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Printers problems are best resolved by first determining whether a hardware or software problem has surfaced. If the printer doesn't print at all you may have either a hardware or software problem. If the print quality is the problem, e.g., characters are smudged or poorly formed, or the output has streaks or white lines, you are most often facing a hardware problem. Paper feed and jamming problems are also usually hardware.
The first step is to check the mechanical operation of the printer alone. Many models have a built-in self test option which allows you to find out whether the printer works without the added variable of having to get commands from a computer. On some models, holding down the form feed button as the power to the printer is turned on will initiate such a test. Refer to the manual which came with your printer or visit the manufacturer's web site to find out how to invoke the self test. If the printer self test fails, your problem is with the printer itself rather than the printer cable or computer. Seek out the meaning of any error messages which might be communicated by the printer via flashing lights if applicable and, especially for ink jet printers ensure that ink cartridges are not empty or were inadvertently installed with tape still covering the nozzles. If the printer fails the self-test you need to seek the services of a repair facility.
If the printer self test prints ok the next step is to have Windows print a test page. Click on Start, Settings, Printers, and right click on the icon of the printer with the problem, select properties and press the Print Test Page button. If the test page fails to print ensure that the printer cable is firmly seated in both the computer and the printer. If available, try an alternate printer cable. If the test print fails or, particularly if the print consists of nonsense characters or a few characters printed over many pages, check whether the correct drivers for the printer are installed and try uninstalling and reinstalling the printer, preferably with the most recent version of the printer driver which can be downloaded from the printer manufacturer's web site. Obtaining extra pages is a classic symptom of having incorrect drivers.
The approach used to resolve print quality problems depends upon particular type of printer. Dot matrix printers benefit from periodic cleaning of the print head. Ink jet and laser printers usually benefit from to have the cartridges replaced. The best approach is to seek information from the manufacturer's web site.
Paper feed problems and jams can often be resolved by using paper which conforms with the specifications provided by the printer manufacturer. On ink jet printers, the rubber rolls which pick up each sheet can sometimes become coated with paper residue which decreases the friction. Cleaning off the residue can sometimes solve paper feed problems.
Is your ink jet printer making a banging noise? Some models of ink jet printers have a gray colored narrow plastic film which extends almost the whole width of the printer just behind the rod on which the print head travels. The gray color is due to a series of very fine vertical lines which the print head uses to sense how far it is across the printer. If the film gets dirty, usually contaminated with ink, the print head can have problems determining where it is and can crash against the end of the printer.
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ComputerBill's Computer Repair. All rights reserved. Last reviewed: 21 June 2001