What Is a Print Spooler?

When trying to fix problems with a printer connected to a Windows computer, it helps to understand some of the software components that make up the printing process. The most important is the print spooler, a software interface that controls the order in which documents are printed. It manages printing in the background while you continue to use your computer. If you click Print and nothing comes out of the printer, it could be because the print spooler is hung up and needs to be reset.

What Is a Print Spooler?
Image Credit: baloon111/iStock/GettyImages

Print Spooler Overview

The print spooler is a software service that manages the printing process. The spooler accepts print jobs from the computer and makes sure that printer resources are available. It also schedules the order in which jobs are sent to the print queue for printing. In the early days of personal computers, you had to wait until a document printed before you could do anything else. Thanks to modern print spoolers, the printing process has minimal impact on user productivity.

Stuck in the Print Queue

The print queue is basically a list of print jobs that are waiting to be printed. The queue is displayed in a dialog that can be accessed after you specify files for printing. After a job prints, it's removed from the list of waiting jobs in the queue. When a job stays in the queue without printing, first check the printer for problems such as lack of ink or paper. If there are no visible printer issues, there could be something wrong with the files in the print job. In this case, other documents print correctly, and you can remove the job that doesn't print from the queue.

Steps to Clear Print Queue

When all the print jobs in the queue appear to be stuck, the culprit could be the print spooler. The spooler may be hung or may have encountered an error it can't handle. The presence of print jobs that stay in the queue without printing but can't be deleted is a symptom of a spooler problem.

If a print job won't delete in Windows 10, Microsoft recommends these steps:

  1. Cycle printer power by turning off and unplugging the printer, waiting 30 seconds and then powering it back on.

  2. Check the printer connection. If the printer is wired, make sure the cable is connected. If wireless, check the computer's wireless network and run the printer's wireless diagnostics.

  3. Remove and reinstall the printer using the Remove Device and Add Device commands in the Printers and Scanners function in Windows Settings.

  4. Update the printer driver by visiting the printer manufacturer's website and downloading the latest version.

  5. Run the Microsoft printing troubleshooter available on the Microsoft Support website.

If print jobs still show up in the print queue after these five steps are completed and nothing is printing, Microsoft recommends clearing and resetting the print spooler. This is done through the Services desktop app. Instructions for using the app in Windows 10 to reset the print spooler can be found on the Microsoft Support website. The app is not available for Windows 7 and earlier versions.

Check for Spooler Diagnostic Tools

Some printer manufacturers provide free software tools to help solve problems with their printers. For example, Hewlett Packard provides HP Print and Scan Doctor on its website for users of the company's printers and scanners. Once downloaded, the tool can detect, diagnose and attempt to repair printing issues caused by hardware or software. Downloading and running this type of tool may fix print spooler problems without requiring you to access Windows Services.

references