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Common Printing Problems

Printing ProblemsPrinting problems are sometimes the most frustrating network problems. The problems can be caused by many different things including poorly written printer driver software. The first thing to do when confronted with this problem is to make sure you have the latest printer driver from the manufacturer. It is also important that all of the computers that will be printing to the printer have the same version of the printer driver. Also do not use the native Windows printer driver on one computer and the manufacturer's driver on another. Properly configuring the printer port, security settings, and the spool settings will also greatly reduce the problems. Below are some of the issues we have come across over the years.

Check the Security Settings.

In many cases granting the group "Everyone" or, if the computer is part of a Windows domain, the group the user belongs to such as "Domain Users" "Manage Printers" and "Manage Documents" rights to the printer will fix the problems. I know on managed networks this will allow anyone to change the printer settings but the other choice is to buy a new printer with properly written drivers.

Printer software that shows a dialog box asking you to install paper or other diagnostic messages may fail to print if the person does not have full rights to the printer. We came across this problem on Windows 7 the 64-bit version when we tried to install an HP P1006. When a user tried to print an envelope from Microsoft Word it would fail because the printer was not allowed to open a dialog box that requested the envelope to be placed in the manual feed tray. We also found that print jobs were taking a long time to go to the printer.

There is also a security issue where the printer will keep repeating the print job causing multiple pages to print. Apparently the computer is not accepting or perhaps misinterpreting the acknowledgement that the job is finished. We have found this to be the case with Windows 7 32-bit and HP LaserJet 1022n network printers.

Check the Spool Setting.

We have found it is better to spool the entire print job before sending it to the printer. This way if a print job is not completed due to a program or network error, in most cases other users can still print. We have found this to be especially true if you are printing from Internet web pages.

Check the Printer Cable

If you are using a parallel port for the printer make sure you use the correct cable. Older dot-matrix and laser printers can use just about any type of parallel printer cable. However, laser and inkjet printers require parallel cables that are IEEE 1284 compliant. It is easy to tell if the cable is IEEE 1284 compliant because it will be labeled on the connector or the cable itself. For a full description of the IEEE 1284 specification please visit the IEEE Home page by clicking here.

Properly Configure the Port

Properly configuring the parallel port is another major source of problems. Most motherboards and add-in parallel port cards will give you several options for configuring the port. Frequently the default is not going to be what you need. We have also found that many times it is best just to set the port to "Compatibility Mode", although different printers do require different settings.

Compatibility Mode (Also known as "Centronics" or standard mode)
This mode transfers data in one direction only, from your PC to the peripheral (forward direction).
Nibble Mode
This mode transfers data in one direction only, from the peripheral to the PC (reverse direction).
Byte Mode (Also known as bi-directional)
Transfers data in both the forward and reverse direction.
Enhanced Parallel Port Mode (EPP)
Transfers data bi-directionally at up to 2MB/sec. Primarily CD-ROMs, tape drives, removable drives, and other non-printer devices use this mode.
Enhanced Capability Port Mode (ECP)
Bi-directional data transfer with DMA support. New generation printers and scanners use this mode.