Basic Printer Troubleshooting Tips
Just like all electronics, printers sometimes malfunction. However if you are a prepared consumer, you will bone up on the possibilities before a problem even occurs. So next time you find yourself in a jam—get it?—you can get out of it smoothly and easily.
The Paper Jam
We have all had this one happen. You are printing merrily away when all of a sudden you hear that distinctive crunch of paper getting eaten by your printer. You immediately cancel the print job, leap from your desk and flip open the printer. “Ugh,” you say as you notice the crinkled edges of paper wrapped around god knows what. Okay, so you have found the problem, but what do you do?
The best way to remove a paper jam is to gently pull the paper in the direction of the paper path—with power off, of course. Whatever you do, don not pull the paper backwards. You could damage your printer forever by doing so!
The Missing Printer Driver
This is another common problem. You are all geared up and ready to print but your computer can not find the right driver to “talk to” the printer. Why is this? Not all drivers are pre-installed on all operating systems and as new operating systems are released, you will need to install drivers yourself. Consult your printer manual. You can also most likely find the correct driver online at the printer manufacturer’s website.
The Printer Picks up All the Paper
This is a frustrating one. You are trying to print out something and the printer feeds in the whole paper stack rather than just one piece at a time. For starters, make sure you fan the paper edge before putting it in the printer feed tray. This helps separate the sheets. Also, be sure to store your paper in a cool, dry place as humidity can contribute to this problem.
The Blank Page Syndrome
So you have just installed a new printer ink cartridge and you print a document only to see a blank page come out. Aggravating, no? But this usually has a simple solution. Make sure you completely removed that little sticker from the ink cartridge before installing it. If it is removed, run the clean print head function on your printer to make sure all air bubbles are removed.
The Color and Print Quality is Diminished
This usually happens when one ink well is running low. If all of your images start to look a bit purple, blue or orangish, this may be your problem. The usual solution for this problem is to replace the whole inkjet printer cartridge, unless you can refill the individual ink wells.
The Smudgy Printout
This happens a lot when you print out pages with a lot of images with bright, vibrant colors. The cause is usually having the wrong paper setting selected. If you are printing text documents, don not print at the highest quality. And if you are printing on photo paper, make sure you don not use the regular printer setting.
The Computer Would not Talk to the Printer
Once you rule out that it is not a printer driver issue, check to make sure you are using the right cables to connect everything. Once you confirm everything is connected properly, read your printer manual and your computer manual—at least the part that pertains to printing. Older printers made for Macs may need a serial cable to work while PC printers an IEEE 1248 cable.
The Blinking Light
While there is no surefire answer to this problem, it is a common enough one that it should be included. Each printer has a different reason for its dreaded blinking or orange light but some general reasons include a paper jam, a printer cartridge problem or a problem with the printer hardware. It could also be an indicator that the computer is not talking to the printer. Check your printer manual.
The Printout Looks Misaligned
Problems with alignment have a lot to do with maintaining proper print head alignment. You can run a simple diagnostic to fix this problem. If the ink seems to be going onto the paper improperly or you notice uneven coverage, try aligning the print heads before you bring out the big guns.
The Printout Looks Grainy
This may have nothing to do with the printer at all. In fact it may have more to do with the quality of images you are using than the printer@s quality. Make sure that when you print photos that they are of print quality, meaning 300dpi. Anything lower than this will appear pixilated and lower than photo quality.