Troubleshooting Printer Problems – CompTIA A+ 220-901 – 4.6

It is inevitable that your printer will eventually suffer some form of issue or downtime. In this video, you’ll learn some technique that you can apply towards troubleshooting the most common printer problems.

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If you’re running into a printing problem, one of the first things you want to do is try printing a test page. The best way to do this is from inside of the operating system itself, and Windows includes a test page that you can print for every printer. You want to go into the printer properties, and there’s a Print Test Page button.

This means that you’re outside of an application. You’re not using any third-party app. You’re using the drivers of the operating system itself to see if the printer is going to work properly.

You might also want to see if the vendor provides utilities as well. There might be third-party apps that you can run that might help change the way the printer is operating. And there might be generic tests that you can run. There are a number of LiveCDs that you can use to startup into a third-party operating system and see if the problem is still going to continue with that particular printer.

When you use the Windows test page you’ll see something like this print. It’s colorful. You can see all the information on the screen. So you should be able to tell pretty quickly that this printer’s working the way it should.

Sometimes the output is not as crisp and clear as we would like. There might be streaks or blurs on the page. If you’re using an inkjet printer, you may want to clean the print heads. See if that doesn’t resolve the issue.

If it’s a laser printer and you’re seeing a streak that extends all the way down the page, then you might have a scratched imaging drum. If the output seems faded or you’re not able to see anything on the page, then you may be completely out of ink on your inkjet printer, or you may be out of toner on your laser printer. You may recall that one of the important processes in laser printing is the cleaning process that removes any excess toner from the imaging drum. If that cleaning process is not working properly, you may see a ghosted image appear. As the imaging drums cycles around again, you’ll see a little bit of the previous image suddenly appear later on in the page.

Here’s an example of what you might see with a scratched imaging drum. Because it’s scratched in one single section it extends all the way through the output from the top of the page all the way to the bottom. If you’re having a ghosting problem, then you’ll see printing at the top of the page, and that printing shows up again, although not quite as clear, later on down the page.

If we are getting output that looks OK, except the colors are off a bit, it may be that one of the colors that we’re using during the printing process is either not printing properly, or we’re completely out of that ink. If any one of these happens to get low or it begins not printing for some reason, all of the colors that we’re going to print may not look exactly the way you would expect. If your output is coming from a laser printer, and it looks OK until you touch the page and suddenly all of the ink and toner begins to smudge, then your problem may be with the fusing process. There’s a fuser inside of this laser printer that gets very hot and effectively melts the toner permanently onto the page. If this fuser is not working properly, then the toner that’s on this output will not be permanently attached to the paper and will be easily smudged.

You should be able to find the fuser that’s inside of your laser printer. On mine it’s this brown unit right here. And these are usually very easy to replace. So if you are finding that this is not getting hot may be time to get a replacement fuser.

If you find that the paper is jamming inside of the printer, you want to be very careful when removing it. You don’t want to leave any pieces of paper inside. And you also don’t want to damage any of the components inside of your printer. If it’s not feeding at all, you want to check the paper tray and make sure that the pickup rollers on the paper tray are operating as expected.

This is one of the reasons that the pickup rollers are one of the common things to replace with your laser printer maintenance kit. And if you’re finding that your output comes out of the printer and the paper has been creased, then there’s a problem somewhere in the paper path. There’s either something that is in the way, or you’re using a type of paper that is the wrong weight for your printer.

We’re often configuring printers as standalone devices. They have their network connection, their own built-in print server, and they don’t require any additional components or computers to be able to print to these devices. That means if we do try to print to these devices, we may not get any proactive notification that there is any kind of problem. So if we’re not getting any connectivity from the printer, we might want to perform the same network troubleshooting that we do for all of our other devices.

