10 Biggest Printer Problems -- And How To Fix Them

Printers: Can't live with them, can't nuke them. You could always toss a misbehaving inkjet or laser out the window, but where would that leave you? Truth be told, we need our printers, despite their maddening quirks. Here's a saner idea: Take a deep breath, channel your inner tech support rep, and repair that which has failed you. (Cue sitar.)

We've listed the 10 biggest printer annoyances -- of course, your Top 10 list may vary -- and ways to fix them.

Problem: Printing is too slow.

Solution: Rev up printer performance--and save ink in the process--by reducing print quality for everyday output. While printer settings vary by model, here's how to switch to draft-printing mode in most Windows apps. Select Print and Properties, and then look for a setting that reduces print quality. With the HP Photosmart 8450, for instance, change the default print quality setting from Normal to Fast Draft (click screen-shot at right). Other speedup suggestions: Print pages from websites without graphics, and add RAM to your printer, if possible. Read "Speed Up Everything" for more tips.

Problem: Ink and/or toner costs too much.

Solution: PC World has written a lot about the printing industry's sneaky practices over the years. To wit: They snare you with dirt-cheap printers sold at or below cost, and then stick it to you later with ultra-pricey consumables.

Based on our tests, we can't recommend third party vendors' remanufactured or refilled ink cartridges, which may not give you your money's worth. One cost-saving solution is to buy higher-capacity cartridges. If you print a lot, try an ink cartridge with a 250-plus page yield, or a toner cartridge with a 2,000-plus page yield.

Problem: Windows is sending print jobs to the wrong printer.

Solution: For some mysterious reason, Windows may select a new default printer--the one it automatically sends print jobs to. (This happened to me when I upgraded from Vista to Windows 7.) To fix this glitch in Windows 7, click Start (the Windows icon in the lower-left corner of the screen) and select Devices and Printers. Under Printers and Faxes, right-click the printer you want to make the default, and select Set as default printer.

If you're using earlier versions of Windows, these steps vary a bit. Here are instructions for Windows XP and Vista users.

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