Every single business has to deal with printer problems at some point. For those who don’t have an on-site printer service technician, troubleshooting why your printer doesn’t work is up to the office staff.
Luckily, there are a few easy ways to determine what’s wrong with your printer function quickly. Because printer issues are relatively typical, these first five troubleshooting methods usually fix the problem and get the office back up and running in no time.
What To Do When You Have Printer Problems
There are four common printer problems that, more often than not, will fix the issue and let the office get on with their day. Try each of these quick fixes before calling your service technician.
1. Printer Won't Print
First things first - check for error indicators. It may sound obvious, but you would be surprised at how easy it is to forget that our printers come with signals and error messages to help the user troubleshoot. These printer error lights and codes are the easiest way to quickly understand what’s gone wrong and how to fix the issue.
Avoid the trial and error method by grabbing the handbook and looking up the common error messages. Generally, the manual should be stored near the printer. Some offices will go so far as to affix a file holder to the side of the printer, so the manual is always there and easy to reference.
If the manual isn’t helpful or available, jump online. The manufacturer's website will often have a downloadable PDF of the support documents you need to get back up and running.
2. Too Many Paper Jams
Paper jams are probably the number one reason printers will malfunction. It can result from improperly loaded printer paper, the wrong paper, or crumpled paper that caught the feeding mechanism.
Whatever the reason, a quick check of your printer will give you your answer. Begin by looking for error lights that might indicate where the paper jam is located. Multifunction printers have the ability to show you a picture of the drawer or door that needs to be opened to clear the paper jam.
If the printer codes and lights don't tell you anything or that option isn’t available, you can still proceed with a top to bottom paper check. Check the paper tray where the original document you wanted to copy rests. Are any of those pages missing or stuck?
Then check the paper drawer where the printer draws the paper it’s going to print on. Is it correctly loaded with the right size and weight paper? Just in case, you might pull the paper out, fan the pages to make sure they separate easily, tap the edge of the paper to make sure they are still stacked evenly, and then put it back into the printer. Realigning the paper may fix an error that made the printer think there wasn’t any paper.
Next, gently open each of the cabinets along the printing mechanism to check for the stuck, torn, or crumpled paper that has gotten caught, causing a paper jam. You may need to refer to your manual or the manufacturer’s website to determine where these compartments are located and how to open and close them.
3. Wi-Fi Printing Takes Too Long
Check the signal. If your computer is plugged directly into the computer, check that the line is properly plugged in and hasn’t come loose. You might even unplug and plug it back in.
If you are remotely sending projects to your printer, double-check that the printer connection has a strong signal and that your computer is able to communicate with your printer. If there is a network connection problem, your computer will typically tell you about this error. Your printer should show up in your router’s network list and be connected. If there isn’t a connection, try bringing your computer closer to the printer, if possible, to detect the printer and reconnect.
4. Install the Drivers and Software
When all else fails, your last resort is to connect your printer directly to your computer, unless you have a multifunction printer with the built-in ability to search the internet. While connected, your computer should automatically detect a printer there and automatically locate the divers.
Try to install the printer drivers to reset the connection between your computer and the printer. If you can’t find the drivers online, try referring to the manual or the manufacturer’s website before attempting to navigate the rabbit hole of detailed online articles about drivers.
5. Cartridge or Toner Issue
A number of symptoms may come from cartridge or toner issues. If you find that your toner runs out too fast, and it’s not because your team is printing more often than you realize, it’s time to investigate that low toner warning. The first thing to do is remove your cartridge and shake it a bit. It’s possible that it’s not really low on toner. By distributing the toner more evenly you may be able to get rid of the low toner warning, and get more out of your cartridge. If you tend to run low because you really are using your printer often, there’s the option of getting the extra large cartridges to help lessen the number of toner orders you have to place.
Are you experiencing print quality problems? There are a number of possible printer problems. If you have blurring, smears, or streaks, it’s possible that you have a defective toner cartridge. You might try printing a few blank pages to see if that clears and resets the problem. If the problem persists, consider replacing the cartridge. If the problem is still occurring, it may be a defective drum unit.
