This post was most recently updated on June 5th, 2020
Printer won’t work? Here’s what to do.
Printers break. Anyone who has ever owned a printer can tell you that. We’re going to walk you through the troubleshooting steps you should follow when your printer won’t work. We will tell you how to fix what you can. If your printer cannot be fixed, then you will know what things to avoid when you buy your next one.
Before doing anything else!
Before you try anything else, shut down the printer. Unplug it. Hold in the power button for fifteen seconds, with the printer still unplugged. This will clear the temporary memory. Plug it back in and turn it on, and see if you fixed the problem.
Problem: My computer shows my printer is offline, or nothing happens when I click print.
If you try to print and NOTHING happens, there are a few things that could be wrong. Follow these steps to fix this issue:
Step 1: Try running a copy without the computer.
If your printer has a flatbed scanner or auto document scanner, try to run a copy using the printer’s built-in copy function. If it works, then you know the printer isn’t broken. There is most likely some type of communication error, so proceed to step 2. If your printer won’t work by itself, it is most likely broken. If resetting the printer doesn’t help, it will probably be cheaper for you to buy a new printer than trying to fix this one.
Step 2: Check your WIFI settings or wired connections.
This is one of the things that sounds stupid but fixes a lot of problems. Check your wireless settings or your cables for wired connections. If your printer loses WIFI connectivity or you are using a faulty cable, reconnect and you will fix your problem. You should also check your connection settings on your computer. If you are printing wirelessly, make sure your computer and printer are on the same network, and your computer is not in airplane mode. Again, it sounds stupid, but a lot of issues are fixed at this step.
Step 3: Update all of your software.
Check your computer’s operating system to be sure there are no updates available. Then log onto your printer manufacturers support tab of their website, and install any software or firmware updates. If none of those works, try uninstalling ALL your printer’s software and reinstalling the latest version from the manufacturer website.
Follow all these steps, and you should be able to fix your connectivity error. If the printer still won’t work, it may be time to start shopping.
Problem: My pages print out blank, with lines missing, or with missing colors.
Step 1: Clean the print head.
DO NOT remove the print head and clean with alcohol. Almost all printers have a built-in, automated cleaning process. Scroll through the printer’s menus and find the maintenance option. You should see a print head cleaning option. Run this option and print a test page.
Step 2: Clean the print head!
Once rarely fixes the issue. I’ve run the print head cleaning eight times before getting results. Epson reps have told me that if you keep running the cleaning, eventually the clog will dislodge. I recommend customers run the automated cleaning ten times before throwing in the towel.
Step 3: Align the printer.
This is many people’s first step for these types of issues. In the maintenance area again, find the alignment option. The printer should print a page for you to place on the scanner, and it will automatically align the print head. Follow the prompts on the printer, then print a test page.
Step 4: Clean it one more time.
For these types of issues, I always recommend one last cleaning after all other avenues have been exhausted. If at this point your printer won’t work, it will need to be replaced, so you have nothing to lose.
Problem: My printer doesn’t recognize my cartridges.
This is a frustrating issue because you usually find it right after putting in new cartridges. See if your printer will allow you to run the print head cleaning. If not, put your old cartridges back in and try again. Don’t buy new cartridges. It is incredibly rare for cartridges to be defective. If you can’t clean the print head and resetting the printer doesn’t help, either the print head or carriage is most likely broken. You need to buy a new printer.
Problem: My pages print dirty/ my printer constantly jams.
If your printer jams constantly or has odd, inky streaks down the page, you probably have dirty rollers. Open the printer to be sure a cartridge hasn’t burst. Next, purchase some type of printer roller cleaning pages, and run them through the printer. To do this, I usually print a blank page from Microsoft Word. Hopefully cleaning your rollers will fix your issues.
My printer won’t work; miscellaneous problems:
Ink doesn’t dry on photo paper.
Make sure you are using photo paper for inkjet printers and not for LaserJet printers. Also, check to be sure you are printing on the correct side of the paper. Most photo paper can only print on one side.
Printhead not detected.
The print head is most likely broken. Try resetting the printer. You can replace most print heads, but it is almost always cheaper to buy a new printer.
Printer stuck in a boot loop
Try resetting the printer. Then search for a firmware update. Search the manufacturer’s web forms for your problem to see if there is a known fix.
Blank pages when printing from a web browser.
Some web browsers, like Google Chrome, are notorious for printing blank or incorrectly formatted pages. Try to download a PDF of what you want to print, and then print that.
Random error messages
Some printers will display long error codes. If you type these into Google, it is almost a guarantee you’ll find a form where others had the same problem. Hopefully, there is a fix.
A final note: value your time. Spending a couple of hours troubleshooting and diagnosing a printer isn’t a waste of time. However, I’ve had customers bring their printers in every day for two weeks asking questions about how to fix something that can’t be fixed. Printers are relatively inexpensive, so know when you cut your losses and find something new.