the printer path, or it may be related to the carriage that’s inside of an inkjet printer not being able to move back and forth across the page.

Each printer has a different process for doing a hardware diagnostic or evaluating the paper path and removing items that may have been jammed. You’ll need to check the documentation for your printer to know exactly what process you should follow if you run into this problem. These are often mechanical issues, so it may require a third party to bring additional parts to provide the repair.

Or you may need to replace the entire printer if you want to get back up and running. Or you may find that it’s a relatively simple fix. It could be that someone did not properly install the ink cartridges, and simply replacing those cartridges will solve this particular grinding issue.

The printers that we use in the office often have enhanced capabilities over printers that we might use at home. An example of that would be the finishing that occurs with our output. Finishing is what happens after we’ve created the output to add additional functions. For example, we might want to have our printer collate the pages or bind the pages together.

For example, your printer may have a stapler built into the printer. So you can print an entire set of output, collate everything together, and then staple that output as it’s coming out of the printer. If that process jams, then you may be responsible for repairing it. Every printer has a different process to be able to remove the stapler and clean it out. So make sure you check your documentation for the proper steps.

Some of these printers also have the ability to punch holes in the output as it’s coming out of the printer. The location of those holes is determined by the configuration of the print driver. And during the printing process, you can decide where on the page these holes might be and how many holes you’d like to have. If this is different on the output, then you may want to check the print driver and confirm that you put the right settings in and that they match the configuration of the printer.

And another challenging printer troubleshooting task is when you print something in portrait, and it ends up printing in landscape or vice versa. In those scenarios, we’re not getting the right orientation for the page. And so we’ll need to troubleshoot where the problem happens to be occurring. It may be that the printer is following the directions of the print driver, and the wrong option is being selected during the printing process.

Or it may be that the print driver has a bug, and we need to update the print driver so that it can properly print in portrait or landscape. You might also find that the printer has a default setting so that it will always print in portrait or always print in landscape. And if you don’t tell it either one of those, it chooses the default. So if somebody’s changed the printer from portrait to landscape, everything will print as landscape instead of printing his portrait. And that means all you would need to change is the default setting on the printer itself.