Computer Recognizes the Printer but the Printer Won't Respond

Printer problems can have myriad causes.
... George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Few computer problems are more frustrating than unresponsive hardware, especially when it's clear that the computer can see the hardware. If your PC acknowledges that it is connected to a printer, but the printer doesn't respond to your print requests, there could be several issues at fault. Step-by-step troubleshooting is generally the best approach to solving problems of this nature.

1 Check the Printer for Error Lights

Many printers offer a coded light pattern when they're experiencing some sort of error or malfunction. Decoding this pattern requires that look at the printer's support documentation. A blinking light may represent a memory configuration error, job-related error, or that the printer is simply low on ink or out of paper. Solve the problem indicated by the error light, and the printer should become responsive again. Each manufacturer and model is different; if you've lost your documentation, consult the manufacturer's official website.

2 Update Your Drivers

Drivers are what tell your operating system how to interact with the devices and hardware connected to it. Out-of-date drivers can cause a number of problems, including unresponsive or malfunctioning peripherals. Visit the official website of your printer manufacturer and navigate to the “Downloads” section. Find the most recent driver set for your specific printer model. Download and install the drivers to ensure the PC can communicate effectively with the device.

3 Restart Your Computer

If you've sent several requests to the printer with no results, it's possible that your computer is experiencing some sort of software glitch or communication error. A quick restart should be enough to clear minor problems. Additionally, dumping out the printer queue can often solve “traffic jam” problems between the system and the printer; you can open and edit the queue by double-clicking the printer icon on your system tray. It's also a good idea to restart the printer, flipping the power switch off and then on. Note that the power switch is usually found on the back of the printer -- the surface button may not actually power the device down. If you're unsure, unplugging the printer serves the same purpose.

4 Run the Install Disc

Your printer likely included an install disc designed to help you through the initial set-up process. Running this disc with the printer connected will allow you to make important settings changes; for example, if you're trying to print over a wireless network but the password has recently changed, the printer install disc will walk you through setting up the printer for the Wi-Fi network. Setting up the printer again is often the right cure for communication errors. If you've lost the original install disc, replacement software is usually available in the "downloads" section of the manufacturer's official website.