Computer Hardware

This article offers trouble-shooting procedures for common printer problems.

Trouble-shooting Printer Problems

Printer problems can be caused either by hardware or software. The best way to trouble-shoot them is to "divide and conquer", beginning with the hardware.

Trouble-shooting hardware

Attempt printing directly to the hardware from a DOS prompt:
  1. Start Button > Run > COMMAND
  2. At the DOS prompt, type:

    DIR >PRN

  3. Press Enter

If printed output is obtained then the hardware is not to blame; proceed to troubleshoot software.

If nothing prints, the problem is almost certainly with hardware. Trouble-shoot the following three most probable causes:

Cause Action
Printer cable malfunctioning Substitute a different cable
Printer malfunctioning Try printer with another computer, or substitute a different printer.
Parallel port malfunctioning Try printer with a different computer

Trouble-shooting software

After eliminating hardware problems, begin trouble-shooting the software.

Try printing several different Windows applications. If the printer doesn't work with any of them, trouble-shoot the printer driver.

  1. Right-click on My Computer
  2. Click on Properties
  3. Click on the Hardware Tab
  4. Click on the Device Manager button in the Device Manager section
  5. In Device Manager, expand Ports (COM & LPT)
  6. Double-click on Printer Port (LPT1)
  7. Click on the General tab of the Printer Port properties dialogue
  8. Click on the Troubleshooter button and follow the instructions

If the printer works with other applications, trouble-shoot the application with the problem:

  1. Open the application with printing problem
  2. Go to File > Print
  3. In the application's Print dialogue box find the name of the printer
  4. Be sure this is the printer to which you are trying to print
  5. Go to Start Button > Settings > Printers
  6. In the Control Panel's Printers dialogue box, select the printer
  7. Look at the printer's status and correct any problems listed such as paper not loaded
  8. On the File menu, select the printer and set it as the default if it is not already selected
  9. Try printing again


Bruce Miller, 2005, 2014