The tech helper: Solving printer problems (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Feb 14, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Washington - Printers are our silent computing partners - until they give us trouble. That's when the component we think of only when needed becomes a hindrance to productivity. While it's not always easy to solve printer issues, determining the source of the problem is often half the battle. Read on to learn why.
Q: I live in a residence with several other students. We all use Windows. How can I give the others wireless access to my printer, which is connected to my computer by USB?
A: Assuming all of the students you live with are sharing the same wireless network, sharing a printer that's connected to one of the computer is as easy as setting up the printer to be shared. To do so, open the Devices and Printers panel in Windows (you can search for this panel using the Start menu). Right-click the printer that's connected to your PC, and select Printer Properties from the pop-up menu.
From the Printer Properties dialog box, select the Sharing tab, and then select the check box labeled 'Share this printer.' Note that to share a printer this way, your computer - or the computer to which the printer is connected - will have to remain on all the time or whenever someone else wants to print. To share a printer independent of whether your PC is on, you'll need a printer that's designed as a network printer, and you'll need to hook that printer up to your wireless router.
Q: The colours in the photos that I print at home do not match the colours that I see when viewing the photos on my monitor. How can I fix this problem?
A: The problem is two-fold: monitor calibration and printer calibration. Both devices have to be set up to accurate display and represent colours in the same way. The best way to calibrate your monitor and printer is to purchase a calibration tool specifically designed for this task. You'll find a number of them available from online retailers who specialise in equipment for photographers, such as New York's B&H Photo. Good calibration tools cost as little as 100 dollars and will generally pay for themselves, since without them you'll spend more money in paper and ink printing multiple copies of an image as you try to get your prints to match what you see on screen.
Q: The memory in my printer can be upgraded. What will I gain if I upgrade the printer? Faster performance?
A: Print speed generally has little to do with the amount of printer memory installed - unless, that is, you send large print jobs to the printer. For most printing tasks, however, maxing out your printer's memory will result in no print speed improvement whatsoever.
What adding memory will give you is greater capacity to print rich, graphics-rich documents at the highest resolution. Since many printers 'build' the image to be printed directly inside the printer, rather than in the host computer, the amount of memory installed can allow you to print jobs that otherwise would not be possible. Before you run out and buy more memory, though, do a test. Find the most graphics-rich, font-rich document and try to print it out. If it works, leave well enough alone.
Q: I have an HP printer hooked up to my home network so that several computers can share it. From time to time, the printer does not print, and I have to turn it off and back on. Could this be a driver issue?
A: A network printer that occasionally becomes unresponsive is dropping off of the network, and the reason typically has nothing to do with the printer driver. Rather, the problem usually resides with some component of the network - a router, switch, or hub into which the printer is connected by Ethernet cable, for instance - or with the printer itself. Finding the source of the problem is usually a process of elimination, and by turning the printer off and on again, you've likely located the culprit. Visit the printer manufacturer's website to see whether a firmware update that addresses the dropped connectivity is available. If not, contact the manufacturer. Sometimes problems of this nature are correctable only with a hardware fix or by having the unit repaired or replaced.
Q: I never experienced any paper jams with my printer when it was new. Lately, however, jams are increasingly common. Does this mean the printer is wearing out?
A: It probably means that the paper feed mechanism, or roller, is not grabbing the paper in the way that it did when the printer is new. Sometimes it's possible to clean the roller; other times the roller is included as part of the toner cartridge, so you get a new one when the cartridge is replaced. Check your printer manual to see how you can clean the paper feed mechanism.
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