How to Figure Out Why a Windows Printer Won't Print

If your printer turns out perfect pages when you have it perform a self-test, but all you get is an error code when you try to print from Windows, you've got a communication problem. Here's how to get your PC and printer talking again.

Step

Make sure your printer cable is securely connected between the PC and printer. The cable should be less than 10 feet (3 m) long.

Step

Check for any bent pins on the printer cable. If you find any, straighten them with needle-nose pliers.

Step

If you aren't sure about your cable, try swapping it with one from another printer. If the printer suddenly starts working, you know that your original cable is defective.

Step

If you're replacing a parallel cable, be sure to get an IEEE 1284 (look at the packaging label or ask a salesperson). Older cables often won't work in newer printers, even though they might look like they should.

Step

Check the Web site for your printer's manufacturer and download the latest version of the driver software for your printer.

Step

Open the Printers folder through the Start, Settings menus.

Step

Right-click on the icon for your printer.

Step

Choose Delete.

Step

Double-click on the Add Printer icon in the Printers folder.

Step

Follow the Add Printer wizard directions to reinstall the driver software.

Step

Open the Printers folder through the Start, Settings menus.

Step

Right-click on the icon for your printer, then select Properties.

Step

Verify that all of your printer's properties are configured as recommended by your printer's manufacturer. You can look up these guidelines in the documentation that came with your printer or, if you've misplaced it, on the manufacturer's Web site.

Step

Right-click on My Computer and select Properties (in Windows 2000, you'll need to then click on the Hardware tab).

Step

Go to Device Manager.

Step

Double-click on Ports (COM and LPT).

Step

Double-click on Printer Port (LPT1) and select the Resources tab.

Step

Check the "Conflicting device list" box for an interrupt request line (IRQ) conflict. No other device should be using the same IRQ as the printer port.

Step

If you find a conflict, disable the offending device or assign it a new IRQ. To disable a device, find it in Device Manager, open its Properties dialog box, select the General tab and check "Disable in this hardware profile."

Step

Windows must be off, so restart your computer to a DOS command prompt. In Windows 95, press F8 when you see the words "Starting Windows 95" appear, then choose Safe Mode Command Prompt Only from the Startup menu.

Step

In Windows 98, restart your computer, press and hold down the Control key after your computer completes the Power-On Self- Test, then choose Safe Mode Command Prompt Only from the Startup menu.

Step

At the command prompt, type the word "set," then press Enter.

Step

Write down the location (the DOS file path) of the TEMP variable.

Step

Change your directory to the folder you noted in step 4. For example, if TEMP is set to C:WindowsTemp, you'll type "cd windowstemp" and then press Enter.

Step

Once you're in the Temp folder, you can delete any temporary files that might be there, by typing "del *.tmp" and then pressing Enter. Don't delete these files while Windows is running, because Windows 95/98 or a Windows-based program might be using one of them.

Step

Type "cd windowsspoolprinters" and then press Enter to switch to the spool folder.

Step

Delete any spool files you find here by typing "del *.spl" and then pressing Enter.