Hardware Tips: Keep the Output Flowing From Your Laser Printer

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Personal laser printers combine the economy and print quality of their more expensive enterprise counterparts with the price of an inkjet. Personal lasers lack an IT department to keep them running, however. Here's how to solve problems that may plague your laser printer.

Ask Mr. Wizard: The Windows Printing Troubleshooter wizard focuses on basic problems, but it's well worth trying. In Windows XP, choose Start, Help and Support, type list of troubleshooters in the Search box, and press Enter. Click list of troubleshooters in the left pane, select the Printing troubleshooter from the list on the right, and follow the steps. In Windows 2000, click Start, Help, and choose Troubleshooting and Maintenance on the Contents tab. Select Windows 2000 troubleshooters, click Print in the list of troubleshooter wizards in the right pane, and follow the steps. To open the wizard in Windows Me, click Start, Help, type troubleshooter in the Search box, and click Go. In Windows 98, select Start, Help, Contents, Troubleshooting, Windows 98 Troubleshooters, Print, and follow the wizard.

Check the basics: If your printer is plugged in but doesn't power up, look at the fuse or circuit breaker on the surge suppressor that your printer is plugged into. Reseat both ends of the USB or parallel cable that connects your printer to the PC. Many laser printers have an online/offline control on the front panel that may have been bumped inadvertently.

Print a test page: Most printers can run a self-test if you hold down one or more buttons on the control panel while the unit powers up. If the test page looks good, then the problem lies with your data cable, PC, or software. If the printout doesn't look right, see the chart below for a list of common problems and solutions.

Get the latest: Install the newest driver and firmware for your printer. Both should be available from the maker's Web site. To install a new driver in Windows XP, select Start, Printers and Faxes and choose Add a Printer under Printer Tasks on the Explorer bar in the 'Printers and Faxes' window. In Windows 2000, Me, and 98, remove the printer's driver and reinstall it: Select Start, Settings, Printers to open the Printers window. Right-click the printer, select Delete (choose Yes if you're asked to verify the removal), open the Printers window again if it closed, double-click Add Printer, and complete the reinstall.

Stop jam sessions: Always remove any jammed paper by pulling it in its normal direction of motion through the printer. If your printer chronically jams, unplug it, let it cool down, remove its toner cartridge, and examine the interior for any debris that may impede paper movement.

Check your connections: If your printer uses a USB connection, open Device Manager and look for a red X or an exclamation mark in a yellow circle next to any of the USB device listings: In Windows XP, 2000, and Me, click Start, right-click My Computer, and select Properties, Hardware, Device Manager. In Windows 98, right-click My Computer and choose Properties, Device Manager. These icons can signify a problem with your printer's link to your PC. If your printer stops working when your system comes out of hibernate or suspend mode, double-click each root hub listed under USB, select Power Management, and uncheck 'Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power'. If you're using a USB hub, see whether connecting the printer directly to the USB port on the PC solves the problem.

Common Laser Printer Problems

Here are fixes for the most common laser printer maladies.

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