back to article Have you reinstalled Windows yet? No, I just want to PRINT THIS DAMN PAGE

Unable to print. Well, thanks, but I think I could have guessed that by myself based on the simple evidence that the printer is still in Sleep mode and output tray is ominously empty. Oh well, I have a bit of time spare and I’m in need of a laugh so let’s run the Troubleshooter. Check your network connections. Good advice. …


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  1. Select * From Handle


    You should change "The Photo Black Ink Cartridge"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn

      Cats are not cute they are Satans Mercenaries.

      Please El Reg, ban cat pictures.

      1. Blitterbug

        Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn


        Fleas = dirty hovel + no flea collar / flea drops

        Cat turds on neighbour's lawn 'cos cats aren't dumb or dirty :)

        1. Evil Auditor
          Thumb Up

          Re: Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn

          I can't follow how this cat thing came up, but you're absolutely right, Blitterbug. I can't stand cats, I hate them. The more that the neighbours' cats crapped on my lawn. Got a cat on our own (which I adore, btw), problem solved. It's that simple - no more turd on our lawn.

          1. Seanie Ryan

            Re: Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn

            remove the cats from the equation and you will only have to put up with the mice and rats.... problem solved.

            never complain about the neighbours cat. without them, mice will find a way in. If a cat in living in the neighbourhood, you are pretty guaranteed vermin can smell them and will keep away.

            or just buy a Dell and the smell will do the same job

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn

              The trouble is, although a cat might do a good job of scaring away mice and rats, some of them also do a pretty good job of bringing half dead mice back to the house from outside, where they have just enough life left to run and hide behind the fridge before dying and gently decomposing over the next few weeks...

              That said, I like cats, something about their petty cruelty to lesser beings appeals to the BOFH in me.

          2. davyclam

            Re: Cats = Fleas = cat turds on the lawn

            Patterdale Terrier.

            No more cats anywhere.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lot of singletons have cats as companions, appears El Reg has a high proportion of this demographic.

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge


          ... singleton = geek

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Flick the turd back across the fence as I do, aim for the patio door.

    2. Lusty

      Re: Maybe...

      Or maybe join us in the future, buy a tablet and stop printing so much stuff out :)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is it this week?

    Earlier this week I moved a printer from one USB port on one machine to another on another machine, for reasons to do with installing Google Cloud Print. Machine 1 could see its former printer on machine 2, but refused to print. It then told me that the printer was offline (it wasn't).

    After drawing several deep breaths, I deleted the USB printer on machine 1. The machine was now briefly able to print on the shared printer...until the deleted printer suddenly re-appeared (remember it is no longer physically attached to the machine) and printing stopped.

    To cut a very long story short, I eventually moved the printer back to machine no. 1. It still would not print. I reinstalled the driver. Still would not print, except that now it thought that the printer was an "unknown device".

    Attempts to delete the printer and reinstall failed. Eventually I went through the registry, removed every reference to the printer, reinstalled. It worked, though for some reason it appeared as (copy 1).

    Then the deleted printer reappeared again and, you guessed it, printing stopped.

    The printer is now networked instead of using USB. I was able to install it as a networked printer on Machine no 1., and get Cloud Print working on Machine no. 2. The zombie, unkillable shared usb printer is still there after another registry cleanup, but is no longer stopping printing.

    I'm guessing that Windows retains some data about the printer not accessible from the Registry or very hard to track down, and that while it's there it keeps reappearing as a zombie. Or this just happens on 31st October and it wanted to be bribed to go away with a Twix.

    Roll on the day when the accounting system my wife uses can be replaced with something that doesn't need Windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What is it this week?

      1. Google Cloud Print is one of the stupidest things Google has ever conceived.

      2. When you moved the printer back to the first machine, a simple system restore would have got you operational, and undone all the damage you did while faffing around.

      3. Blame Windows all you like, but Windows doesn't do what you describe by itself. A seriously borked printer driver or support software from the printer manufacturer might. As might a messed up registry, which can happen to the types of users who try to fix problems by inadvisedly diving into the registry and deleting stuff.

      1. Peter Simpson 1

        Re: What is it this week?

        "... but Windows doesn't do what you describe by itself."

        Oh, yes it does, and more!

        Moving a device from one USB connector to another, borks everything up royally. Apparently, each USB connector maps to a different port on the internal USB hub, and Windows gets all confused. At least, XP and Win7 do, from my own personal experience.

        1. Brian

          Re: What is it this week?

          I move printers from one USB port to another on almost a daily basis and I've never had the problem you describe on XP or Win7. Not sure what makes you think it is a windows problem and not a printer driver problem. Once Windows has installed a drivers for a particular USB device, it won't install the driver again no matter how many USB ports you have or which one you plug it in to. So, moving from port to port isn't a problem from a windows perspective. Now, if the crap drivers you have retain port information, then you would need to remove the driver each time you switch ports. That's a driver/manufacturer problem not a Windows problem.

