Printer - General Troubleshooting Advice

If you are having trouble printing, there are some general steps you can take to help troubleshoot the issue.
The DoIT Help Desk provides limited support for printer issues. Please see Printers - Getting Help with Printer Trouble from the DoIT Help Desk for more information about the extent of the Help Desk's printer support.

Printing issues can generally be divided into three categories: hardware problems with the printer itself, software problems on the computer which is attempting to print, or connection issues between the printer and the computer. If the printer is not printing at all, it is usually easiest to start by troubleshooting the problem as a hardware issue.

Troubleshooting hardware issues

First make sure that the printer is on and that it is in ready position. Make sure that there are no error messages on the LEDs or LCD if applicable. If there are error messages displayed, note them down and check either the manual that came with the printer or the manufacturer's website to see if the error code can be explained.

If there are no solutions associated with that error message or if no error message is displayed at all, there are some additional steps that can be tried:

Try printing an internal test or configuration page directly from the printer. This is absolutely the first thing that you want to do, even if you think that the hardware is not the issue as you want to make sure the printer will at least print in test mode before moving on to other steps.

  • If the test page did not print, note down and research any error messages that appear. You can also try turning the printer off and then turning it back on. If the test page still won't print, you may also wish to try removing the ink/toner cartridge(s) and reinserting them.
  • If the test page looks fine, then you are probably dealing with a connection or software problem.

Troubleshooting connection problems

There are several ways that printers can be connected to a computer. Some printers are connected over a network either via network cable (ethernet) or wirelessly (via WiFi or Bluetooth). Networked printers are most commonly found in departments and are generally used by multiple computers. Printers can also be connected directly to a single computer via USB or parallel cable. Printers connected directly to a single computer are generally referred to as local printers.

Local Printers

Today, the vast majority of local printers are connected via USB. Older printers may be connected via parallel cable, but this is less commonly seen today.


Verify that the USB cable is firmly connected to both the printer and the computer. You should also try restarting the computer. If you are still unable to print, try plugging the printer into a different USB port on your computer. USB ports do sometimes fail, so it is important to determine whether the printer will work on another USB port. If you have another compatible USB cable available, you might also try swapping out the cable.

If all of that fails, it's possible that either the USB or printer drivers are missing or corrupted. Refer to the software troubleshooting suggestions.


Verify that the parallel cable is firmly connected to both the printer and the computer. You should also try restarting the computer. Most modern computers will only have one parallel port (in fact, some newer machines have no parallel ports at all) so trying another port isn't an option. However, you may still wish to try another cable if you have one available.

If that fails, it's possible the printer drivers are missing or corrupted. Refer to the software troubleshooting suggestions.

Networked Printers

Troubleshooting networked printers can be more difficult. If this is a departmental printer, you should contact your local IT support for assistance. Otherwise, you should start by determining whether multiple computers are unable to print to the networked printer. If only a single computer is unable to print to the printer while other computers can print to it without issue, it's likely just an issue on that computer. If multiple computers are unable to print to the printer, it's likely to be an issue with the printer itself.

Multiple computers affected

If multiple computers are affected, you should make sure that the printer is connected properly (if connected via ethernet) and that other devices connected to the router/switch that the printer is connected to are able to connect to the network. If none of the devices connected to a router/switch have network connectivity, it's likely that the router/switch is the culprit. If just the printer is affected, then you should verify the printer is obtaining a proper IP address. Many printers provide this information either via the LCD display on the printer or via the printer test/config page. If the printer is not getting a valid IP address, you should verify that the router/switch is not misconfigured.

Single computer affected

If only one computer is having trouble printing to the printer, make sure that the PC is functioning properly on the network. Is the computer able to browse the web? Is it obtaining a valid IP address? Can it see other devices on the local network? If the answer to these questions is no, it's likely to be an issue with the network connection on that computer.

Otherwise, it is likely that the printer is not properly configured on that computer. Verify that the configuration is correct. On some networks, printers may be given a dynamic IP address. This means that your printer configuration may stop working if the printer's IP address changes. Verify you are using the correct IP address or hostname for the printer.

If that fails, it's possible the printer drivers are missing or corrupted. Refer to the software troubleshooting suggestions.

Troubleshooting software problems

Software problems tend to be the most complicated to troubleshoot. Printers require that the proper drivers be installed for both the printer itself as well as the port on which it is connected. If the USB drivers or bluetooth stack are corrupted/missing, then the computer won't be able to interact with the printer at all. You will need to verify that these drivers are installed properly.

The next step would be to verify that the printer drivers are installed properly. It may be best at this stage to completely uninstall the printer and disconnect it from the computer. You can then reinstall the printer using the most current drivers (available from the manufacturer's website) following the procedures for initially configuring the printer.

If only specific applications are unable to print, it's likely that the problem is that application. Check the printer configuration within that application. If the problem persists, you may need to reinstall that application.

KeywordsPrinter not printing Troubleshooting HP Epson Apple Compaq Lexmark Canon Xerox   Doc ID682
OwnerHelp Desk KB TeamGroupDoIT Help Desk
Created2000-10-24 19:00:00Updated2024-06-18 12:10:05
SitesDoIT Help Desk
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