Virtually every computer user will have a standalone printer or a Multi Function Printer/Scanner. After all we all need some way to print our documents and pictures.
Perhaps your printer works without a hitch but most people suffer at least a few problems.
This article looks at the top five of the most common problems people experience with their printers.
This is a very common printer problem and occurs when the paper feeding through the printer gets twisted or crunched up. Sometimes the printer ignores the problem and continues trying to print. This may push out a crumpled piece of paper into the output tray. On other occasions, the printer stops in mid-job, and the crumpled paper, or part of it, remains trapped somewhere inside the machine.
When a paper jam occurs, some printers flash lights at you and scream for help. Others sense where the jam is and provide guidance on clearing the blockage. If your printer offers diagnostic advice, follow it. Also, take time to check the printer's documentation for help in clearing jams.
Here are some of the basic steps you'll follow to correct this problem:
If you're going to be working inside the printer, you don't want any trouble with electricity or moving parts.
If you're dealing with a laser printer, you also don't want the fuser to generate additional heat. If the paper is jammed in or near the fuser unit (you'll feel the heat as you come near it), you'll have to wait for the fuser to cool off before clearing the jam.
Open all doors leading to the paper path. If you can't tell which door leads to the paper jam, start by removing or opening the input tray and following the paper path all the way to the output tray, opening every door or panel that you can find along the way. Some printers even have a removable panel at the rear of the unit and this is often a quick way to clear the paper jam.
Carefully pull out all the paper sheets and scraps of crumpled paper. Pull paper out of the path firmly but very carefully and very slowly. If possible, pull paper in the direction it is supposed to take through the printer under normal conditions - not backward, which could strain and even damage the printer's mechanics.
Take care to remove all of the paper: As any scraps that remain could cause further jamming.
Once switched on, the printer should reset itself automatically. If the printer reports that it is still jammed, double-check for stray paper scraps and then close all the doors again. If the printer continues to complain, try turning it off and then back on again.
If the complaints continue, you'll have to call for service and hope that a deep-seated piece of paper rather than a broken mechanical part is the source of the problem.
Use only one kind of paper at a time in your input tray. Whether you have a single input tray or many input trays, tell the printer what kind of paper you have in the tray - most printer controls include a properties section or drop-down list where you can pick a paper by name, type, thickness, or other quality. If you aren't sure whether your printer takes a certain kind of paper, check its documentation.
When you reload your input tray, pay attention to the tray's needs, such as how the paper should be loaded and whether the length or width guides need adjusting.
Regardless of how sophisticated it is, a printer can print only one job at a time. Sometimes a job will get held up for some reason and block every job behind it.
If you've confirmed that the printer hasn't stalled for a mechanical reason, such as a jam or a lack of paper, toner, or ink, check the print queue to see whether a specific job in front of yours might be the culprit.
If your computer has a dedicated printer associated with it, you can get to the print queue directly. On Windows, access is through the Control Panel's Printers program item; on a Mac, it's through the Utilities' Print & Fax program item. Any stuck jobs will be listed there, and you can easily cancel them.
On a networked queue, you have control only over the jobs that you send from your own PC. If another person's job is the problem, you must either contact them for help or ask your IT department to intervene.
If the print queue clogs up regularly, your IT staff needs to figure out why it's happening and then address the root cause.
Common problems include trying to print a job whose file size is so large that it chokes the network or your printer's memory; trying to print to a special kind of paper - such as letterhead - without loading the paper or specifying the tray in which it's loaded; and requesting a print job that requires you (or some other user) to feed the paper manually, but failing to perform this step.
If this ever happens to you, you can treat it as if it were a special kind of paper jam.
Turn off the printer. You don't want its parts to start churning unexpectedly while you're working on recovery.
Clear the paper path. Remove any paper that's stuck in mid print.
Turn on the printer (assuming that power to the machine is restored).
As the printer initializes, check for error messages or odd noises that might indicate a malfunction or internal damage. If you have a laser or LED printer, check the documentation for a maintenance routine you can use to clean the toner from the drum.
An ink jet cartridge that stopped in mid squirt may require cleaning. Run a test page and check the output for stains, streaks, and other abnormalities. Consult your printer's documentation for further troubleshooting guidance.