          1. Kobus Botes

            Re: @Brian - I move printers

            "Once Windows has installed a drivers for a particular USB device, it won't install the driver again..." - Oh yes, it does (at least, Win7 does). Regularly. On various machines. For every USB port you plug the device into, until you have used all available USB ports. Only then does it accept that the keyboard or mouse or printer or USB memory stick you plugged in is a known device and not something new.

            And each time Windows goes off on its own mission, hunting for drivers; first locally and then (I presume) on available resources on your network and then it wanders off to the Internet, where it spends an awfully long time (browsing PC porn? Ooooh! look at all those beautiful Linux distro's!) before returning to tell you that it is installing drivers.

            ---> What I'd like to do to Win7. Honestly, it's like a four-year old: self! I want to do it self! Even though it more often than not need copious amounts of assistance to complete what should have been a simple task.

        2. foxyshadis

          Re: What is it this week?

          Raymond Chen once outed the real reason behind Windows attempting to reinstall a device every time you move its port: The braindead morons who wrote the firmware for the device's embedded USB controller used one of a handful of demo serial numbers that were given as examples in the USB spec. It's the hardware version of copying MSDN or codeplex code right into your production app. Sometimes, you can have two different devices with identical serial numbers, supposedly illegal by the spec, in different ports, and how is Windows going to know for sure what's what?

          If the device has a unique serial number, as it's supposed to, it'll be re-detected with no reinstall no matter how or where you move it. In that case, it almost certainly sounds like a combination driver and hardware problem.

      2. Mat

        Re: What is it this week?

        Well explain how my dad, who doesn't install drivers - knocking on a bit! has got a printer/scanner combo and suddenly the scanner refused to talk to the computer - it would still print fine down the same cable but scanning was totally borked.

        Re-installing the drivers fixed it!

        Windows does this A LOT!!

        1. Ron Christian

          Re: What is it this week?

          As in the article, the cause for sudden non-working and the necessity to reinstall drivers is "drive by updates" that happen in the middle of the night. "automatically install updates" may seem like a good idea, but it really isn't. On all of our machines, I periodically run update and choose which patches are installed. And if a device is working, I decline to install driver updates. Because at that point the very best you could hope for is that the device continues to do what it's already doing.

          1. davyclam

            Re: What is it this week?

            If it ain't broke...

            Thankyou for your sound advice, I will no longer allow auto-uptdating.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What is it this week?

        Oh dear.

        Google cloud print being stupid is a matter of opinion, it works well for me. How do you manage internet printing?

        Yes, perhaps a system restore might have fixed it, Mr. Superior, but we can't be perfect every day.

        When I delete a printer via a Windows utility I kind of expect it to stay deleted. The other Oses with which I'm familiar manage this. The question you should be addressing is why stuff gets scattergunned all over the Registry.

        Incidentally, the printer is a Ricoh and is not a cheap inkjet. It's Linux driver gives no trouble.

    2. plrndl

      Re: What is it this week?

      Presumably the NSA hadn't updated their copy of your registry.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Poetry on El Reg

      "Roll on the day when the accounting system my wife uses can be replaced with something that doesn't need Windows."

      That was such a sweet line I had to repeat it.

  3. Joe Drunk

    Treat the printer as you would a faulty mouse. Just throw the printer away and get a new one. That should last you 2-3 years before print quality starts to degrade and it refuses to print followed by incessant notifications to replace ink cartridges that you know have plenty of ink left in them.

    Inkjet printers are made to be disposable and non-serviceable regardless of the manufacturer.

    Beer icon because I just saved you hours of pointless troubleshooting that would prevent you from nipping off early to the pub on a Friday.

    1. Irongut Silver badge

      Yup Inkjet printers are disposable, that is why they are so cheap.

      If you want a decent printer that will last buy a laser.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "If you want a decent printer that will last buy a laser"

          Dunno if you shouldn't leave them or if it was a fault with this particular printer; but I had an OKI colour laser that I used sporadically. Anwyay; I didn't print for a couple of months and it was fucked when I wanted it again. Didn't even finish the (half-full) toner cartridges it came with. Unfortunately, it was after I scored a job and had bought 2 sets of replacement cartridges in anticipation.

          OKI 'support' said that I could just go and fuck myself, essentially.

          So laser printers aren't the cure-all that you might hope for. Not all of them, anyway. Personally, I decided that printing was going to be Someone Else's Problem from that point onwards and have saved money and many years of lifespan since by farming out printing work.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "If you want a decent printer that will last buy a laser"

            Laser toner does have a shelf life. If someone uses a cartridge every 3 years, I suspect the printer of being in a cool place, because eventually toner clumps. The only marker I know with truly indefinite shelf life is Xerox wax, though Ricoh gel is pretty good.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: "If you want a decent printer that will last buy a laser"

          I've been using the same B&W laser printer for 12 years

          I'm still using an HP LaserJet 4m from 1992. I don't do a lot of printing, so I'm only on my third toner cartridge (a self-test page I printed out a couple years ago reports 124853 pages printed). I did open the printer up about 12 years ago and stick in a Postscript card I scavenged from a non-functional LaserJet 4mp, giving this one Postscript support (which works quite nicely, if not very quickly).

