Troubleshooting Printers | CompTIA A+ 220-1001 | 5.6

In this video you will learn about common issues associated with printers.


There are a variety of reasons as to how streaks & smudges can be an issue and a lot of these reasons are mostly dependent upon the type of printer that is in use.  Here are some of the various reasons for streaks in various types of printers:

  • Laser:  Low toner is typically the cause for uneven printing, blank spots, & random streaks.  Solution is to remove the toner cartridge and shake it up a little to redistribute the toner.  Long vertical streaks across the page are usually caused by damage to the imaging drum.  Solution is to replace the drum or toner cartridge.
  • Inkjet:  Dirty printheads or paper rollers, incorrect head gap settings, & incorrect resolution & media settings are the typical reasons for smudges & streaks.  Solution is to clean the printheads, use a cleaning sheet to clean the paper rollers, check the print resolution settings in the operating system Printer Properties.
  • Thermal:  Media & printheads are the typical problems for producing streaks with thermal printers.  Replace the media if the coating is of poor quality.  If preprinted ink on the media sticks to the printhead, replace the media with media printing using heat-resistant ink.  Clean the heating element if it is dirty.
  • Impact:  Dried-out ribbons are usually the cause for streaks being produced in impact printers.  If the printer has an ink reservoir & it is empty, replace the ink.  If not, then replace the ribbon.

Faded Prints

There are a variety of reasons as to how faded prints can be an issue and a lot of these reasons are mostly dependent upon the type of printer that is in use.  Here are some of the various reasons for faded prints in various types of printers:

  • Laser:  Set the printer in a mode that uses less toner.  Ensure that the printer is set to use normal print modes for final drafts.  Also, check the toner levels and operation of the toner belt.
  • Inkjet:  If you haven’t used the printer in a while, check to make sure that print nozzles are not clogged and that all of the ink colors have not run out.  Be sure to clean the nozzles and use the nozzle check utility to ensure proper operation.  Also replace any empty ink cartridges.
  • Thermal:  Ensure that the ribbon is installed correctly and not installed backwards.  If there is still an issue with faded prints, make sure you are using the proper ribbon with the printer.
  • Impact:  Check to ensure that the ribbon is not dried out, if so, replace the ribbon.  Check to ensure that the head gaps are not set too wide apart in order to improve printing & protect the printhead from damage.

Ghost Images

Ghost printing happens when an image or text is repeated more than once on a printed page.  This is often caused by an issue with a laser printer’s toner cartridge, imaging drum wiper blade, or the fusing unit.  To fix, first consult the service manual for the printer and then clean or replace the defective component.

Toner Not Fused to the Paper

Toner in a laser printer not being fused to paper is the result of a failed fuser.  Fusers are designed to heat the paper to allow for the toner to fuse to the paper.  If the toner ink is not sticking to the paper, replace the fuser.

Creased Paper

Incorrect adjustments to the paper guides that feed paper to the printer are the typical cause for creased paper.  Ensure that the paper guides are adjusted to correct width to prevent the paper from moving side to side during the print process which can produce creased paper.

Paper Not Feeding

Paper not feeding can vary by printer:

  • Inkjet, laser, or impact printers:  Check paper’s positioning in the paper tray.  Check to ensure that paper pickup rollers are still functional.
  • Impact & thermal:  Check tension rollers and tractor-feed mechanism to ensure they are operational. 

Paper Jam

Paper jams can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Paper path issues:  Paper moving through inkjet, laser, and dot-matrix (impact) printers typically follow a complex path of passing by various rollers and/or push tractors.  The more passes the paper makes, the higher the chance of the paper jamming.  If the printer offers a straight-through path as to where the printer has a rear paper tray that can be used to override the main paper tray to reduce the print path, use the rear paper tray in conjunction with the main paper tray.
  • Paper loading, paper type & media thickness:  Ensure that the proper paper type and proper paper thickness is being loaded properly.
  • Media caught inside the printer:  Avoid using creased and damp paper for printing to prevent the paper from getting jammed up inside of the printer or ripping apart during the print process.  If that happens, you have to clear out the jammed up paper and/or debris before continuing with the print process.

