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Problems Printing?

There are a number of components that must be in place for printing to occur successfully and, like a house of cards, if one is missing then the rest will topple. A list of the main things to look out for include:

  • Having a printer driver which is relevant for your operating system. I imagine that since you have got this far it is reasonable to say you have an internet connection and are successfully using it. Go to the website for the manufacturer of that printer and get the relevant driver for your OS. If your not sure what OS you run then got o Control Panel -> System and see what it says. It should resemble the below:

If you need to manually to remove and reinstall a printer driver then have a look at:

  • Make sure you have connectivity to the printer. I know this is a bog standard Windows response but have a think about how you connect. Is it complicated? Is it via a network? Is the other computer turned on? For networking issues to do with printing have a look here.

  • Is the printer malfunctioning? Do you have a manual? If not then download one if you can. If there are lights flashing it may be indicating no paper and this may happen even if there is paper in place which probably means the paper detector in the printer is malfunctioning and you need another. It may also be related to low ink levels or improperly inserted cartridges or a door left open somewhere. The information lights (if there are any) generally give a specific message so find out what it is.

  • Is there a malfunction at the computer end of the system? Is the spooler service running? Have a look in task manager and see if there is a spoolsv.exe process running under the processes tab, as below:

Be aware that if you are experiencing a problem with spooler.exe taking up all of your processing power, it is not a print spooler but a virus. Have a look at for removal instructions. If you do not see the spoolsv.exe service running, then go to Control Panel->Administrative Tools->Services and see that the spooler service is not set to disabled and check that it is started. To change the start-up parameters, simply double-click the service name and change the setting inside of the service parameters window as below:

Then click on Apply at the bottom of the window and then click start. If the service continues to run then try printing again. If the service crashes then click here. 

Windows has also recently had a security breach with spoolsv.exe being used to execute foreign or dangerous code. You will need all of the latest windows updates to solve this problem.

The printing set-up inside of Microsoft Windows resides inside of Control Panel. Depending on which version of Windows you are running it may either have a shortcut off of [start] -> [settings] -> [Printers and Faxes], or (as is an option with XP) it may be accessible from the start menu directly. We shall take Windows XP as our example as it is the version with which I am writing this article and so am able to import screenshots from. Printing problems can be hiding in several different places, and the first question to ask is, to which computer is the printer attached. The printer must have a server working on its behalf in order to send the print requests to - A print server being a device with a functioning network card of some description that has an address which can be accessed from the print client-. If you are printing directly to a printer then the print server is your own computer and you can advance through the text to here.

Network Printing

If you are printing to a printer which is connected to another computer or server, or which is connected to a network directly, or via a dedicated print server, then you have a few more stones to overturn. If you are satisfied that you have network connectivity - i.e. that you can surf the internet and ping the printer (by typing ping [servername or address] you can get more information about network connectivity here) If you have checked all of this then we should move on to checking for problems that are specifically to do with printing.

The Spooler Service

Microsoft Windows uses a service (or executable if you run Windows 9x/ME) called the print spooler [spoolsv.exe] which controls communications from the printer to Windows. If your Print Spooler service is not running then you will not be able to view properties of a printer in your Windows Printer folder, the printer and fax display window will be blank. In these circumstances, type net start spooler into the run window or a command prompt. If the service crashes try manually removing and reinstalling the driver after restarting the computer. Spooler services crashing are generally to do with corrupt files being in the queue or bad drivers. If you have recently installed software that monitors or adds functionality to the print queue, as many manufacturers do, then try removing it. If you need to manually to remove and reinstall a printer driver then have a look at:

LPT1: and USB Printing

If you are printing to LPT1 or a USB port then you should have a look at the properties of your printer. Go to the Printers Icon in Control Panel (as this is present in virtually all versions of Windows) and see what you are presented with. In Windows XP, information is given before even opening the printer details, as shown below:

In the left hand pane (you will have difficulty reading it) the printer highlighted is described as having status unable to connect which, in this case, refers to the print server being unavailable. It may also read as being offline which may be due to a disconnected cable or simply due to the printer being turned off or set to paused in the print queue. To check this, double click thee printer and you will be presented with the print queue as below:

Any pending jobs will be displayed along with various details, the offline option is on the Printer drop down menu and if there is a tick next to pause printing, then try un-checking it to see if printing resumes.

If you go to the Printer menu and choose Properties then you will be shown a window particular to your printers driver. There will be various choices for different settings of paper and ink so have a look for anything obvious. The standard window looks as below:

If you are having problems with quality then try phoning contacting the manufacturer as all printers are different, and they may be able to change settings with you over the phone or web. Have a look at the ports tab on the above window. The port should be ticked which you wish to use and they have fairly obvious names like LPT1 and USB001. If you cannot find the correct port then add it. If is not in the list of ports to add then try re-running the CD  - especially if it is a USB port as the installation program may create them - and if the port just seems not to work try adding the same port again and using the duplicate  one - like USB002 or whatever.

The above shows some standard ports with COM1-4 which are mostly virtual ports to do with modem connection as most modern computers replace old-fashioned COM ports with USB or USB 2.0. The USB port at the bottom would have most likely been created by the printer install itself and so if it is missing try re-running the install program. The FILE: port is for using the printer driver to create an image of the text or picture file to save to disk.

If connectivity and power and driver are all in place and the printer is reporting no hardware error or paper out/jam etc then it may be time to phone the suppliers although this can be a frustrating and expensive business. Recently, trying to get information on Hewlett-Packard printers from an Indian-based helpdesk was enough to drive me nearly insane. Try the manufacturer website first as you may have more luck. These online technician systems tend to be slow as most technicians are dealing with multiple problems at once but if you want to try it then go ahead. It is an experience if nothing else. Try the printer on a friends computer if you are having no joy and then try your local friendly computer doctor. Then buy a new printer....

Still lost? Have a look into articles and for Windows 2000 and XP Respectively although they are so similar that both articles have issues which apply to both Operating Systems.



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