          The only real issue with it is that it's still connected by Centronics parallel port. When the 9-year-old machine that's driving it dies, I'll either have to switch to network connectivity (which might be interesting to set up) or get one of those USB-to-parallel converters.

          But I figure 21 years isn't a bad service life for a printer.

          I've never bought an inkjet, and never will. On the extremely rare occasions when I want something printed in color, I go to a print & copy outfit like FedEx Office, or use the color printers available at the university library.

      2. D@v3

        disposable inkjets

        last inkjet printer i had anything to do with cost less than a replacement set of inks.

      3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Agreed, buy a laser

        Colour laser printers can be had for a very reasonable rate these days. They nominally cost more to run in pence per page than a colour inkjet, but that is under 'ideal conditions' where the printer hasn't wasted half an expensive ink cartridge cleaning its nozzles beofre deciding to print a series of yellow and magenta stripes where it should be solid red.

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      It's a £500 A4 colour proofer. Not sure I want to throw it away just yet.

      1. MonkeyCee

        Didn't you just load like 75 quids worth of ink into it? Any reason you didn't get a colour laser for 500 quid instead?

        Only inkjet I ever saw the use of where plotters. Everyone else needs a laser.

        Unless you're in publishing. In which case, you should be intimately aware of what your printer needs in order to get you stuff to come out how you want.

        1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

          >> Any reason you didn't get a colour laser for 500 quid instead?

          Apologies, I mistyped. It's an A3 proofer, not an A4. If I could buy an A3 colour laser capable of producing prepress-class proofs but only cost £500, I would have bought it.

          1. Rukario

            Lasers are just as disposable.

            Lexmark CS310N colour laser printer... C$170. Built-in cartridges get about 750 pages.

            Lexmark 700H1 black cartridge... C$157

            Lexmark 700 H2 Cyan/H3 Magenta/H4 Yellow cartridge... C$189 each.

            Cartridges are 3000 pages each.

            The cost of replacing the cartridges ($724) is greater than buying 4 printers ($680)

            1. Euripides Pants

              Re: Lasers are just as disposable.




              There's your problem. You should never buy any Lexmark printer - they're all disposable.

              1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                Re: Lasers are just as disposable.

                You should never buy any Lexmark printer - they're all disposable.

                That's certainly what consumer reviews have suggested over the past several years (I'd been considering one of those printer/scanner/copier/fax jobs to supplement the unkillable HP 4m). It's a pity; Lexmark lasers were pretty good in the first couple years after IBM spun them off, in the early '90s. I had one that lasted about 10 years. (Then it became erratic - sometimes working fine, sometimes printing garbage - probably failing capacitors or other intermittent fault causing memory errors.)

      2. Annihilator Silver badge

        "It's a £500 A4 colour proofer. Not sure I want to throw it away just yet."

        What's your day-rate and how much time have you spent?

        Besides, flog it on Ebay as "slightly used" to get some dosh back.

    3. Tom7

      Curiously enough, a recent BOFH (well, recent in BOFH terms, anyway - episode 5) dealt with this exact issue.

      "Is it an inkjet printer?"


      "Then pop it in the bin."

      "I've only printed about 30 pages!"

      "Oh, right! Count your blessings - and then pop it in the bin."


      "In the OLD days, printers were made of STEEL! If one FELL on you they just amputated the limb at the joint because anything under the printer was PASTE! And if an engineer's tie got caught in a drum printer they had about 10 seconds to scratch out a message to their next of kin before they choked to death. AND THE PRINTER WOULD KEEP ON RUNNING! You could print three-layer fan-fold forms WITH carbon sheets in between and the only warning you EVER got was a PAPER OUT light when the box was empty. There was NO jam. EVER. There were no printer monitors running in the taskbar to tell you that magenta was getting low or that it was performing a routine clean and that your ink level was going to drop by 10 per cent - you just changed the ribbon when you thought it needed it. And feed problems! The only way the printer would misfeed is if you put the box in the wrong position, so you just marked the box location out on the floor for the benefit of the idiots on night shift - otherwise the printer'd keep on running week in, week out... They could take your printer to bits, put it back together, give you about 10 parts that they couldn't remember where they came from - AND THE PRINTER WOULD STILL WORK! They were! We've still got a hammer action drum printer in the basement that's done over a million pages. A *MILLION*! At 600 lines a minute! You'd consider yourself blessed these days if an inkjet did 100! We ran out of paper and ribbon for the machine years ago so we just taped over the paper-out and ribbon-out micro switches and feed stuff in it to be destroyed."

      That's the sort of rant I've been trying to compose for about 15 years.

      1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

        >> There was NO jam. EVER.

        Suspension of disbelief ended right there. Printer jams happen, and I remember them being much worse and more frequent 20 years ago.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        yup,you could throw them at an invading tank, and the tank stopped.

