How to Know if a USB Printer Cable Is Working Correctly?

Connect the USB cable directly from the printer to the computer.
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When you are having printing issues, a faulty USB cable may not be the obvious place to look for a problem. If the printer works and then doesn't work when you happen to touch or move the cable, it should be obvious that a bad cable is to blame. In most cases, however, the only symptom is simply the fact that the computer doesn't recognize the computer. Before going through the hassle of buying a replacement cable, take a few minutes to make sure the cable is really to blame.

Turn off the printer and disconnect the USB cable at both ends. Examine the cable for damage like crimps or cuts. A cable caught beneath a chair or desk can easily be damaged. Examine the point at which the USB connector attaches to the cable to make sure it isn't cracked or otherwise worn. If the cable is physically damaged, replace it.

Measure the cable's length. If the cable is more than 6 feet long, there is a good chance the cable is the problem. Replace it with a shorter cable.

Examine both connectors on the cable, as well as the USB ports on the computer and printer, for dirt or dust that may be inside. Blow into the ports and connectors or use a can of compressed air to remove any accumulated debris.

Connect the cable directly to the computer and the printer, without using any intermediate devices like a USB hub or the USB port on a keyboard. Ensure that each end of the cable is inserted firmly into the USB ports. Turn on the printer and try printing a page. If this doesn't work, shut down the computer, and then try using a different port on the computer. If this still doesn't work, reverse the cable and try one more time to eliminate a faulty cable or connection as the problem.

Connect the USB cable to a different computer, or use the same computer and connect it to a different device. If the cable works with other components, the cable is not the problem.

Turn off the printer and the computer. Disconnect all other USB devices you don't need to operate the computer. For example, disconnect a USB keyboard and mouse if you are using a laptop. Restart the computer, turn the printer on, and then watch the Windows desktop -- if Windows detects the printer, it's unlikely the cable or connections are causing the printing problems.

Click the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon in the Windows desktop notification area at the bottom of the screen. If your printer or USB device is not listed here, replace the cable.

  • You may notice that the ports on your computer or printer are labelled USB 3, while the cable itself may be marked as USB 2. Since USB technology is backwards-compatible, the print jobs may slower using USB 2, but the cable should still work.

A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.