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Troubleshooting Inkjet Printers

How many times have you had an issue with your inkjet printer and gotten so frustrated that you just wanted to throw it out the window? Even the most minor printing glitches can cause monumental headaches unless you know how to properly troubleshoot problems with your inkjet printer. Use the following tips to help solve common inkjet printing problems the next time you, or your printer, are in a jam.

Connection Loss

If your printer fails to respond to a job, check that all cables are connected properly and be sure that the printer is turned on. If all everything is connected properly and powered up, go to the computer's "control panel" from the "start" menu. Choose "printers" and be sure that your printer is selected as the default.

If everything checks out in the control panel, right click on your printer icon and select "properties." Click on the "details" or "port" tab and make sure that the correct port is checked off. Next, double click on the printer icon, which will bring up a list of current jobs in the print queue. Cancel all documents and try printing again. If your printer is attached by USB port, you may try connecting to other USB ports.


If your printer is spitting out pages full of strange characters, symbols, or strange formatting, your inkjet printer's drivers may be outdated, incompatible with your operating system or corrupt. Drivers are important to the proper function of your inkjet printer and it is best to check for updates regularly. Check the manufacturer's website for upgrades.

Streaked Prints

Sometimes, your inkjet printer may begin printing pages riddled with unintended lines and streaks of color, which could mean one of a few problems:

Poor Alignment: If your inkjet printer's heads are out of alignment, which will result in streaking, you can correct the problem by using the alignment tool in your printer's control panel.

Dirty Printer: If the ink streaks appear along the edges of your page, ink may be present on the rollers and other working parts of your printer and cleaning would be required. Most inkjet printer manuals will explain how to clean your device. If you cannot find cleaning instructions, simply wipe any contaminated parts with a dry, lint-free cloth.

Lost Colors

Often, clogged printer heads may be mistaken for poor alignment. However, if colors are missing from your prints or the color seems off, you may want to use the printer's head-cleaning tool. If this method does not work, the following may be required.

Replace the Ink Cartridge: You may have run out of a certain ink color.

Replace Faulty Ink Heads: If your inkjet printer's heads are faulty, you may have to return the printer to the manufacturer for repair. This can be expensive without a warranty, so you may consider buying a new printer.

Dirty printer: There may be a build-up of dust and debris collected on your inkjet printer heads, which can be cleaned using a soft brush or cloth.

Ink Cartridges and Paper

Installing a new ink cartridge, particularly third-party cartridges made by a manufacturer other than your printer's, can sometimes cause problems with your inkjet printer including a decline in print quality or recognition issues. If you run into issues after installing a new cartridge, try the following:

Be sure you have removed any tape or covers from the cartridge.

Be sure that the cartridges are new, as ink cartridges have a short shelf life.

Most inkjet cartridges are not designed for ink refills. However, those that are may damage your printer, particularly if they are from a third-party manufacturer. If a refillable ink cartridge damages your printer, you will likely void any warranties issued by your printer's manufacturer.

Paper feeds and jams are usually indicated by a light or on-screen message. To avoid such problems be sure that the paper you use is free of dust and creases. Also be sure that the paper feed tray is installed properly and that you are using the correct paper size.

These are just a few of the most common problems that may arise when using an inkjet printer. If the above troubleshooting recommendations do not help or do address your specific problem, you can always call the manufacturer or visit the manufacturer's website for additional help.

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