        And they cost £800-£1200, produced output that looked like bus tickets;

        a printer cable cost £50 and you had to set the dip switches on the motherboard to set the memory locations used for printer data, and write a programme to convert the computer output into something the printer could understand.

        Did you want everything double spaced or double-double spaced cos you sure as hell ain't gettin it single spaced

        It wasn't so great back then

        1. JQW


          DIP switches were only part of the problem. Getting pound signs to print from DOS applications was the real challenge.

          The majority of printers used language selection DIP switch to replace the hash sign with a pound sign, i.e. a character value of 35 decimal, but the DOS applications themselves, if using codepage 437, used 156 decimal for the pound sign. So you needed to set up a character translation table, assuming the application had one.

          I had one application whose supplied drivers were strange - a UK one for my printer produced the pound sign, but it didn't allow me to print charts. The driver that did print charts didn't print the pound sign. As documents contained both text and charts, it made it impractical to switch drivers partway through a printout. I ended up reverse engineering the printer driver files (which were effectively just a table of escape codes with an optional translation table), and combining the two together to produce one that worked properly.

        2. heyrick Silver badge


          "It wasn't so great back then" - while my little Panasonic KXP1180 is not cutting edge, it survived boarding school, it survived being dropped, it only jammed when the idiot user loaded paper incorrectly, it NEVER jammed on fanfold, and it was able to magically print when the ribbon had HOLES in it. Plus there was this nifty push-tab on the ribbon cartridge so that if the ink was running low, you poke this tab and it would press the ribbon against the ink roller a little bit harder. Shock horror - it is probably the only dot matrix I've ever used with a Beeb that didn't get # and £ mixed up. It is just a shame it is slow, noisy, and really low resolution. Inkjets are good for convenience and a trade off of cheap vs quality (tending more towards "cheap"), but I am sick of pointless cleaning cycles and "replace cyan" (WTF? There's half a tank of ink there!). I feed my printer exclusively clone inks because it wastes too much on cleaning and misprints and banding and other weirdness to justify blowing twice on ink what the printer itself cost. I did originally using branded ink, and it wasted a lot on cleaning and misprints and banding, so it isn't the ink at fault, it is probably the technology, trying to fake a >600dpi quality with budget parts. Mmm...

      3. Evil Auditor


        You forgot to mention that in those days printer didn't refuse to print because, allegedly, they were fucking refilling the toner cartridge themselves! Not that it works, not that it actually does anything in this time or, heaven forbid, that I believed it does. But it stops printing for 15 minutes and then it's still running out of toner.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      The beer icon has been drunk

      but not by you. If you get a printer of the same or similar type that may possibly at a stretch of the imagination use the same driver then it will and you will just get the same problems you had before.

      Inkjets are disposable - windows is like an elephant when you dont want it to be.

  4. Mattjimf

    Just been battling a print spooler/spooler subsystem app (no I hadn't realised it existed either) issue. Cue having to delete stuff from spool folder and copy spoolsv.exe from another version of XP (saved faffing about with install cds) then having to delete and reinstall printer before it would work.

    1. Mayhem

      printui /s /t2 from an elevated command prompt is your friend on Windows 7 - lets you actually delete corrupted print drivers before reinstalling.

  5. AJ MacLeod

    Nice cat

    Does it have Maine Coon or Norwegian Forest Cat in its ancestry?

    Printers are annoying devices. Printers with their own proper control panel are slightly less annoying and USB only printers are rarely worth considering.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. AJ MacLeod

        Re: Nice cat

        I agree, they're often more than infuriating to use - but they're there and will continue to "work" long after the manufacturer loses interest in the device, and will work no matter what OS is running on your computers. Even on Windows I will usually install the most minimal drivers available to avoid the awful bloatware which comes with most printers and at best simply duplicates the functions available on the machine itself.

        Edit : re-reading your post it looks like you've misread mine; I'm talking about a physical control panel on the printer itself, not 300MB of badly written malware which only runs on one version of Windows and a handicapped version which almost runs on some Macs.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

  6. Steve Todd

    Consider yourself lucky

    I had to replace the ink cartridges on an Epson Stylus Pro 3800, all 9 of them, each 30ml in capacity. At least I got a status panel showing the ink status for all colours though.

    1. Tom Wood

      Re: Consider yourself lucky

      How did you get the mortgage to buy that much ink?!

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: Consider yourself lucky

        The problem is I'm in to landscape photography, and large prints (A3 is pretty much at the bottom of the scale of what I print). Take a look at what the charges are for these (even on line) and you'll see that it quite quickly paid for its self.

        As for the costs, I discovered a source of 3rd party ink on eBay that cost about 1/3rd that of the official Epson ink and seems to print at least as well.

  7. Gene Cash Silver badge


    I updated Debian Testing this morning and found myself no longer able to view PDF files due to an update of libfontconfig.

    On the other hand, I've had a Brother laser printer since Jan 2007 and I just changed the toner for the first time this weekend. It's been hit by lightning so the USB no longer works, so I have a USB->LPT cable on it.

