Troubleshooting Printers – CompTIA A+ 220-1001 – 5.6

Printers combine mechanical operation with technical processing, and troubleshooting both of these characteristics at the same time can be challenging. In this video, you’ll learn how to resolve output problems, physical paper jams, operating system issues, and more.

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If you’re troubleshooting a printing problem, you may want to try printing from something other than the application where the problem is occurring. Fortunately, there is a test process built into Windows. If you drill down into the properties of your printer, you’ll find an option there for printing a test page. This will print directly from the print driver in Windows, and you’ll be able to get an output that is not in any way associated with any type of application.

Your printer itself may have some diagnostic tools built into it as well. You may be able to connect to a web-based front end of the printer and run some tests prints from there. Might be an application from the vendor that you can load into Windows and provide you with more information about the health of that printer. Or there might be a third party set of utilities that you could use or a live CD that you could boot from that would allow you to test a printer outside of Windows.

Here’s an example of the test page printed from Windows. If you’re able to see this output on your printer, then you know that this driver and the printer are working properly. If the output on your test page is streaked or blurred, then you may have to do a little bit more work to troubleshoot this printer. If this is an ink jet printer, it may require that you clean the print heads to be able to prevent any streaking on the page. If this is a laser printer, you may want to check to see if there’s a scratched photo sensitive drum. If that’s the case, you may find that there is a streak that goes all the way down the page where the scratch happens to be on that drum.

The only way to fix this particular problem is to replace the photo sensitive drum, which may also require that you replace the toner cartridge. If the output is faded, or you’re getting blank pages from the printer, then you may be completely out of ink or toner, so you may need to replace some ink cartridges or replace toner cartridges. And if you’re using a laser printer, and you’re seeing a ghosting of an image on the page, it may be that the cleaning process is not working as expected.

As the drum is rotating around, it’s printing and then not being cleaned very well. So the next time it comes around, you’re seeing a lighter version or a ghost of things that was printed earlier. To resolve this problem, you may need to clean or replace the components where the drum is cleaned during the printing process. If you’re printing to an ink jet printer, and you find that the colors are not as you expect, you may have a problem with one of the ink cartridges.

So you may need to replace a cartridge or clean one of the cartridges, so that you’re able to get the right color to print during the printing process. If you print to a laser printer, and you touch the page when it comes out of the printer and find that the toner is smudging on the page, then there may be a problem with the fusing process at the end. The fuser inside the printer becomes very hot and uses pressure to be able to melt that toner to the page, and if that fuser is not getting hot, not melting that toner, you’ll find that the toner comes off of the page very, very easily.

It should be pretty easy to find the fuser inside of your printer. It’s usually a brown color, and there’s probably a warning message right next to the fuser that tells you that this component gets very hot. On my printer, this fuser is designed to be replaced very easily. You flip a couple of switches, the fuser comes out, and you can replace it with a new version. If you find that the paper’s jamming inside of the printer, you want to be very careful in removing that paper. You don’t want to accidentally rip the paper and leave a portion of that paper inside of the printer. You also don’t want to pull the paper so hard that you damage any of the internal components of the printer.

If the paper’s not feeding properly, you may want to check the paper tray. Make sure that everything is clean and that the pickup rollers are working as expected. These rollers do tend to wear out, and you’ll find that’s why many printer maintenance kits automatically come with brand new rollers that you can replace during the maintenance process. If the paper is creasing as it’s going through the printer, you may want to look to see if there’s a problem with the paper path. Or you may be using the wrong weight of paper. Lighter paper tends to crease easily, so you may want to use a heavier weight of paper to make sure it goes all the way through the printer very cleanly.

Many of our printers these days are connected to the network. So if we print to the printer, and we’re not getting any response at all, we may want to check a number of things associated with these connections. First, we want to be sure that we have power going to the printer, so they can then connect to the network and print the output. There may be a message on the printer itself telling you that it’s out of paper or that it’s out of toner, and there might be a problem with the cabling or the wireless settings, so you may want to look at the configurations inside of your printer to see if it really is connected to the network.

