ARCHIVED: Printer troubleshooting guide

Note: If you cannot find the proper printer driver on the disc that came with your printer, obtain the proper driver from the manufacturer's web site.

To troubleshoot your printing problems, start by trying the following:

  1. In the application from which you want to print, from the File menu, choose Print.... In the box that appears, check to see which printer the application is trying to access. Make sure that this is the printer you want to use.
  2. Try printing something from another application. If you cannot print from another application, you may need to get a new printer driver.
  3. The problem could also be specific to the program you are using. If so, try checking online support for that particular vendor's program.

Following are some common issues:

Inkjet printers

Problem Possible cause
Prints garbage
This usually happens because the wrong printer driver is installed.
No response from printer; computer gives error message
Check that cables are properly connected and look for an Online or Select button to press on the printer. Many PC printers require an IEEE 1284 cable, which is different from the standard bidirectional parallel cable. Likewise, printers for older Macs require either a serial cable or a LocalTalk cable. Consult your manual to find out what cabling you need.
Print head cannot travel its full horizontal distance
Open the cover and make sure there is nothing obstructing the movement of the print head. Obstructions can result if you haven't removed some of the packaging, or if there is a paper jam. If this is a new printer, remember that you must remove the safety tape, which is put there to prevent the print head from slamming back and forth during shipping.
Acts like it is printing but puts no ink on the page
There is no ink cartridge installed. In many cases, this is a separate item from the print head assembly, which is already installed in the printer from the factory.
Text has wrong print attributes (e.g., bold text not printed as bold)
This usually happens because the wrong printer driver is installed. See information above about drivers.
Parts of characters missing, or characters not correct color
The ink cartridge is either either clogged or running out of ink. Run the software cleaning utility (almost always accessible from the printer) in order to fix a clog. Replace the ink cartridge if the clog cannot be fixed or if the cartridge is almost empty.
Text is faded
One or more of the inkwells in the print cartridge is almost empty. Unless your printer's ink cartridge can have individual colors replenished, this usually means you need to replace the whole cartridge.
Printout is smeared
The paper is mismatched to the paper setting for the printer. For example, if you are using high-quality photo paper, set the printer's output for that paper; do not use the plain paper setting.
Paper jams often
The feeder bin or tray may be overloaded; remove some paper. Excess humidity may be causing pages to stick together; in that case, remove all sheets and use only as much as needed. The paper may have already been through the printer; the feeding process tends to warp and thicken areas of the page by bunching it up. Try not to use paper that's already been fed through the printer.

Laser printers

Problem Possible cause
Prints garbage
This is usually the result of a wrong or corrupt printer driver, such as a PostScript driver on a non-PostScript printer.
Refuses to print
Check cables and front panel settings. Make sure the printer is selected or online. Also, many PC printers require an IEEE 1284 cable, which is different from the standard bidirectional parallel cable. Likewise, printers for older Macs require either a LocalTalk or a serial cable. The user manual will specify what cabling is required.
Letters jumble together
This usually happens because the font is unavailable.
Printing takes a long time; often only half of a page prints
The printer is trying to print text in graphics mode. Put a font change code at the beginning of the document for a font that exists on the printer.
Printing is smeared, or there are faint lines on the page
The fuser may be dirty or broken. This may require replacement.
Printing is faded
The fuser is probably almost empty. You may be able to prolong its life by shaking it. If not, replace it.

This is document acbl in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2013-01-03.

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