    My worse printer issue was a Lexmark that would randomly fall off the USB bus, so I'd suddenly be unable to print in Windows for no discernible reason. In Linux, I have udevd scripts that play a noise when a USB device is added/removed, and I'd hear the sad-whoop meaning something just disconnected, and it would be the printer. The printer would be sitting there fully lit up and apparently ready to go. I tried new cables, everything. Finally it "accidentally" fell off the back of my motorcycle when someone tailgated me on the way home.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    ahh, chairs

    I actually bought at auction, well, my still employed former colleague bought it for me and I paid him back, the chairs from our CIM lab that had "theodore" sharpied on one and "jack" on the other. That reminds me of the 'chair adjusted for the pregnant lady' from an early BOFH (i think.)

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      Re: ahh, chairs

      MY nice office char (north of $500 new, I believe) came from a former company. They were moving, offered the chairs to the employees for some nominal amount. As I wasn't going to be in town, the day of the sale, I handed the sum to a co-worker and loaded a chair in my vehicle the night before.

      Came in on Monday and was told by the co-worker, that the sale had been cancelled at the last minute, the chairs (minus one) were going to be left with the building. I told him to keep the cash. Chair still in use, and doing very nicely, thank you.

  9. Mark Wilson

    Similar Problems here

    Had to print out a document urgently the other day, so sent it to the wireless Lexmark, a few minutes later a message pops up saying "Cannot communicate with printer", no worries, just restart the printer, it is a common problem with this printer. Hmm still no printout, reinstalled the drivers, still nothing, gave up eventually after exhausting all options. Two days later after changing nothing, the document decides to start printing! I know printers can be a bit of a dark art but this takes the biscuit.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Similar Problems here

      Yup, been there, done that.

      Crap firmware and lousy drivers.

      Even worse is the install trap. HP seem terrible for this.

      A file in the existing driver will refuse to be deleted by the reinstall programme.

      The reinstall will instead try to overwrite this file with the one that is actually exactly the same. (Even the same version number).

      So it will fail, and STOP installing.

    2. kain preacher

      Re: Similar Problems here

      I swear that Lucas electronics makes lexmark printers. I'm surprised that they don't leak oil err ink.

  10. Vince

    In this office, we hate printers. Always.

    Every support job that involves them makes us all cry and actively do anything to avoid it.

    Printers, Printer Drivers, Printing. It sucks. Always.

  11. Azzy

    What's wrong with this picture....

    Ah! I've got it

    They're at work (he's dealing with "co-workers"), but they're using an ink-jet printer.

    Ink jet printers have no place in the office. Actually, they really don't have any place in the home either - home users are better off with laser printers too, because ink jets die if you don't print enough on them, which is the case for most home users (office users, on the other hand, print too much for ink jet printers to hold up). I'm honestly not sure what their niche is - I think it might be stupid people.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: What's wrong with this picture....

      The purpose of ink jet printers is to be sold at £25 to encourage users to buy ink at a greater cost per gram than cocaine. They might try 3rd party cartridges, but sometimes don't work very well, depending on the model of printer and the make of cartridge. Even the kosher cartidges drey up, as you say, and by the time you've got the IPA and lint free cloth out of the drawer things have got messy.

      B&W laser printers are pretty cheap these days, and if a photograph is worth printing, then it is usually worth getting it printed at any large supermarket / high street.

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: What's wrong with this picture....

      It's a magazine publishing company. The inkjet is for page proofs. Everything else goes to the cheap Brother duplex laser.

  12. Chozo

    Ultimate Printer Troubleshooter

    The Ultimate Printer Troubleshooter, for when things get really bad, free from all good junk cupboards & storerooms. Banish PEBKAC and many other tech support woes forever with one public application Get yours now

  13. Dave 126 Silver badge

    I don't do much printing at home - normally I email documents - so hadn't used the household's Brother WiFi printer until last week. Okay, I thought, it should just show up in my Printers and Devices, right? No. Okay, I'm unlikely to find its original CD, so I'll just download the drivers... what a mess the Brother website is.

    The option Brother wanted me to download is 145 MB... "But I just want to print and leave the house!". Though less than clear, I did find a smaller driver download, but the process could have been so much easier.

    1. AJ MacLeod

      Brother's website is far from the worst of them IMO... which only says how bad some of the others are!

      Personally I'd have tried a standard PCL or PS driver if in a rush - most reasonable network capable printers deal with that fine.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Brother printer (HL1250 IIRC)

      I rarely have use for printers, but a while back I did have to print a letter so I pulled my old laser printer out of storage. It must have been unused for about 4 years. Plugged it in, connected it to my Acer Aspire 1 netbook (*) running Debian and it just worked. I'd never installed any specific drivers for it and I think that cups/foomatic was already installed as a dependency on the desktop packages.

      TBH, I'd expected to have to spend an hour or so configuring things, so to say I was chuffed would be an understatement.