If there is fading on your printouts but you aren’t low on toner, it may be one of two issues. There may be a transfer roller issue, or a laser mirror may need to be cleaned. If blank spots are your biggest concern, it can be a number of issues including obstructions, defective toner, or the transfer roller. Ultimately, the best thing you can do to avoid toner issues is to make sure you maintain your printer regularly.
6. Printing Costs Too Much
The initial cost of a printer, whether you lease or buy, can feel like a big investment. However, it’s the ongoing costs that can add up. Regular maintenance, paper, and toner really add up! Luckily, there are a few ways you can minimize your costs.
First, check your default settings to ensure they are set to the lowest quality, often called duplex or draft printing. You can also make sure the default is black-and-white. Unless your team is printing public- or client-facing documents, black-and-white default settings will save money on expensive color toner.
Next, do an audit of your printer output. By discovering the team members with the highest usage, you can limit wasteful printing by adjusting permissions. It’s also worth reminding team members about the proper use of printers and company supplies.
Finally, enroll in managed print services. Having a team of professionals that understand what’s best for your printer means your usage will always be optimized and efficient.
7. Printers are Too Light or too Dark
It’s possible the printer is running low on toner if copies are too light. And there could be dust or smudges on the glass, creating a darker effect. If it’s neither of these, then the most likely problem is the light/dark setting. People love to adjust settings, mostly because computer settings and document settings may be different. If your print results are too light or too dark, make sure the light/dark setting is adjusted to your preference or that your printer is on default.
8. Spots on the Page
Spots on your print are annoying but an easy fix. The most likely cause is debris or foreign objects in the printer. Wash the glass and wipe down some of the parts without taking the thing apart. If that doesn’t fix the issue, take a look for any easy-to-reach foreign objects. The last option is to call a technician to have a look. Regular maintenance is the best way to avoid dirty looking prints.
9. Lines on Paper
When lines show up on your latest printed report, it can mean a few different possibilities but they are all easy to fix. First, check that the printer settings are on high quality printing.
Sometimes a co-worker might choose the DRAFT setting, which means they are printing at the lowest quality print setting to help conserve ink.
Double check that there is enough ink and that the cartridge is loaded correctly.
Finally, clean the glass! Sometimes the printer problem is something as simple as smudges on the glass that are translating to the results.
10. Too High of Print Volumes
Multifunction printers are designed to be workhorses. Even so, they can get run down, especially if they aren’t maintained properly and have to work with constant high-volume.
Working the machine to its limits means it’s vital that the team always stay on top of maintenance schedules. More volume one month or over the course of a quarter may mean the maintenance visit needs to bumped up a bit.
For those offices with multiple printers, it can actually be helpful to the life of the machines to block each one completely off one day a week to alternate, giving each machine a day off. Many people are surprised to find out that a little rest can do machines just as much good as making an overworked team member take a vacation.
11. Can’t Print from Mobile Device
You can still print from your mobile device even if your printer is old or does not have Wi-Fi capabilities. The options for what you can print will vary depending on your specific situation. Many new Wi-Fi printers support AirPrint, which allows iOS device users to print to them as long as both the device and printer are on the same Wi-Fi network. Most major printer manufacturers have also released apps that allow users of iPhone, iPad, Android, and some Windows Phone, devices to print to their newer models. Third-party apps also exist that allow you to print to a wider range of printers. Some new wireless printers also support printing via Wi-Fi Direct, a protocol that allows two compatible devices to connect directly without the need for a wireless access point. Additionally, some HP and Kodak printers allow printing via email, where the printer is assigned an email address and you can email documents to it to be automatically printed.
Final Thoughts On Common Printer Problems
Printer problems are inevitable. Luckily, there are some common solutions to standard printer issues. Just a little troubleshooting, and you can get the office back to its productive, efficient operations in no time.
Remember to check the error lights first. If that doesn’t point you to the problem, begin checking for paper jams and that the paper is loaded correctly. Then check the connection to your computer. If all else fails, try to load the drivers. Once you’ve been through this list, the next best option to check in with the manufacturer or call your service technician, depending on the service agreement.
Even though printers are becoming more advanced every day, they are also becoming easier to fix, so before you give in to frustration, take a step-by-step approach to troubleshooting.