Windows 7 and my HP Laserjet 4100 weren’t getting along. And I was pretty livid about it. I paid $125 for my Windows 7 upgrade, and for that money, I got to mess around for 4 days trying to get better-than-1997 functionality out of what’s supposed to be the latest and greatest. I was about ready to trade it even up for a copy of Windows ME and Microsoft Bob. Because at least then I’d be able to print.

I finally fixed the problem, but finding the solution wasn’t easy. So I’ll present the symptoms and the ultimate solution here.

The problem was that jobs would go into the print queue, and if I was lucky, one would print. Sometimes it would print and then stay stuck in the queue. Sometimes it would go away. Any subsequent job would result in an error, with no printing. It would stay in the queue, and at most, the printer control panel would light up for a while. If I rebooted, the first job in the queue would print, but no others.

And rebooting in the morning was no guarantee that the system would print later in the day. It seemed like if you were going to print anything, you’d better reboot, then print. The sooner the better.

Upgrading print drivers didn’t help. Not that doing so is all that desirable. The stock driver for the HP 4100 is faster than HP’s current drivers, especially on systems with two or fewer CPU cores. And it uses less memory. (The general rule that you should always use the latest drivers for everything is just that: general. There are times where it’s not desirable, and business-class HP laser printers are probably the best example that I can think of.)

Supposedly this issue happens with other versions of Windows too, although I’d never seen it before, and the same combination of printer and computer worked fine with XP.

The answer is to disable bi-directional printing. You can do that from within Windows in the printer properties, sometimes. I opted to go into the system’s BIOS and switch the parallel port into standard mode, sometimes also called output only.That method works even if Windows doesn’t want to let you disable bi-directional printing for some reason. And it will work if I decide to install a Postscript driver later, without me having to remember to disable bi-directional printing again.

I normally don’t like disabling newer functionality, but this got the printer working. To me, a computer that can’t print is completely useless, so I’m glad to have it working again. And in the case of an HP 4100, there isn’t much of anything the printer needs to send back to the computer. The printer has its own LCD display where it can tell you that it’s out of paper, or toner, or has a paper jam.

So if you have a printer that refuses to print, especially an HP printer, and the most logical remedies don’t work, try disabling bi-directional printing. Or, if it’s an old-school parallel port printer connected locally, try changing your parallel port settings. It might be a quick fix to an infuriating problem.