      It's not a bad little printer, though the toner's getting low and I'm sure it'd be more economical to buy another one rather than try to track down a source for toner cartridge (and the inevitable drum replacement) but at least I can probably put that problem off for another 4 years, when I need to print something again.

      (*) yeah, ancient hardware at this stage, but like the printer, it still works :)

  14. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Could be worse. Before I bought a network printer I had a mono laser and a colour inkjet hooked up to my Linux server using CUPS software. Now that was clunky.



      > hooked up to my Linux server using CUPS software. Now that was clunky.

      Yet I have a strange time relating to any of these rants. Even before CUPS, printing in Unix didn't seem to be nearly as bad as all of these horror stories seem to imply. Is this just a Windows thing or something. Is this all just Windows users venting? Or are there some Mac users that want to cry in their beer too?

      1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

        Re: pppppffffffft

        No rant. I was using a Linux box as a print server for a mainly Windows desktop environment. It worked after a fashion, but it was not a great solution. The web interface to CUPS was a lovely yellow and brown affair which would crash and error regularly. No complaints from me, not even blaming it totally on the Linux side of things, it was an interesting project, but on the whole I'd recommend getting hold of a network printer.

    2. ScottME

      Linux printing support has improved enomously. I installed Ubuntu 13.10 recently and to set up my networked HP printers (a Laserjet 6MP and an OfficeJet 6300) all I had to do was open the Printers control panel, and tell it to install first one then another networked printer. It automatically sniffed them out on the network, determined what make and model they were, automatically configured itself for them, it even worked out that because I'm in the UK I will want them set for A4 paper (something that Windows could never seem to get right for me), then offered to print a test page. Now that's what I call simple. I don't understand why people put up with that ridiculous "installing drivers" dance that Windows does. What's the point of it? Is it trying to appear clever?

  15. Mr Anonymous

    Ah Yes

    My biggest bug-bear with windows, you can't guarantee it will do the same thing twice.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Throw windows in the bin along with the mouse, problem solved.

    Or throw the windows PC through the window, both techniques work equally well.

  17. teebie

    At risk of generalising...

    printers don't work

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear God -- clean your shoes man.

    1. Simon Harris

      Could do with a bit of trim on the skirting board too to cover that gap between it and the floor!

    2. Pookietoo

      Re: Dear God -- clean your shoes man.

      If you look closely you will see that he's wearing tradesman's trousers (padded/reinforced for kneeling) the shoes likewise have a protective toe cap. I've never known anyone who bothered to polish safety shoes - they'll often wear through to the steel.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Off then On again?

    I can't help noticing that you failed to turn it off and then on again. I heard about this feature in a fly on the wall documentary called "The IT Crowd".

  20. lawndart

    Having read the title

    For a minute I thought Lewis had rejected an article by Alastair and Al was a bit miffed.

  21. FrogInABlender

    Stalled Printer Repair (always 1st test for this problem)

  22. Simon Harris


    Eddie Izzard has problems with his printer too...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apparently...

      @Simon Harris

      You beat me to the link.

  23. Herby

    Real Printers...

    Have ribbons and fully formed characters. None of this "inkjet", "laser", or "dot matrix" crud.

    They also use nice green/blue bar fan fold paper in wonderful wide widths that people can write notes on the side.

    Long live bands, chains and daisy wheels.

  24. WaveyDavey

    Bloody Printers

    27 years in IT (dear God, where did it go) , and I've never yet met a printer that wasn't, in some way or form, evil.

    Back as a PFY there was a beast like the BOFH's - 600 line per minute impact - that was evil in a "Aaargh this thing could kill me" way. Ah, Sooner Foods, home (and inventor) of the revolting Nik-Naks.

  25. Shoot Them Later


    I know this particular article is a software whinge, but we should never miss an opportunity to link to the Office Space printer scene:

    1. harmjschoonhoven
      Thumb Up

      Re: obOfficeSpace

      Fishery administration officers use axes and hammers to destroy confiscated electric fishing equipment on the banks of Hanjiang River in Wuhan, Hubei province, China April 1, 2013 by lack of printers. ©REUTERS/Stringer

  26. Frankee Llonnygog

    Printers are smarter than we give them credit for

    They are masters at concealing their true feelings. That's why their display panels never read, "Fuck off and die, human".

  27. Tsunamijuan

    Printers are the bane of my existance

    I have had a lasting hatred of printers for years. It is always one of those things that independent of os and hardware never seems to work correctly anywhere. Its and it is always when you want to print something quickly. That turns into a "Production" usually for no other reason than they are stubborn and I wouldn't doubt that they where union workers as well. Choosing random pickets to prove they are useful yet never actually getting the job you hired/purchased them for done, without coming within a inch of getting kicked down a flight of stairs.

  28. Ripperroo

    cartridges? we don't need no stinking cartridges!

    cartridges? man that is so nineties, get yourself a continuous ink system instead, no cartridges to change and with the separate ink tanks you can see when they need refilling - cheaper too as 100ml refill costs less than a 7ml cartridge

    1. Adam 1

      Re: cartridges? we don't need no stinking cartridges!

