printer troubleshooting

The definitive printer troubleshooting guide

It’s tempting to call in tech support any time any kind of technical issue arises. That’s what they’re there for, right?

But when it comes to your company’s printer, simple solutions can often get employees back to work quicker. This easy printer troubleshooting guide will go over the most common issues.

Don’t overlook the power cycle

Regardless of the specific printer problems you’re experiencing, your first step should always be the power cycle. Since these issues don’t always stem from the printer itself—especially if only one user is having difficulty—it’s also smart to power cycle any computer experiencing trouble.

What does a power cycle entail? Not much. Just follow these steps:

  • Power off the device
  • Unplug the device
  • Leave it unplugged for 30 seconds
  • Plug the device back in
  • Turn the power back on

Power cycling is just the technical way to say, “turn it off and turn it on again.” Any PC or Mac support professional will recommend this as your first step. Luckily, the method proves successful with printers just as often as it does with computers.

Update printer drivers

Whenever certain updates make the news, it’s usually in a negative way. That includes news stories about everything that can go wrong when you don’t keep your software up to date.

Software updates can address everything from cybersecurity weak spots to minor errors. So if your printer is having issues, it could very well mean that you just need to update your drivers.

If your printer is Bluetooth connected, it’s even more likely that this could be your issue. It seems like there’s a new Bluetooth problem that needs some kind of patch every other day. Simply use your computer’s search function to find “Device Manager.” After right-clicking your printer, select Properties>Driver>Update Driver.

Windows will handle everything from there.

Check the ink cartridge or toner

Depending on your style of printer, you utilize either ink cartridges or toner. You can typically check these levels by navigating back to the Properties menu.

Some desktop printers can go two years without a refill, but they’ll eventually need one, and refilling your ink is important. There are brands that won’t even complete black-and-white copies if your color ink is empty.

Your printer should alert you if the ink and/or toner is low, but even if you haven’t received an alert, check these levels.

Update virus software

What could virus software possibly have to do with your printer? The short answer is “plenty.”

Researchers have discovered that fax machines could be prime targets for hackers. Since we all know manufacturers are outdoing themselves by making 2-in-1 printers and fax machines, this could become an issue.

This means cybercriminals could actually sneak in malicious software directly through your printer via the fax capability. It is a newly-evolving threat, so it’s certainly not one of the top ways that hackers infiltrate networks. Even so, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Even if an attack doesn’t come through your printer, malware can still cause printing issues. This means having updated virus protection is always ideal.

Jammed, misaligned and missing paper

If you ask any managed IT services provider or tech expert, they’ll tell you paper issues are among the most common physical problems when it comes to printer trouble. Before calling for help, always check to see if there is actually any paper in your printer.

While that may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how often we overlook this simple issue.

If the paper is loaded, is it aligned correctly? If not, the paper won’t typically feed through the machine. Did you notice a paper jam while troubleshooting? You’ll want to take the following steps:

  • Turn off the printer
  • Open all doors along the paper path
  • Remove lodged sheets and scraps

This is the only safe and effective way to fix a paper jam.

When to call in the calvary

When it comes to hardware, the number of potential issues that have simple solutions makes your printer unique. You should never undertake a troubleshooting measure, however, that you’re uncomfortable with.

If the easy answers don’t work or you simply don’t understand a certain troubleshooting method, it’s better to contact your managed IT service provider than risk damaging your printer.