My Printer is not working, what do I do now?

October 17, 2008

The call comes in to the IT help desk from a clearly upset End User “My Printer is not working”.

But is that really the case? If the help desk support specialist asks a few questions they can quickly find out where the problem really lies. If the End User is willing to work with you try asking these questions.

Q. Is anyone else able to print to the printer in question?
If yes…
Q. Have you rebooted your PC?  (Isn’t it amazing how often this resolves all sorts of problems)
Q. Can you browse the Internet? As a test go to http://www.yahoo.com (This will tell you if they are on the network)
Q. Can you print a “Test Page” to this printer?
Q. Can you print from another application (If you can’t print a PDF, can you print a MS Word Doc)?
End users often don’t want to try this because they get focused on printing this one document.
If Yes…
Q. Can you print a different document from the same application (a different PDF or MS Word Doc).
End users often don’t want to try this because they get focused on printing this one document.
If Yes…
Q. Can you try printing part of the document that has been giving you trouble? (try a few pages)

If you want the more technical reasons for what we just did read on.

Troubleshooting Printing Problems

While many Printing error messages quickly indicate the source of a problem, you’ll need to troubleshoot your problem further if you receive a non-specific Printing error message, or if you think you’re getting a Printing error but you haven’t received an error message. To troubleshoot a Printing error, isolate when the problem occurs to determine if it is a system-level, application-specific, file-specific, or element-specific problem. After you narrow down when the problem occurs, you can eliminate likely causes until you solve the problem.

1) Isolating System-Level Printing Problems

Do you receive the error from more than one application? If the same problem occurs from more than one application, the cause is most likely a problem at the system level. System-level problems are commonly caused by damaged fonts, damaged system files, damaged printer drivers, insufficient hard disk space, network problems, or hardware problems. If the problem only occurs from one application, see the “Isolating Application-Specific Problems” section.

Make sure you’re using an up-to-date Printing device driver (e.g., printer driver), or use the version of the driver required by your application. You also need plenty of free hard disk space when sending a file to a Printing interpreter, especially when you print a large file. Make sure your free hard disk space is not fragmented.
If you’re printing to an external Printing device, secure loose connectors (e.g., cables, switch boxes) by unplugging and replugging them. You can easily tell if a connection to an external device is severed altogether: the device won’t receive any data, so nothing happens. But if a connection is loose, the symptoms of your problem may be unclear: the device might receive small jobs only, or its driver may appear only intermittently in a Macintosh’s Chooser. If you’re printing to an older printer or one that uses a Postscript emulator (e.g., Pacific Page cartridge, Phoenix Printing Interpreter), it may not recognize newer Postsript code. Try printing the file to a printer containing a more current version of Adobe-licensed Postscript.

.2) lsolating Application-Specific Problems
Do you receive the error only from a single application, and in every file from that application? To determine if the error is being caused by the application or by a specific file, create a new file containing only a simple element, such as a rectangle or line. If this test file does not cause the error, the application itself is not causing the error, so you can move to the “Isolating File-Specific Problems” section. If this test file does cause the error, the application software may be damaged. Delete the application’s preferences file, then reinstall the application from the original installation disks.

3) Isolating File-Specific Problems
Do you receive the error only with a specific file or files? If the error occurs only with a specific file, the file may have the wrong print settings selected for your Printer, it may be damaged, or it may contain a problem element (e.g., damaged graphic). You can begin troubleshooting the file by using the same print settings as those of a file that does not cause an error. To determine if the file itself is damaged, copy the file’s contents into a new file, save the new file using the Save As command, then see if the error occurs with the new file. If the error doesn’t occur, the original file was damaged. If the error does occur, run any built-in diagnostic routines your application offers. In PageMaker, for instance, you can repair some file problems by using its Diagnostic Recompose feature: deselect all elements in the file, then choose Type >
Hyphenation while you hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys (Windows) or the Option and Shift
keys (Macintosh). If the error still occurs, the file likely contains one or more damaged elements.

Move to the “Isolating Element-Specific Problems” section.

4) Isolating Element-Specific Problems

Do you receive the error only with a specific page or elements on a page? After you’ve ruled out a damaged file as the cause, the error is likely being caused by a damaged or incorrectly written element or font. It may also be caused. by an element or combination of elements that requires more memory than is available. If the error occurs with a range of pages, look for common elements on those pages. If you can print all elements individually or in small groups, but not all at the same time, the combination of elements you are printing requires more memory than is available. To isolate the element or elements causing your problem, make a copy of the file. Then send groups of pages to the printer. If a group causes an error, print one page at a time from that group. Continue sending pages until you’ve narrowed down the problem page. You can then isolate the elements causing the problem by removing elements from each page. If you remove a page and the page then doesn’t cause the error, the elements you just removed were causing the problem.

Some applications, such as PageMaker, offer the option to include some elements, but not others, when sending your file to a Printer. For example, when you select the Proof Print option in PageMaker’s Print dialog box, PageMaker prints the text but not the graphics. Using this option, you can quickly determine if your problem is caused by an imported graphic or another element besides text in a PageMaker publication.
If an element causing the problem is text or an element you’ve created in the application, recreate the element. For text elements, you can also try using a different font (e.g., reformat the text using a different kind of font). If the file doesn’t cause the error when you use a different font, reinstall the original font in case its files are damaged.

If the element causing the problem is an imported graphic, first try reimporting the graphic. If the error still occurs, open the graphic in the application in which it was created, resave it, make sure it prints from that application, then reimport the graphic. If the imported graphic still causes the error, try resaving it in a different format, exporting it from a different application, or simplifying it so that it requires less memory. An imported graphic can cause a Printing error if it contains damaged or incorrectly written information, or if it too complex for your Printing interpreter (i.e., it requires more memory than is available).

If the file causes a Printing error because it is too complex, simplify it and see if it will print. To begin simplifying a complex file, reduce the number of imported graphics, reduce the number of fonts that must be downloaded, reduce the number of text effects (e.g., skewing, rotation), delete elements you don’t need, create paths using fewer points, or reimport bitmap images that have been resampled at a lower resolution. Graphic formats such as EPS are updated periodically, so older applications may use an older graphic standard that newer Printing interpreters may not understand.

Hope this helps
Vince McHugh


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