      At that price, how can you be sure that the unicorn blood is even authentic? Quality comes at a price you know.

  29. Johnny Canuck

    Want to have some fun with the office printer and screw with your coworkers at the same time? This only works with HP compatible printers with a display on the printers front panel. Google around for a file called HPNT.EXE and use it thusly.

    hpnt "Insert Correct Change"

    Be sure to use your printers IP address.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      RE: fun with HP laserjet printer displays...

      Heh- My favorite phrases were generally:



      and the infamous, two line monster:



      Best part is that if someone gets their knickers in a twist, you power cycle the printer and it goes away.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: RE: fun with HP laserjet printer displays...

        You forgot 'OUT OF CHEESE ERROR'

  30. heyrick Silver badge
  31. btrower

    If only this was an exaggeration

    If I had a nickel... It is unbelievable how much this stuff *doesn't work*. It is not limited to printers. Many of these things are essentially appliances and should operate as such. You don't have to reboot your refrigerator, oven or can-opener. Cutlery does not require an update before you can eat dinner.

    It is possible to build relatively fail-proof software and firmware systems. We know how. We just can't sell it. Safety equipment is only installed when liability costs exceeds the cost of installing the equipment. The only sure way to avoid all of these frustrations is to find a way to make properly functioning systems less expensive than malfunctioning systems. Not sure if this is the optimal way, but one way to make it happen is to legislate that people can get compensation when equipment does not function 'as it should'. Case in point: In many instances it has not been possible for ordinary users to back up their Windows system to support disaster recovery. This long standing problem would be fixed within a year or two if the costs of ineffective backups were born or at least shared by Microsoft rather than being dumped on the users. I don't know what percentage of Windows users can do a bare-metal recovery of a failed system, but it has to be less than 50% for sure.

  32. Barry Rueger

    Non-Cryptic Printer

    A great mystery is the "free from Craigslist" HP 4315 Inkjet printer beside me. Mostly just used as a scanner because even after installing HP's Linux driver bundle it never exactly works right.

    Specifically: It refuses to print the Guardian Cryptic Crossword Puzzle.

    It will print the clues, and all of the numbers, but will absolutely not print the lines and black squares that define the actual grid.

    Actually it gets stranger. If I choose the "Print Version" of the puzzle, it won't print. If I "print" it to a PDF, then print THAT it's fine.

  33. ecofeco Silver badge

    I would almost swear...

    ... that PC tech is going backwards.

  34. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    I'm redirecting my company's printer support webpage to this article.

  35. mike acker


    in the first place a computer is not a printing system

    disconnect the printer and take it to the recycling center. now that you have that done you can also junk the fax machine. use computer output fax for those who are still mired in paper base systems .

    now: (1) install dual monitors so you don't need to print documents that you need to reference while working;

    (2) get a nice tab so you can review dox while away from your desk.

    i've known more that one person who felt they had to print out an e/mail in order to read it.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If printers just supported postscript or something maybe it would be a lot easier?

    Also, all of the USB related printer issues are just Windows problems. It's plug n plug on the Mac.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Printers do all support postscript or something

      The problem is the "or something".

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like my printers like I like my women

    Dumb, and prepared to give me 'A' when I want... after having been sent ASCII 65 in the first case.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have the same problem

    Only I use a Mac and a wireless Epson printer. I have found that scanning the LAN (using my iPod Touch) and sending a wake packet fixes the problem — temporarily! Lazy-assed printer just keeps going to sleep and wont wake up!

  39. Peter Johnstone

    Printers are bad enough but the prize for the worst IT product I've ever had the misfortune to own goes to the Belkin Wireless G All-In-One Print Server F1UP0002UK. Couldn't get it to work reliably via wireless so had to keep it connected to my router. The software that came with it was windows only so had to use bootcamp to print from my mac. No 64bit drivers, although managed to find a compatible driver elsewhere. Propriety software that basically took ownership of the printer then released it after an idle time only if you checked a setting in the preferences that always unchecked itself on my wife's laptop. If she shut down her laptop without disconnecting, you'd have to reboot the device to release it, otherwise no-one could print at all. I'd punt it on ebay, but I don't think I'd sleep at night!

    1. Simon2
      Thumb Up


      I use one of these as my network printer server on WinXP for 2 printers.

      You don't need to install any special drivers, only the printer driver(s). Here's how to do it the easy way without installing the awful and unnecessary Belkin bloatware.

      1 Go into Add/Remove Programs, click Add/Remove Windows Components and install Print Services for Unix under Other Network File and Printer Sharing. If Windows asks to restart, click yes.

      2 Go into Printers and Faxes and open the Properties dialogue box for your printer and click the Ports tab then click Add Port... Choose LPR port. Click New Port button.

      3a A box will pop up with two text boxes. In the first box labeled "Name or address of server providing lpd" enter the IP address of your F1UP0002UK.

