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Basic Windows printer troubleshooting

I “fixed” a printer this weekend. It took me about a minute. That’s because I know Windows printer troubleshooting.

Chances are I can teach you how to fix printers in minutes too–assuming the problem is more software than hardware, like it was in this case.

The first step should always be to turn the printer off. Many printer problems are caused by a job being hung in memory, and cycling the power clears that.

Next, before you turn the printer back on, clear the print queue. Go to Control Panel and into printers, double-click on the printer being affected, then click on Printer, and select Cancel all Documents. Or if you’re in a real hurry, you can do it from a command line, which is always faster.

Now turn the printer back on and try printing something. In extreme cases you may have to turn the printer back off, reboot, and turn the printer back on.

Chances are, after doing this, the printer will print fine. Try printing whatever it was that hung you up again. Failing that, try printing something else. If that works, the problem is whatever you’re trying to print.

At this point, look for an updated driver. Or try making a subtle change to whatever you’re trying to print. By subtle change, adding a space somewhere may be enough. Even to the end of a line, where it won’t be visible. Adding a space and then immediately taking it back out may be enough too, for that matter.

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