General Guidelines for Printer Troubleshooting

We have written about working with several specific models of printers, such as the HP Officejet 4620 and the Officejet 6700, but there are so many different models of printers on the market, with so many different issues, that what works for one printer might not work for another.

So if you have a printer that is giving you problems on your Windows 7 computer, then there are a few steps that you can try which might work for any printer.

Note that each additional step under the sections below should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section. Additionally, these are generalized guidelines, that are meant to be effective for a wide range of printers. Individual printer models all work differently, so there may be some specifics about your printer that are not mentioned below. This includes things such as exact locations of commands on Print menus, and physical characteristics and properties of the machine.

 

Problem: I sent a document to the printer, but it’s not printing.

Troubleshooting steps (Note that each additional step in this section should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section):

1. Confirm that the printer is turned on.

2. Is the printer connected to the computer? Be sure to check both ends of the cable. If the printer is connected wirelessly, then make sure that the printer and the computer are both connected to the same wireless network. The method for connecting wirelessly will vary from model to model, so you may need to find the specific documentation for your printer. This article, for example, shows how to connect an HP Officejet 4620 to a wireless network.

3. Turn the printer off, wait ten seconds, then turn it back on.

4. Click the Start button at the lower left corner of the screen, click Devices and Printers, then right-click your printer and choose the See what’s printing option. If there is something there, then click the Printer option in the menu bar and choose the Cancel All Documents option. You will then need to re-send the document to the printer.

5. Stop and restart the print spooler. This option is a little more complicated, so you will need to read this article to learn how to do it.

6. Turn off the printer, turn off the computer, restart the computer, then restart the printer.

7. Are you trying to print labels, or on a paper size that is different than the default size for your printer? If your printer has a manual feed tray, then the computer may be trying to send the document to that tray instead. Try putting the paper in the manual feed tray and see if that causes the document to print.

8. Uninstall the printer, disconnect the printer cable from the back of your computer, then re-install the printer.

 

Problem: Documents are printing with spaces, missing colors, and general errors.

Troubleshooting steps (Note that each additional step in this section should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section):

1. Clean the printheads (inkjet printers), or run maintenance utilities (laserjet printers). Note that the specific ways to perform these operations will vary depending upon your printer model. If you are having print quality issues, then you should find the manual or troubleshooting guide to determine the necessary steps for resolving print quality issues for your specific printer model.

2. Open your printer and check the printer cartridges for any physical defects.

3. Replace printer cartridges. Printer ink can dry out if you do not use your printer very often.

 

Problem: Printer is showing as offline, but it is turned on and connected.

Troubleshooting steps (Note that each additional step in this section should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section):

1. Turn the printer off, then turn it back on again. Sometimes a printer will enter a sleep or hibernation mode and the computer won’t recognize it when it wakes up.

2. Unplug the printer cable from the back of the computer, wait ten seconds, then plug it back in again.

3. Click Start, click Devices and Printers, then right-click the printer and click Printer Properties. Click the Ports tab at the top of the window, make note of the USB port that is currently selected, then select a different USB port. Click Apply, then click OK. Check to see if the printer is still showing as Offline. If so, repeat this step, but with a different port.

4. Uninstall the printer, disconnect the printer cable, then re-install the printer. If you are still having problems, then there may be an issue with old print drivers. You can read this article to learn how to remove old print drivers.

 

Problem: My printer is printing everything very small or very big.

Troubleshooting steps (Note that each additional step in this section should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section):

1. Try printing something from a different program. For example, if everything is printing small from Internet Explorer, then open Notepad or Microsoft Word and see if it is still printing small. If Word or Notepad prints correctly, then the print scale in Internet Explorer may have been changed. You can open Internet Explorer, click the gear icon at the top-right of the screen, click Print, then click Print Preview. Click the size drop-down menu at the top of the window and select a larger zoom level, such as 100%. Try and print the document again to confirm that it is now printing at the correct size.

Note that most popular programs have a scale option on the Print screen, so you will need to find this option if other programs are able to print at the correct size. Additionally, programs like Microsoft Word and Excel can have scaling that applies on a per-document basis. This means that one document might be configured to print at a 50% scale, while others might be set to print at the default 100% scale.

2. Click the Start button, click Devices and Printers, then right-click your printer and click the Printing Preferences option. The exact steps from here will vary based on your specific printer model, but there should be a “Zoom” or “Scaling” option. Change this to 100%, then click the Apply or OK button to confirm your changes.

 

Problem: My printer is printing everything in black and white.

Troubleshooting steps (Note that each additional step in this section should only be tried if the previous step did not work. If one of the steps has resolved your issue, then you do not need to continue with the rest of the steps in the section):

1. Confirm that you have a color printer.

2. If you have a color printer, then confirm that there are color cartridges installed.

3. Check the ink levels of your printer cartridges to confirm that the color cartridges are not depleted.

4. Try and print a document, but check the settings on the Print menu before you click the Print button. Check for a color or black and white option, and make sure that the black and white option is not selected. The exact steps for this will vary based on the program and the printer being used. If you do not see an option like this on the default screen, then click the Advanced tab and check for this setting there.

5. Click the Start button, click Devices and Printers, then right-click your printer and choose the Printing Preferences option. Look for a Color Mode option on one of the tabs and confirm that the Color option is selected.

 

Additional troubleshooting steps

1. You can print a test page to confirm that your printer is set up properly. Click the Start button, click Devices and Printers, then right-click your printer and choose the Printer Properties option. Click the Print Test Page option near the bottom of the window. If the test page does not print, then you will need to follow the steps above to resolve an issue where documents are not printing.

2. If you have a paper jam, open the paper tray and check for any visual jams there. If you do not see anything, then check the back of the printer to see if there is an additional access door there. If so, open this access door and check there for a paper jam. If there is nothing there, then open the ink compartment and check to see if there is any jammed paper that can be accessed from there. If you still do not see anything, then try turning off the printer and turning it back on.

3. If your printer has a touchscreen or display, then check it for any error messages. If there is an error message, try and resolve it using the on-screen steps. If not, then search online for the identified issue and your printer model.

4. Are you printing to the correct printer? It is not uncommon to have many printers installed on the same computer, and certain programs may try to send a document to the incorrect printer. You should also confirm that the correct printer is selected as your default printer. You can set a default printer by clicking the Start button, clicking Devices and Printers, then right-clicking your printer and selecting the Set as default printer option. You can read this article for additional instructions on setting a default printer in Windows 7.

 

If nothing is working to resolve your print issue, then the best option may be to completely uninstall your printer, then install it again. This article will walk you through the process.

This article from Microsoft can provide additional help in identifying any issues that you may be having with your printer.

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