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How to fix 5 common printing problems in Windows 10

Printing problems in Windows 10 are fairly common and can be a nuisance for IT admins. Here are five issues you may run into and how to troubleshoot them.

A common problem with Windows 10 is printer support. As an IT admin, printing issues are likely one of your biggest IT headaches.

Below are five common printing problems in Windows 10 and some advice for troubleshooting those problems.

Printer output is not what the user expected

When a user clicks Print and the resulting hard copy does not meet the user's expectations, there can be any number of underlying causes. Sometimes, the problem can be attributed to a specific application. This is especially true for web browsers. After all, there is a reason why many sites offer printer-friendly versions of certain pages.

If a user is printing from an application that is known to produce reliably good print quality, then you should check to see if the computer is using the correct print driver. In some cases, an incorrect print driver will cause the printer to print gibberish. In other cases, the printer may print basic text, but fail to print graphics or special fonts correctly.

If Windows is using the correct driver, see if the driver is a Microsoft driver or a driver that has been supplied by the printer manufacturer. In some cases, the manufacturer's driver will provide functionality the built-in Windows driver does not. If the device is using the manufacturer's driver, make sure it is up to date.

When the user clicks Print, nothing happens

If nothing happens when a user clicks Print, then the print spooler may have failed. Enter the Services.msc command at the Windows Run prompt. This will open the Service Control Manager. Make sure the Print Spooler service is set to start automatically and the service is running.

Printer is out of paper or ink, or has lost network connectivity

If nobody is able to print to a specific printer, then it's best to begin by checking the printer's status. Depending on the make and model of the printer, it may display the status on the Windows desktop or on the printer itself. A printer will obviously stop printing if it runs out of ink or paper, but there are some other things to check if the printer reports having plenty of ink and paper on hand.

print spooler
Make sure the Print Spooler is running.

Begin by checking the printer's network connectivity. A loss of connectivity will cause print jobs to become stuck in queue. The same thing can happen if there is an IP address conflict. If a print server manages print jobs, then you should make sure the print server is online and it has connectivity to both the printer and the network clients. If the print server is Windows-based, then make sure the Spooler service is running (Figure 1).

In some instances, rebooting a print server may fix a printing problem.

Print queue contains corrupt data

In some instances, rebooting a print server may fix a printing problem.

Occasionally, a print queue can become stuck due to a corrupt print job. When this happens, you will need to clear the print queue's contents. If the user experiencing the problem is running Windows 10 Pro or higher, then the easiest way to fix the problem is to use the Print Management console.

Open the Print Management console (Figure 2), and then navigate through the console tree to Print Servers | <print server name> | Printers.

Print management
The Print Management console.

Now, right-click on the printer and choose the Open Print Queue command. Once the print queue is open, choose the Cancel All Documents command from the Printer menu.

If the affected machine is running an edition of Windows that does not include the Printer Management console, then it is possible to clear the print queue manually. Simply stop the Print Spooler and then delete all of the files from the %WINDIR%\System32\Spool\Printers folder. After doing so, restart the Print Spooler.

Windows has taken the printer offline

If you suspect that Windows may have taken a printer offline, then you can use the Printer Management Console to bring it back online. When the console opens, right-click on the printer with which you are having problems, and select the Open Print Queue command from the shortcut menu. When the print queue window opens, click on the Printer menu and make sure there is no checkmark next to the Use Printer Offline option. If there is a checkmark, then click on Use Printer Offline, and that will remove the checkmark and bring the printer back online.

If none of these techniques fix the printing issue, there is one more trick that you can use. Open the Windows Control Panel and navigate to Hardware and Sound | Devices and Printers. This screen will show you all of the printers that are installed. Right-click on the printer that is experiencing problems, and then select the Troubleshoot command from the shortcut menu. When you do, Windows will attempt to diagnose the problem for you.

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