Printers, Ink, Toner, And Common Issues

It seems like every day we have to print out an invoice, receipt, homework, etc. from our computer and usually when we need that printed information right away, BAM! Printing error or paper jam. Don’t even get me started on the “PC Load Letter.” But before we go all “Office Space” on our favorite piece of printing plastic and rubber, why don’t we take a deeper look at the ins and outs of this headache machine. With the knowledge of some of the stuff below, maybe it will keep you off hold with tech support and instead getting your hands dirty quickly fixing the issue yourself.

Ink And Toner

As anyone who has ever had to deal with these fine pieces of equipment know, Ink or Toner are the lifeblood of the printer. Without it, they only print blank pages or sometimes will error out and not even print at all. As the name suggests, Ink is what is used by an Inkjet printer while Toner is consumed by Laser printers. There are a lot of different reasons for choosing one type of printer or the other when purchasing such as workload, number of users, frequency of use, etc. but odds are you will run into both of these either at work, school, or a home office.

Ink has a shelf life while the majority Toner will last for a long time. Some times either one will clot up or a piece of debris will block the hole where the Ink/Toner is supposed to come out. If you are experiencing light or splotchy prints, try removing each of the Ink/Toner cartridges and giving them a good shake. If they go back to printing badly after a few prints, it may be time to replace them. If you are printing and the paper comes out blank, you may be out of Ink/Toner or need to clean the print head because it isn’t sticking to the page. To do that, consult your manual as each printer will go about it a little differently. Some you can do directly from the printer either from its LCD screen or holding a certain button while others you will use their software package installed on your PC.

Also, when the time comes to purchase new Ink or Toner, you might realize that it is outrageously expensive. Do not fear, you have more options than what Wal-Mart has on display. My friends over at have a large selection of Ink and Toner, both OEM and aftermarket. The aftermarket is usually half the price of the original Ink or Toner and works just as good. If for some reason you have an issue with their aftermarket toner, they will replace it free of charge. Or if you really wanted to save money, you could refill the old cartridges yourself……

Paper Woes

So your Ink/Toner levels are good because you have new or relatively new cartridges installed but your paper stock is giving you fits. The paper itself can cause a headache if it isn’t feeding properly or the printer is expecting it to be a certain size. Always double check the printing preferences on your PC and/or your printer(if capable) to make sure that it is set up to print using 8.5″ x 11″ paper(normal printing paper). If it is set to receive letters or card stock, there will definitely be issues in loading and printing. Change it to whichever you need for your current print job. Changing these settings will also be in the manual. If you do not have the physical manual from the printer, most major printer manufacturers have an online PDF version on there website.

Did you know that paper is supposed to be kept in a certain temperature and humidity to function properly? Most people overlook this simple step and wonder why their high dollar printer keeps jamming. According to Xerox, printing stock is to be kept between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit and within a humidity of 35 to 55 percent. Check out their other advice for care and handling on this webpage.

What if your printer is constantly jamming or trying to eat multiple pieces of paper simultaneously? Could be as simple as “sticky paper syndrome.” Before you insert new paper into the printer, “fan” the paper out to separate the pages and make sure none of them are sticking together. Then make sure they are stacked neatly again and insert them into the tray. Also, look for any debris that may be in the paper path or on the tray. A can of compressed air can save you a big hassle. Remove all the paper and Ink/Toner and open up the top or back of the printer, wherever the paper path is. If you are unsure, your manual will also show you in a picture the path the paper will take through the printer. A good blast of compressed air may dislodge any possible particles that may be augmenting the paper path or how it sits in the paper tray.

Power Issues

So for some reason or another, you notice that your printer refuses to turn on. You have checked the two most obvious things, the power cord is plugged into the wall outlet and into the back of the printer but still no dice. Most smaller printers are powered with a power adapter somewhat similar to laptop AC adapter. These, as with laptops, can be the source of the failure. Cats and dogs sometimes like to use them as chew toys ruining the wires and other times the power brick(see DC converter) just gives up the ghost. In either case, you can easily check with a multimeter. If you don’t have one, you can usually purchase one at your local convenience store, I know Wal-Mart has them for around $10 for a cheap one. Just simply put one lead into the “positive” hole on the power cord and the other in the “negative” to measure if any voltage is coming out of the adapter. I put positive and negative in quotes because they might not actually be the right polarity but when testing voltage it does not matter. Your multimeter should signal if they are reversed but will give you the same voltage output regardless. If no power comes out, simply replace this and you printer should be operational again.

Abnormal Printing Characters

Well if you made it this far, odds are your computer and printer see each other, there is no paper jam, the Ink/Toner is full, and it powers up just fine. But something still isn’t quite right. Your printer may print, but it looks as if it is speaking in tongues because you cannot understand any of what was supposed to be your essay. If your printer is printing seemingly properly but what it is actually printing out is garbled, you may have a software or driver issue on your hands. Drivers are the little pieces of software that allow your computer and printer to talk back and forth giving the computer the knowledge of how to do so. Logically, if something is amiss in this code, the two cannot communicate properly. The best thing in this case to do is completely uninstall the printer via the Add Remove Programs list and redownload the latest driver off of your company’s website. Run the .exe that you download and have it instal a new and fresh driver. There is a possibility that this newer, possibly patched, driver could be perfected to avoid the previous issue or will just supplant the old broken one with the correct driver. Also, make sure you are downloading and installing the correct driver for the correct platform. Strange things will definitely happen if you try and install a 64 bit driver for a 32 bit system.


We have learned how to go about attacking a poor imaging print via the Ink or Toner, looked at how our paper storage and installation can affect jams, saw how to test our power cord, and how to defeat driver issues. Now we are ready to print with pride and we know that should a minor issue as these arise, we can conquer them with a little know-how and some basic tools. Sometimes printers die, and if they are extremely cheap, it is just as easy to replace them instead of wasting hours trying to fix them. But when you drop $100 on a printer, you would like to get as much out of it as you can, and hopefully now you can tackle these obstacles!

Any crazy printing stories? Ever had one break on you during an important paper or report? Trade your war stories in the comments!

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