      3b In the box labeled "Name of printer or print queue on that server" enter lp1 for the printer connected to USB port 1.

      If you have another printer on the second USB port, repeat step 2 and 3a this time entering lp2 in the "Name of printer or print queue on that server" box.

      Make sure you get the print queue numbers correct for each printer. Don't get lp1, lp2 mixed up else you'll end up using the driver for the first printer on the second one and vice-versa and you'll just get garbled text and symbols being printed.

      Hope that helped :)

  40. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    The joys of Windows

    Ahh the joys of Windows. Just an FYI, if I install a printer on my Ubuntu systems, IT STAYS INSTALLED! ("Installing" a printer only really being necessary for network printers -- if I plug in a USB one, it just shows up as a printer choice without my doing anything.) The only printer-related problem I've had, HPLIP (the add-on for some HP printers), the little tray utility loads (EVEN if I set it not to), then after about a minute it falsely decided it *hasn't* loaded and pops an error message complaining about it failing to load (however everything works, it even complains when ink is low.) Scanning? Check. Printing? Check. So long as a printer, scanner, or combo device works to begin with, *it just keeps working*.

    Well, the drivers keep working at any rate -- obviously this doesn't help garbage inkjets quit jamming constantly, or printers in general run out of ink or toner at the least convenient time. 8-)

  41. carl0s

    B & W lasers only

    I tend to tell people to avoid inkjets, and avoid colour lasers.

    The number of "consumable" items that require scheduled replacement on colour laser printers is astonishing, and their costs usually outstrip the cost of a new printer, if you can still buy the same model again to use all the toner you stocked up on.

  42. Chris Walsh

    I did have a few giggles reading this!

    In many ways printers have come a long way. However most of 'intelligence'(!) is in the drivers now and not the printers themselves.

    I still find it crazy how my printer feels the need to go through a Head Cleaning Fit when I switch it in to SCAN some documents! I would laugh, except that I know that each time it does it costs me 3% of each ink cartridge.

  43. Confuciousmobil

    Joy at last!

    I bought an HP6500a when it first came out because it was one of the first AirPrint printers.

    It didn't work.

    IF I was lucky I could print one page before it died and needed to be reconnected to the wireless network. Then, after about half an hour of a lot of noise, if I was really lucky I might get it to print another page provided the paper didnt jam.

    I was told that wireless printers never work so I basically gave up and email stuff and print it at work if I really needed a hard copy of something.

    Then, last week, I decided to try again and bought a Canon MG5400 and... It works!

    Not only can I print from my laptops, desktop and server but also from my iPad and iPhones! I can also scan directly to my iPad and printing photos just works, they come out on 6 X 4 photo paper in tray 2 and everything else comes out on A4 in the other tray, no selection, no hassle, it just works!

    I've not yet tried printing on DVDs with the supplied DVD tray, but was pleased to find it duplexes by default.

    Print quality is great and it just works.

    I've printed more in the past week than I have in the past couple of years.

    I've found a printer that actually works!

    Please don't tell me it's all going to go horribly wrong - I don't want to know. At the moment I am in that joyous state of believing that printing needn't be hell.

  44. welshie

    Wait. No. That's can't be happening

    The printer driver has detected that the inkjet head is still succesfully squirting ink, and the cartridge should only hold one thimble full, not a bucket load that the device's owner has hooked onto the side via a series of tubes. The printer will now go into a bit of a decline and sulk in a corner, intentionally delaying printouts until the user acknowledges that the impossible has indeed happened.

  45. BigAndos

    Dear lord, that bit at the end with the succession of print cartridge changes brought back some painful memories. When I was exchanging contracts to buy my flat, I had to print out a letter and sign it so I could deliver it off to my solicitor. I had to do it by the end of the day or the purchase would get delayed. "no problem!" thinks I, just a simple monochrome letter on one side of A4.

    "Error - magenta tank is empty, please replace to continue printing". Damn printer has a separate black ink tank, which was full. Two of them no less! It very nearly went sailing out of the window...

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. injkets

    I've also experienced this "feature".

    Managed to save the day by swapping the chip from a nearly-but-not-quite empty one I'd swapped out earlier to fix a jammed nozzle.

    Had to go out and buy new ones because my chip resetter wouldn't reset the chips on the new cartridges, and helpfully the chips were glued in not just plastic tagged like the old ones.

    Someone should totally make a generic 3D printed CIS unit for old dinosaurs like the RX520 because they are built like a tank and never, EVER fail unless Ms. Molly Jnr feeds them paperclips and staples.

    Also useful would be a homemade fogger element based ultrasonic ink premixer for the CIS so that it doesen't clog up when not used for a while as my friend's unit did. ($$$)

    Also relevant, never throw away ancient but working printers because the heads are selling for a small fortune to universities experimenting with conducting polymer printing, those old low resolution printers to get direct from E*s*n are like $90,000 because it is a specialised product.

  47. bristolmoose

    It isn't just humans that have printer probs

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