Get to know how to use printers

Printing is an essential service in the current information processing and documentation era where printers have become indispensable tools in offices and other business areas as well as homes.
A modern printer
A modern printer

Printing is an essential service in the current information processing and documentation era where printers have become indispensable tools in offices and other business areas as well as homes.

In our last article on ‘maintaining your own computer’, we promised to update you on printer installation and troubleshooting, after finding it relevant to the growing demands of the knowledge sector.

The wrong installation or failure of a printer in a busy office can cause an expensive breakdown in production and frustration to the staff that mainly depends on printing for any output.

Take for instance a busy media house. The cycle of news production involves recording data from the field, typing and editing it using computer programs and printing the final output for publishing or broadcasting via sound media.

In such a busy scenario printer breakdowns are the last thing needed as they will only delay production leading to poor news output, to the disappointment of the public.

It is therefore vital to ensure that all the personnel in contact with printers are well conversant with the installation, maintenance and troubleshooting of these gadgets so as to handle any resultant problems.

The printer is one ICT tool that needs constant checking and maintenance as it can easily run out of paper or ink, get disconnected or deleted by mistake and the IT officer will not be available to tackle each and every qualm from the users.

There are various types of printers depending on their manufacturing companies for instance HP, Xerox and Dell.

These are subdivided into several categories with different specifications according to the printing needs of an organization. However they are made to suit all types of Computers and Operating Systems (what you need is a driver for that specific Operating System).

The choice and installation of a printer is normally the duty of an organization’s IT officer or the supplier of the printer.


The Windows Operating System family requires a ‘Printer Driver’ to allow communication and the setting up of printer parameters. Windows does have some drivers as standard, but normally the Printer manufacturer will supply a driver disk with the printer.

A printer can be installed in the 3 following ways;
1. Let Windows ‘PLUG and PLAY’ install it;
2. Run the ‘setup’ on the printer driver disk;
3. By double clicking on the ‘ADD PRINTER’ icon in the PRINTERS window. You have to follow the sequence of instructions, which mainly involve clicking ‘Next’ as prompted by the wizard under the guidance of the IT officer for first-time installation.

Assuming that the printer with the right specifications is installed along with the correct driver, we will look at a few simple techniques that will solve many causes of printer breakdowns.

Does it have paper?

  Be sure the paper is installed correctly and there is enough of it.  Most printers have a paper-out detector. The most common one is an orange blinking light.

Is it jammed?  Always read the manual on how to clear a jam. You can easily damage a printer or even get hurt, if you do not follow instructions and are not careful.  Turn the power off-unplug it before you manually start pulling jammed paper out of the machine.  If jams persist, or the printer won’t feed paper, you need professional help.

Changing to a different kind of paper may help.  Refer to your user manual for guidance.

Is it wedged?  The printer memory could be full or there may be a glitch caused by a power spike.  Turn-off the printer, wait a few seconds and turn it back on.

Does it have ink or toner?  Is the Ink cartridge full, ribbon installed correctly, or laser cartridge full?  An ink jet printer may have a black and a color cartridge. Check both of them or at least set the printer to use a cartridge with ink in it.

  You can usually extend the life of a laser cartridge long enough to order a new one by removing the cartridge and gently shaking it side-to-side to redistribute the tone. 

Is it clean?  Most ink jet printers have a simple user procedure for cleaning the print heads.  You may have to clean them periodically or after the printer has been idle for a few days or weeks. 

According to Nebula Support Team, other techniques that can be employed in troubleshooting printers are as follows:
Reboot your computer. This generally solves most printing problems.

If it’s not printing, or you’re getting a message about the Fax printer, change your default printer: Start - Settings - Printers/Faxes. Right-click the printer you want, and then select (left-click) Set as Default.

Check and make sure all connections going to and coming from the printer are firmly in place. If it is a network printer, ensure the lights are blinking on the Network port otherwise you might have to replace the cable or plug it correctly into the Switch.

Check that the printer is on-line:
Start - Settings - Printers, right-click the printer. Select the ‘connect’ option if it is disconnected.
If there isn’t a checkmark by “Set as Default”, left-click that option to select it.

Print a test page. If that prints and the application you are using does not, you probably will need to contact the IT department.

These instructions will let you print a test page for most printers:
Start - Settings - Printer
1. Right-click the printer name, left-click Properties
2. Click on the Print Test Page button.

Turn off your printer for 10 seconds and turn it back on. Make a note of any error messages or flashing lights when the printer is turned back on.

If your printer is connected directly to another computer, try rebooting that computer.

You may wish to uninstall and then re-install your printer.
To uninstall:
Start - Settings - Printers/faxes, right-click the Printer
Select (left-click) Delete; say Yes to delete related files, if asked.

If the printer is directly connected to your computer, you can usually uninstall it and then restart your computer, and Windows XP will auto-install it.


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