The odds that a printer will turn off on its own, are very low. If power outages are relatively frequent in your area, plug your printer into a UPS device so that it can finish printing and power down normally the next time the electricity fails.
You wait eagerly for your beautiful photo to come out of the printer, but all you get is big splotches of ink sitting and not drying on the wrong side of the photo paper.
Cancel the print job if you can. This is especially important if your print job calls for printing multiple sheets of photos, as each wrong-way sheet will just add to the mess.
Remove the paper carefully, making sure that the ink doesn't run. Avoid getting it on your hands by wearing gloves or by using a napkin or paper towel to handle the paper.
Throw the whole thing away. Yes, you'll have to say goodbye to that expensive piece of photographic paper and all that costly ink.
To avoid this problem next time, make sure you check the printer's documentation and tray markings to make sure that you are inserting the photo paper the right way round.
Printer toner and ink are formulated to spread, adhere, and last. But that's supposed to happen on paper, not on the floor of your home or office.
Toner can spill inside the printer during regular use, or it can spill onto surfaces, clothing, skin, or carpets when you're replacing a cartridge.
Three Basic Ways to Remove Spilled Toner
For spills on hard, smooth surfaces, you can use a disposable sweeping device (cardboard, paper or envelope, paper towel) to sweep the toner carefully into a plastic bag or other sealable receptacle for disposal.
Special toner-cleaning cloths use static to attract the toner for easy wiping. Regular paper towels or cotton towels will also work adequately.
A special toner vacuum is the only kind of vacuum you should consider using. It has attachments designed to reach into small spaces and to pull toner from the interior of a printer or from an area of carpet, along with a receptacle designed to trap very small particles.
Handle toner cartridges carefully, especially during insertion and removal. Before working with toner cartridges, protect surrounding areas from spills by covering them with newsprint or paper towels.
Spilled Printer Ink
It's unusual for ink to spill from a cartridge unless the cartridge has been punctured, cracked, squeezed, or crushed. A refilled cartridge, which we are not keen on, may be more susceptible to leaking or spilling. Handle it carefully.
Online advice about cleaning up printer ink spills recommends using substances ranging from rubbing alcohol to WD-40 to hair spray to bleach. The effectiveness of these suggestions will depend on where the ink landed, as well as on the ink's chemical content.
A common-sense approach would be to handle spills quickly yet cautiously, starting with basic cleaning procedures and escalating as necessity dictates. Before applying any cleaning substance over a large area, test it to ensure that it doesn't cause damage of its own.
First step in all cases: Blot spilled ink with an absorbent cloth or paper towel.
Ink on skin: Use soap and water to clean further. If ink remains (and it probably will) try scrubbing. Use additional solutions on your skin cautiously, and at your own discretion.
Ink on fabric or carpet: With soap and water, brush the stain using an upward-inward motion - upward so as not to push the ink deeper into the fabric, and inward so as not to spread the stain across a wider area.
Ink on hard surfaces: If a stain remains after blotting, try another method or cleaner that is appropriate to the particular surface.
Ink in the printer: This is a messy job, and the outcome of your efforts is uncertain. It's very hard to completely remove all traces of the ink.
First, turn off the printer, unless it has to be left on so you can access the cartridges. Check the ink cartridges. If the offending ink cartridge is still in the printer, you must decide whether the spill is likely to be worse if you leave the cartridge where it is or if you remove it.
Do whatever you can to minimize further spillage while you clean.
Turn off the printer, if you haven't already done so, and access its interior. Find and remove as much spillage as you can through blotting. Then use rubbing alcohol and lint-free cloths to clean further, taking care not to get anything stuck in the printer.
Run a test page and check for evidence of leftover ink, such as splotches or continuous streaks on the page.
Observe the printer as it operates to ensure that it is acting normally again.
If you're lucky, everything will be fine after you run pages through the printer so the spilled ink can print itself out. If you're unlucky, ink that you couldn't remove will lead to further damage.
To help prevent a recurrence of the problem always handle ink cartridges carefully, especially if they're refills, and especially during insertion and removal. If you're spill-prone, use newspaper or paper towels to protect the surrounding area.
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