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

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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 1

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


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Step 2

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

Step 3

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 4

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 5

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


Step 6

Open the Printers folder through the Start, Settings menus.

Step 7

Right-click on the icon for your printer.

Step 8

Choose Delete.


Step 9

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

Step 10

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

Step 11

Open the Printers folder through the Start, Settings menus.


Step 12

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

Step 13

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 14

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

Step 15

Go to Device Manager.

Step 16

Double-click on Ports (COM and LPT).


Step 17

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

Step 18

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 19

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 20

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 21

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 22

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


Step 23

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

Step 24

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 25

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 26

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

Step 27

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


Simply turning off the printer for a few seconds to clear its memory can cure a surprising number of printer problems. Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me include a Print Troubleshooter tool. Try printing from a simple text-editing program such as Windows Notepad to rule out a problem with a particular application such as your word processor or graphics program.