If somebody is printing to the printer, and they find that the access is denied, then there’s probably an issue with the security settings of the printer. Inside of the printer properties, there’s a Security tab that allows you to assign rights and permissions for different users in different groups. This means that you can set configurations for who’s able to manage the printer, manage documents, or who’s able to print to the printer at all.

Here’s an output you don’t want to see, a page of garbled characters. This can be caused by a number of different issues. You may be using the wrong printer driver, and therefore the driver’s sending the wrong type of information to the printer. You could be using the right printer driver, but telling the printer driver to use a different page description language than what the printer might be expecting. The printer might be configured for PCL, and you might be sending a postscript, or the printer might be configured for postscript, and you might be sending it PCL.

This could also be caused by a bad application, so you may want to try some different settings within the application to see if it will print properly to your printer. And if you’re not sure if the issue is related to an application or a driver, you could always try printing with a test page, and that will confirm whether the driver inside of Windows is configured properly. The printer drivers installed in Windows are an important part of the operating system, but Windows limits who might have access to install a device driver inside of the operating system.

If you’re installing your printer driver, you need to be sure that you have the proper rights and permissions to install that driver on that workstation. Another thing you have to check is that you’re using the right kind of printer driver. If you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows, you must use the 32-bit version of that device driver. If you’re using a 64-bit version of Windows, you must use a 64-bit version of that printer driver. You’re not able to mix and match those, so you have to make sure you have the right printer driver for your version of Windows.

If you look at the print queue, and you find that there are many jobs waiting to be printed, you may have a problem either with the printer or the print queue itself. You might want to see if the print server of the printer is working properly and is able to send information to that printer, or you may want to check the print spooler service. The print spooler service is in charge of sending print jobs to that printer. And if the service crashes, it’s not able to send any information to that printer. Simply restarting the print spooler can often get everything started again, and you’ll have all of your outputs sent to the printer.

Windows provides you with options that allow you to manage the process when a service fails. For example, under the recovery options for a service, you can find that if the service fails the first time, you can have Windows automatically restart the service. If this is a spooler service, this means that the spooler will automatically restart itself there is a problem. And you can see in this case, it’s configured to restart the service on the second failure, but any subsequent failures, there will be no action taken, and you will manually have to restart that service.

If there are any problems with the printer’s ability to print, you’re probably going to see error messages appear on the front console of the printer. Printers these days have relatively large LCD’s, so you may get a detailed error message if there are any problems. One common issue you might run into is a low memory error. A laser printer is not able to begin the printing process until the entire page has been created in the memory of the printer. And if this is a very complex document that is very graphical, you may find that the printer doesn’t have enough memory to be able to build out the entire page.

In those situations, you may see an error message on the screen saying that it’s out of memory, or you may find that your output only has a portion of the page printed. If you’re getting no output from the printer at all, you can start with the most basic troubleshooting by seeing if the printer is indeed powered on. There may also be messages on the front of the printer that would give you an idea of why the printer may not be able to print.

If the printer has a test print function on the printer itself, you may want to run that test print to see if the printer is able to work as a standalone device. If the printer’s test print is working, you may want to try a test print from a Windows machine across the network. If that’s not working, we may want to try connecting directly to the printer via USB to see if the problem may be related to the network settings.

The obvious advantage of running this test print on a Windows machine means that we’re able to test the network connection, the drivers that are loaded in the operating system, and the spooler itself to make sure that the information is being sent to the printer across that network connection. If the Windows test print is working, but a certain application is not able to print, we may want to try printing from other applications and see if we can narrow down where the problem may be occurring.

If a print job is corrupted, it could possibly cause the spooler to fail. And if the spooler fails, it may automatically restart. The corrupted job may try to print again, which would cause the spooler to fail again, and the process continues over and over. If you do run into this issue you will see that those error messages will be logged in the Windows Event Viewer, and you need to look for the Windows print service to be able to filter out those specific error messages. It could be that one single print job is what’s causing the entire spooler to fail every time, and by removing that print job from the queue, you would allow other print jobs to continue to work properly.