How To Troubleshoot Printers

In this article, I am going to talk about troubleshooting printers. Most businesses use them and learning how to deal with their issues is a big bonus. I talk about how to test, diagnosing failed print jobs, and power issues.


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Resolving printer issues has always been an enormous task. It is like this in every organization. There are many reasons a print job may not work. It can be hardware, software, user, or network related.

Testing Different Scenarios

Testing different scenarios will allow you to eliminate issues and find the root cause quicker.

Check the status panel on the printer. You do this to make sure there are no warnings. If there are warnings, we should follow up on this. Then make sure the printer itself is functional. You can do this by printing a test page. This tells you the printer is working. If not, is a networking or software issue.

Next check to see if others can print to this printer. If so, then you know the problem is at the workstation of the user only. If others can not print, then it is time to check the networking.

Checking the networking involves making sure the network cable is plugged in to the printer and the status is good. On the back of most printers where the cable is plugged in, there is usually a status light to show network packets are passing through correctly.

The light is usually green for a good connection and nothing if there is no connectivity. Another technique is to try pinging it. Ping is a network utility for most operating systems. Use this to check if the printer is reachable across the network. If it is reachable, then you have eliminated several causes.

The problem could also be a software issue. This includes the software used to print the document and the drivers for the printer itself. Sometimes users accidentally hit settings in their program that mess up printing. If it is Microsoft Word, for example, check to see that everything looks right in its print menu.

Make sure the print spooler is working. This is often the reason for printing errors. You find the print spooler in Windows by opening up the services app. Just look alphabetically for the print spooler. Start it if you need to or you can choose to restart it in order to reset it. You will need administrator permissions in order to do this usually.

Diagnosing Failed Print Jobs

The very first activity you want to do is restart the user’s device. They get in the habit of leaving their device logged on for months at a time. One to three restarts with some updates in between usually helps a lot of things.

When a print job fails, it can be a variety of issues. The print job can get stuck in the queue. An application could fail. The print job may never reach the printer.

Updating the print driver is one of the first tasks to try. New drivers get released all the time, so this is something to check.

Try printing from another application, preferably one that is simpler in nature. That could be something like a text editor.

Another thing to try is restarting the print spooler. This is in the services app. As always, run all these utilities as an administrator.

Running the Windows troubleshooter can also help. It will usually not fix much, but it can give you ideas to look into. It is worth running if your stumped on an issue.

Get used to running windows updates. We can never do these often enough.

You can also try changing the paper. Users mistakenly add the wrong type of paper for their printer. This can cause hardware issues and malfunctions. Storage of paper is also a problem. Sometimes paper can be stored where it gets too much humidity.

Check the default printer too. Users can get confused about where they are printing to. There is an option in Windows to let the operating system set the default printer. It will change it based on how much you use a certain printer. This can cause issues, so it is usually better to set the default printer yourself depending on what makes sense in your environment.

Power Issues

This can be a tricky issue to diagnose. Usually the user will say it prints most of the time, but it intermittently stops or exhibits other issues that the user has not seen before. If nothing else I have mentioned is the issue, then power can sometimes be the issue.

The reason is that either too much or too little can cause issues with the power supply in the printer. This happens in many businesses and can affect any device. If you suspect this issue, unplug the device so that it is not getting any power and leave it unplugged for a couple of minutes. This will usually be enough time to reset everything in the printer that is power related. After a couple minutes, plug it back in and let it boot up.

Print Servers

There are many print servers in use these days. They mostly make things convenient for everyone involved. It does depend on the server and its roles. If you do not try to get too complex, they are beneficial to your environment. 

Their role is to serve print jobs. Just like a file server, it gives you a lot of flexibility and control. 


While this is not a terribly long document, I hope there are a few things that are helpful. I know I have a tough time remembering all the little things to check, so having a reference to go by is helpful. That is what this is, just a collection of ideas to run through.