Find out how you can solve common office printer problems.

Many of us take our hard-working printers for granted, until they stop printing.  Often all it takes is a little maintenance and a few tricks to avoid the paper jams and other common printer errors.

Printer won’t print 

When your printer won't print, go through the following checks:

  • Check the power; make sure the printer is on.
  • Make sure all cables are securely connected.
  • Check to see that the printer is installed on your computer. You may need to reinstall it if it doesn't appear in Printer Options.

Printer paper jam 

Your printer will let you know it has a paper jam. Follow your manufacturer's instructions, which are generally:

  • Open the printer and gently remove any trapped paper.
  • Keep an eye out for small pieces that can clog the paper feed.

You can prevent paper jams by fanning paper before placing it in the tray and keeping both the paper and the printer in a cool, dry place.

You can also use compressed air or a vacuum to remove trapped dust and debris that could cause paper to jam.

Poor print quality 

Faded, blurred or otherwise unacceptable printouts are often easily repaired.

  • Remove and inspect ink cartridges or toner cartridges. Low ink or toner levels can compromise prints, particularly photos.
  • Install new cartridges, taking care to use the correct model number for your printer, and be sure they are seated correctly.

Smears and streaks can also be caused by a dirty print head. If your printer has a self-cleaning application, you can find it on your computer by hitting “Control”, “Printers” and selecting the drop-down menu for your printer.

If necessary, most print heads are easily accessible and can be cleaned with a small bit of water or isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol to remove excess ink. Let the printer sit overnight, then run the self-cleaning utility again. Refer to your specific printer manual.

Getting into the habit of wiping down your printer will keep dust and other trouble-making matter away, and will extend the life of your printer. Even so, printers have moving parts, and the most durable machines will need parts repaired or replaced after repeated use.