10 Biggest Printer Problems -- And How To Fix Them

Problem: My prints are too light, too spotty, or have horizontal lines.

Solution: You may have a clogged print head, a problem that can occur if you use an inkjet printer infrequently. Your printer's utility program can clean out the dried ink, and print a test page for inspection. The step-by-step instructions on how to do this vary by printer. From the Windows 7 Start menu, click Devices and Printers or Control Panel, and look for your printer's utility app. For additional details, read "Solve Inkjet Printer Problems." For more tips on unclogging ink nozzles, go here. (Again, these steps may vary slightly for Vista and XP users.)

Problem: My printer says my ink cartridge is empty. I think it's lying.

Solution: You may be right. Printer out-of-ink messages are notoriously unreliable. The good news: You can try various hacks to get around those ink cartridge controls. We're not suggesting that all, or even some, of these reader tips will work with your printer, but they're worth a try. One tip reveals how to reset ink cartridges for various HP printers. And a video on this page shows how to revive an "out of ink" Epson cartridge. If you're feeling adventurous, check them out.

Problem: My wireless printer is too slow.

Solution: To get the best performance from a network printer, it's hard to beat a wired, Ethernet-cable-to-router connection. Wireless printing may be more convenient in many homes and offices, but it has its limitations. Since Wi-Fi speeds slow down with distance, you'll want to place your wireless printer as close as possible to the router. Also, make sure your Wi-Fi printer or any wireless print server it connects to supports the 802.11n spec, which can rival the performance of 100-mbps Ethernet.

Problem: I use remanufactured or refilled ink cartridges, and my prints look awful.

Solution: We recommend sticking with the manufacturer's ink. Third-party products may save you money up front, but the consequences can get ugly--literally--if the cheaper inks produce lower-quality prints.

Here's another reason: wasted ink. The PC World Test Center has found that some cartridges leave more than 40 percent of their ink unused. The worst offenders, unfortunately, are third-party brands. Printer manufacturers may overcharge shamelessly for ink, but at least you know what you're getting.

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