Determining printer hardware or software issue

Updated: 10/19/2017 by Computer Hope

Canon printerWhen a printer is unable to print it's a good possibility that either the printer is experiencing a hardware or software related issue. Before testing the software it is always recommended that the printer be tested for hardware issues first.

Testing Hardware

  1. Check that paper is loaded and that there are no paper jams.
  2. Check the cable connections; both power and data cables going from printer and to your computer.
  3. Ensure that the printer power indication light is on.
  4. Verify that the printer has no flashing lights or Red or Orange lights. It is common for printers to have red, orange, or any other flashing lights when the printer is malfunctioning.
  5. Run a self test on the printer. Running a self test should print a basic page of information indicating that the printer itself is working. Your users manual should have the instructions for printing a self test. If your printer does not print a self test it's a good possibility that there is a defect or misconfiguration with your printer, and you should contact the printer manufacturer.

Testing Software

Windows users

  1. If possible, make sure your printer can print using the above hardware tests.
  2. Install the printer software provided with your printer. If no software was provided with your printer, see the printer drivers page for a listing of printer drivers. Drivers are required for your printer to properly work with the operating system.
  3. Click Start, Settings, Printers. Within the printers box ensure that your printer manufacturer and model is listed.
  4. Print a test page by right-clicking the printer icon and then click the Properties option and click print test page. If the test page does not print download the latest drivers from your printer manufacturer. A listing of printer drivers can be found on our printer drivers page.
  5. If the page prints successfully, get back into the printers window, right-click the printer and ensure that there is a check next to Set as default. Newer versions of Windows also show a check next to the printer icon once it has been set as the default printer.
  6. Once the printer is set as default, click Start, Run, and type notepad and press enter. In notepad, type a test message and click File and Print. If the printer also prints successfully from this program but you are still unable to print from the other program, it is likely that program has an issue and not your printer.

Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8 users - Older printers that worked in previous versions of Windows may no longer work in new versions. If your printer has worked in a past version of Windows, but isn't working with a new one, check with your printer manufacturer to learn your options.

MS-DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95 users

Get to an MS-DOS prompt and perform the steps below.

cd\ <press enter>
dir > lpt1 <press enter>

After doing the above command, your printer should begin printing the directory listing. If your printer prints it, it is recommended that you reinstall your printer drivers. If your printer does not print and you have performed the hardware tests, it is likely that your printer or the cables are bad. Contact your printer manufacturer for additional support and repair.

Additional information