Want to check if the device is powered on, if there any messages on the screen that require any user intervention, and check the cabling and make sure that we’re getting IP addresses, whether you’re on a wired connection or through a wireless configuration. It may be that your connectivity issues are related to rights or permissions to be able to use this printer. You want to check the Security tab of the printer and see who has permission to be able to print, manage, and be able to configure different settings on this printer.

I would bet that this is not the output that anyone is expecting when they send their job to the printer. And sometimes this garbled characters could be caused by something as simple as a bad printer driver on somebody’s workstation. Maybe you’ve configured it to use a different model but a very similar version. But with printers you have to be very precise. You want to be sure you’re using exactly the right printer driver for exactly the right model of printer.

You might also be using the wrong page description language. If your printer is set to be a PCL printer, then you don’t want to send postscript output to the printer and vice versa. There are sometimes separate printer drivers– one for PCL and one for postscript– so you want to be sure you’re using the right one. It may be that the application itself is sending the wrong information to the printer, so you may want to try printing from something other than that application, like the Windows test page, that would verify that the issue is either with the application, or it’s with something else related to the printing subsystem.

Installing a printer driver into an operating system is a pretty important update. Printer drivers and other drivers on your system are very important components of the operating system, so you want to be sure that you have the proper rights to be able to install these drivers, and that you’re installing the correct driver for your printer. To be able to install the printer driver it usually requires that you have administrative rights to this particular computer.

And when you’re installing the driver, you want to be sure that you have the correct one for the operating system version you’re using. For example, if you’re using a 64-bit version of Windows 7, the printer driver needs to be built specifically for the 64-bit version of Windows 7. You can’t use a 32-bit version of the printer driver and you shouldn’t use a printer driver that’s been designed for different operating system.

Sometimes the print spooler that’s inside of your operating system will stop working, and when that happens, it’s not able to send any jobs to the printer. If that does occur, you’ll find that you send a print job and nothing happens. And you start to notice in your print queue that these print jobs are piling up.

One way to get around this is to stop the print spooler and then to restart it and see if that doesn’t free up the print queue. You might also want to check your operating system and see if this restart process doesn’t occur automatically. There’s a Recovery option in the print spooler service. You’ll find the first failure may be set to restart the service, the second failure may also restart the service, but if there are any subsequent failures, it may take no action. So you want to check to see if your problem is occurring over and over again, and if that’s what’s causing the print spooler to fail.

Our printers can also help with our troubleshooting process, because many of them have an LCD display that shows us a lot of detail about what the status for that printer. So if you aren’t sure what’s going on, check with the printer first. See if there any messages on the LCD screen.

Remember that if you’re working with a laser printer, the entire page has to be built inside the memory of the laser printer and only then can the printing process begin. The laser printer can’t start the process, pause in the middle, and then continue. It has to print the entire page at one time.

If someone’s printing out a simple word processing document, then you’re probably not going to run into any memory problems. But as you print out more and more complex images, you may find that you’re using more and more memory inside of the printer, and if you do run out of memory, you may find that an error will appear on the screen telling you that the laser printer is out of memory. The only thing you can really do at that point is see if there’s a memory upgrade for your printer, or try printing something that’s a little less complex to this particular printer.

If you’re not getting any output from the printer, you may want to start at the printer, confirm that it’s working properly, and then start troubleshooting outwards from there. You might want to first start make sure that the printer is indeed powered on and that there’s no error messages on the LCD display. From there you may want to use the printer’s built-in capabilities to print out a page. If you’re running into a problem here, then you know your problem is isolated to the printer.

If the printer itself is printing properly, then let’s move one step further and try printing with a device that’s directly connected to the printer. So through a USB connection, for example. If that’s working, we can then move out to the network and see if we’re able to print across the network.

At that point we’re testing the operating system drivers, the network configuration, and, of course, the spooler that’s inside of our operating system as well. If all of this is working up to this point, we can focus our efforts on the application itself. It may be that the application is changing the way the output is getting to the printer. Or perhaps we want to try different applications to see where the problem may be.