No Connectivity

Issues with printer connectivity are as follows:

  • Loose printer or network cables
  • Router or switch failures
  • Network settings for the printer such as
    • SSID settings
    • Ad hoc settings
    • Weak WiFi signal

Garbled Characters on Paper

Garbled characters (gibberish characters) are the result of various reasons:

  • Check to ensure proper print drivers are installed
  • If the printer can be used in emulation mode
    • Ensure correct print drivers are installed and configured properly
  • If you use a parallel printer cable, this can produce garbled characters as well.

Vertical Lines on Page

Vertical lines can be caused by a variety of issues such as:

  • Laser:
    • Debris stuck on imaging drum
    • Surface damage to imaging drum
    • Dirty components in printer (fuser, paper, rollers, charging rollers, etc)
    • Replace imaging drum & clean other components
  • Inkjet:
    • Caused by feed roller
    • Clean feed rollers
  • Thermal:
    • Dirty heating element
    • Failure of heating element
    • Angled streaks can be caused by creased ribbon
    • Adjust ribbon feed mechanism
  • Impact:
    • Dirt on the paper
    • Replace the paper

Backed-Up Print Queue

Backed-up print queues are caused by:

  • Print spooler switching to offline mode
  • Printer goes offline
  • Printer is turned off
  • Printer has stopped for some other reason

Print queues are filled up until the print jobs are dealt with.

  • Printer goes back on, release print jobs
  • Kill all print jobs
  • Kill selected print jobs

To access the print queue, open the Printer icon in the notification area or go to Printers or Devices and Printers and open the printer icon.

Low Memory Errors

Low memory errors are caused by attempting to print a page in a laser printer that requires more memory than the laser printer contains.  The laser printer will attempt to print the page, but then stop once it reaches its memory limit.  The laser printer will then display a low memory error message or a blinking error status light which will then require for you to manually eject the page from the printer with only a portion of the page being printed.  To resolve this issue, use the printer’s data compression which will cause the printer to print more pages while slowing down the print process.  You can successfully do this by:

  • Reducing the resolution of the print job.
  • Reducing the size or eliminating graphics on the page
  • Converting color photos to black & white before beginning the print job.
  • Best solution is to add more RAM to the printer.

Access Denied

An access denied message means that the network printer you are attempting to print to is preventing your account from gaining access to use the printer.  Check with your admin to get rights to print to the printer.

Printer Will Not Print

If a printer will not print:

  • Ensure that you are attempting to print to the correct printer if using a networked printer.
  • Check the toner cartridge if using a laser printer and it’s only producing blank prints.
  • Check to make sure that the networked printer hasn’t been restricted to certain hours of activity.
  • Check to make sure that the correct printer port has been selected when manually setting up a printer.
  • Check printer cables to make sure they are correctly connected & not damaged.
  • If using a mobile device to print, make sure you have a print app installed that matches your brand/model of printer.

Color Prints in Wrong Print Color

The typical issues that may cause the wrong print color in color prints is:

  • Inkjet:  Clogged printheads
  • Laser:  Low or empty toner cartridge

Use the printer’s Window’s interface for managing the print preferences such as ink levels, color management, cleaning and aligning print heads, nozzle checks, conditions of rollers, etc.

Unable to Install Printer

The inability to install a printer is most likely due to a user not having administrative privileges to install a printer.  Check with your system or network administrator about whether or not you are allowed to have elevated privileges to install printers.

Printing Blank Pages

If a printer is printing blank pages, check the following:

  • Check to ensure that the tape on the toner cartridge has been removed prior to printing.
  • Check to ensure that the printer is not feeding multiple sheets at a  time during the print process.  Ensure that paper is not sticking together.
  • Check the network configurations if using a network printer.

No Image on Printer Display

Resolving issues of no image on the printer display:

  • Ensure that the printer is powered on & then wake the display up by pressing a button to “wake it up”.
  • If printing directly from a memory card, ensure that the images on the memory card are in the proper file format prior to printing, such as JPEG and not RAW.
  • Check to make sure all cables are properly plugged in and secure.

Failed Jobs in Print Logs

Windows 10 allows for users to track print jobs by way of enabling print logs on a network printer.  To track the print jobs in the Event Viewer:

  • Open Event Viewer
  • In left pane, expand Application & Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > PrintService
  • To enable print:
    • Right-click Operational then select Properties
    • Then check Enable Logging box.