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Maybe Your Printer Isn't Broken!

The revolution in computing that put computers in every home is great fun. For many years now, we have become accustomed to having all the computer power we could ever want or need at home for word processing, spreadsheets, entertainment or just to surf the internet. So when something breaks, that can be one of the most infuriating things to put up with.

Your printer that supports what you do with your computer is a quiet component to your hardware profile. When it stops working, it is easy to get that feeling of helplessness and frustration. You buy a good printer because it is not prone to break. When you hit the print function on your word processor or from other software, you expect it to work every time. Now, naturally, there are times when you have to put more paper in or, worst case, get a new toner cartridge. But beyond that, most of us are clueless about what to do when the printer breaks.

When that printer simply will not print, that headache of getting a repairman out to look at the printer and the expense of a repair plus living without the printer or, worst case, having to buy a new printer all come to mind. It doesn’t take long to start thinking about whether planned obsolescence caused your printer to break just to make you have to buy a new one. But then after you have gone through all of that anger and frustration, most of us go ahead and start looking for someone who can fix our printer.

There is good news. Many times the problem with the printer is something that can be easily fixed without bringing in the local geeks from the computer repair store. The majority of printer problems are things that can be addressed rather quickly by taking a few simple steps to get the printer and the computer working together again. If you call a computer repair consultant, they will always have you step through some basic diagnostics to see if the problem can be solved easily. So why not know what those diagnostics are and do them yourself so you can get your printer working quickly and best of all, for free.

It is a Machine After All.

It is sometimes easy to forget that your computer, your printer and the rest of the tools that perform the magic that happens online each day are all machines. When it comes to your printer, in most cases that simple machine isn’t that much different from an old-fashioned typewriter or office copier. In most cases, it is connected by a wire that runs from a plug from the back of your printer to the back of your computer.

That wire can be the source of your printer “break down” in a very simple way that is easy to fix. If the connection to the printer or to the computer gets loosened, then the messages going back and forth between the two machines is disrupted and all printing will come to a halt.

It could be something as common as the vibrations from printing documents causing that connection to get loose to as infrequent as the cat walking behind the computer and bumping the cable. But it can be a perplexing problem because, for some reason, the printer cable is something we never consider when it comes to the operation of the printer.

If your printer stops working, it is an easy enough step to simply check the connections of the computer cable. In fact, its not a bad idea to pull the plug out and plug it in firmly again. This is called “re-seating” the connection and it creates a tight fit for the plug, which often can restore full operation of your printer in this one simple step.

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The process is as simple as it sounds. Even when the problem is still happening, you can go to the printer and find the connection to the cable that runs to the computer. Simply pull out the plug from the printer and push it back in nice and secure. If that doesn’t fix the problem, repeat the process at the computer side.

Printer Jams

Maybe the most common printer problem you can get is a jam inside the printer. After all, the life of a printer calls for it to pull hundreds of pieces of paper through the inside of the printer to create the reports you want. If one piece of paper crumples up inside the printer, that will stop things in their tracks.

Don’t be afraid to get to know the housing of your printer. Usually there are two doors that will open outward that will give you access to the front or the back of the printer. There are hinged and they usually just close with a snap so there is no real hindrance to you looking inside your printer. If your printer has a jam or you suspect it does, just open those doors and follow the path the paper would travel from the feeder tray to the stacker for finished work. Jams will usually happen in the early part of that journey.

When you find crunched up paper inside your printer, just be gentle so you can remove the debris carefully. Your goal is to get all of the paper scraps out without damaging the inner workings of your printer. Sometimes a small needle nose pliers or a tweezers help in getting small pieces of paper that are lodged further inside the printer. Clean out all of the paper jam and inspect everywhere you can look to see if you got it all. It also pays to keep a can of compressed air that you can use to spray out the inside of the printer regularly. Even paper dust can build up and give your printer problems.

When all is clear, just reload the paper tray and close all the doors. Sometimes your printer might require a reset. But once the printer can sense that the path of the paper is clear, it can resume printing with no further problems.

The Hand Shake

It will come as no surprise to you that your printer and your computer are communicating all the time. When you turn your computer on, it is common to hear your printer make a noise that sounds a little like a sigh when it becomes aware that the computer is working. What happens is that as soon as the computer is powered up, it sends out a signal to the printer basically saying, “Hello Mr. Printer. Are you ready?” If the printer is powered on and in good working order, it sends back a signal to say, “Yes Mr. Computer. Bring it on.” That little exchange (which isn’t nearly as cute as our description) is called a “handshake”. Throughout your session and as long as both machines are on, any time there is a change of status, they exchange messages like this.

One of the problems that sometimes happens is when that dialog between the computer and the printer becomes garbled. When the computer can no longer understand what the printer is telling it, they cannot work together as a team to produce your reports. So along with knowing how to re-seat the cables and how to clear a printer jam, knowing how to re-establish that handshake is a big skill that can save you a lot of printer service calls. Amazingly, the process is very simple to do. Simply…

Turn off the computer and the printer.

Check the cables and the printer for jams as we already talked about.

Turn on the printer.

Turn on the computer.

This is a simple process called a “cold boot” that allows both machines to introduce each other from scratch. The process of powering them down and back up also clears the channels of communications so they can have a nice clear conversation when the time comes for them to get to work again.

These simple procedures are likely to fix well 80% or more of your printer problems. Along with changing the toner cartridge and reloading the printer paper tray, these are essential skills for any computer owner. And now that you have them, you are all set to keep your printer working at top-notch quality day in and day out for a long time to come.