Troubleshooting Printer Problems – CompTIA A+ 220-802: 4.9

We rely on our printers for some important business tasks, but these mechanical devices bring with them a number of potential hardware and software issues. In this video, you’ll learn about printer tests, bad output, final print issues, paper jams, network connectivity issues, and printer error messages.

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If you’re troubleshooting a printer, one of the first things you’ll commonly do is to print a test page. You can do this directly from your printer configurations. If you go into the properties of your printer on the General tab, you will have Print Test Page right at the bottom. This allows you to use the Windows printing process outside an application to print directly to the printer. So you can understand a little bit better exactly what’s happening with the Windows printing process.

There may also be generic printing tools available to help you. There’s a number of live CDs available that help you with troubleshooting printers. Sometimes your vendor of the printer will have a third party application available that can print to that printer. And sometimes the printer itself might have a utility inside of it that you can use to print without having any computer connected at all.

Your printer test page looks something like this. You’ve got a little bit of color. There’s some text on the screen. And you can at least get a feel for how the printer output might look when you don’t have any other type of application input. If this output looks OK, then you can focus your troubleshooting efforts on how the application is using the printer. But if this happens to have some discoloration, if some of the text doesn’t look quite right, you can then concentrate on the printing process between Windows and the printer itself.

If you create some output on the printer and you’re seeing streaks or blurring on the printer, there’s a few things you can check. If you’re working with an ink jet printer, you might want to check the print heads since they are really responsible for putting all of the ink directly on the paper.

If this is a laser printer, you might want to see if the photosensitive drum that’s inside the printer happens to be scratched. And if it is, you can have lines that extend all the way through that printout. If the printout itself is looking a little faded, or some parts of it are difficult to read, you may want to check to see how much toner might be inside of your laser printer. Your ink jet printer may be running a little low on ink, and that might cause some fading, as well.

Laser printers might also suffer through a problem with ghost images. That’s when your image on your page may repeat itself slightly as you’re going down the page. With these drums that are revolving a number of times through the print process, if they’re not cleaned properly, you end up having that toner revolved back through around and move back onto the page. This is usually a problem with the cleaning process inside of your laser printer. So you may need to perform maintenance to either repair or replace that process.

Sometimes you’ll print out some information to the printer, and it’s just garbage. It’s a bunch of noise and nonsense on the page. You’ll want to check to see what kind of printer driver you’re using. If you’re printing to a laser printer for postscript, and you’re sending it PCL, then it’s absolutely not going to look the way that it should. The application itself may be the thing that’s sending the bad text to the printer itself. And you may want to check with a test page just to make sure that there’s no problems with the printer itself.

If we grab some output off of the laser printer, and we notice that it smudges on our fingers, it’s not attached to the page and it smudges everywhere, then there’s probably an issue with the toner being fused properly to the page. Just before that paper comes out of the printer, we have heat and pressure that is applied that melts that toner directly on the page permanently. It should not be so smudging once it comes out of the printer.

You may notice that when the paper comes out of the printer, it’s not as hot as it should be. That fusing process makes the paper very warm. If it’s not warm, then there’s probably an issue with the fuser, and it will have to be replaced to solve this problem.

If you’re creating a color output, and you notice the colors are off a bit, maybe one particular color is a lot stronger than the others on the page, but everything else looks OK, then you probably just have one of the colors that is getting a bit low. If you looked at your ink jet printer, you’ll notice that there are different color cartridges. If you happen to get low on one particular color, the other colors will be much stronger. So you may want to check and make sure that those have exactly the amount of ink. And simply replacing the ink cartridge will usually solve that problem.

If paper gets stuck inside of the printer, you want to be very careful about removing that paper jam. You don’t want to rip the paper and have some little tiny pieces of paper stuck deep inside of the printer. And you want to be careful that you don’t damage any of those very, very delicate components inside of the printer.

If paper isn’t being pulled into the printer at all, it’s probably an issue with the rollers. They’re responsible for grabbing that paper and pulling it all the way through the printer. It’s very common for those to wear out. And that’s why you usually see rollers included for replacements whenever you get a laser printer maintenance kit.

A piece of creased paper can also cause a paper jam. So you want to make sure all of the paper going into your printer is as flat as possible. And you also want to check the weight of the paper. Certain types of weights will cause problems going through certain printers. So make sure you check your printer documentation to see exactly what weight of paper is appropriate for your printer.

These days, our printers aren’t connecting to our computer. We’re simply plugging them into the network or connecting them to the wireless network. And if they’re not connecting at all, we don’t see any status from the printer, then we’ve probably lost connectivity to it.

We should certainly check to see if the printer is powered on. It’s obviously not going to work properly, and we’re not going to be able to see it over the network if it doesn’t have power. We might also want to check the front panel of the printer and make sure there are no messages or things that are waiting for a user intervention. And then we might want to check the networking settings. Make sure that we have a good cable connection on a wired connection. Make sure that our wireless connection is correct. That way we can be assured that that printer can communicate with the other devices that are on the network.

Of course, we can also limit access to the printer through the operating system. If somebody is seeing an “Access Denied,” we may want to check to see how this computer security settings are set.

We can see, for instance, in this printer that we’ve allowed certain permissions for certain people. So you can allow people to print or not print to a printer. You might want to assign some people to be able to manage the printer and other people to manage documents on the printer.

Most printers are going to have a display on the front, like this one, that’s going to be able to tell us messages and give us error displays of what might be going on. The printers these days have very large LCD displays where we can get a lot of information about the status of what’s happening on that printer.

It’s on these displays where we might get messages about there being not enough memory inside of a printer, or running low on memory when it’s trying to print. The entire page of a laser printer is being built in memory. All of the graphics, all of the text. And when the printer is finally ready to print the entire page does it finally begin the printing process.

A laser printer can’t print half the page and stop and then print the other half. It has to print the entire page at one time. And if it’s a very complex page with a lot of graphics and a lot of text, then it might take up a lot of memory inside of the laser printer. And if it can’t handle this very complex diagram or display that it’s trying to print out, it may send and Out of Memory message and print only as much as it can. So you may get a piece of output that shows half of the information we sent it. And it just wasn’t able to build that much information in memory.

If somebody’s trying to print to a printer for the very first time, your Windows may need to install the drivers for that particular printer. And installing drivers may be something that the user may or may not have rights to be able to do. Drivers are an important operating system update. And we want to be sure that if somebody’s installing a driver, that they’re really doing it for the right reasons.

You can configure certain printer drivers to install and then prevent other types of drivers. So you may want to check with the administrator of the systems to make sure they’re set up to be able to install those. And of course, you have to have the correct printer driver. You have to make sure you’re using the printer driver for the right printer and that you’ve got one for the right operating system you’re using, whether you’re using a 32-bit operating system or 64-bit operating system because those printer drivers are very different.

If there are a lot of print jobs being sent to the printer and nothing is printing out, you notice the queue is getting bigger and bigger, you might have a problem with the service that’s providing the spooling process to that printer. You might want to restart the spooling process, or maybe look at this print spooler service and see what type of failure settings are there. If a print server fails, you could have it restart the service.

Maybe on the first failure, restart. Maybe the second failure, restart. Maybe subsequent failures, we set other settings, especially if we’re running into a situation where the spooler is failing often. That way we can have this automatically restart without any type of user intervention, and all of these printouts can print successfully.