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Checklist for fixing printer problems on Windows

When your printer goes nuts and suddenly stops working, there’s a lot of things you can try to get it to work again. You can try these one by one and once it’s fixed you don’t have to go any further.

  1. Restart your printer: yeah, this one’s obvious. Turn it off and on again, or even power-cycle it.

  2. Restart the spooler service: the spooler service’s responsible for queueing print jobs, and sometimes it may get confused. Go to Start / Run and start services.msc. Find the Print Spooler service and restart it.

  3. Remove any remaining print jobs: you can do this from printer properties, but sometimes it may not work as it should. In this case, you gotta do it manually. Go to %SystemRoot%\System32\spool\PRINTERS and delete any files. You’ll need admin rights, and make sure to unhide hidden files in your file browser. You may also have to stop the spooler service during the process, see step 2.

  4. Reinstall/update the printer driver: make sure you have access either to Windows Update or to the printer driver, otherwise you won’t be able to install the printer again!

    • Unplug the printer and remove it from Control Panel / Devices and Printers. If Devices and Printers won’t load for you (happens quite often with troublesome printers), try to remove the printer from another user account. If it’s not visible for the other user, that means the printer is installed locally just for the other user. In this case, find out the exact name of the printer from an application where it will still appear fine. Start Notepad, press Ctrl + P and take note of the printer name. Start an elevated command prompt and remove the printer with the following command: rundll32 printui.dll,PrintUIEntry /dl /n "printer_name" (substitute printer_name with the actual name you took note of in Notepad).
    • Start / Run and run printui /s /t 2. Select the erroneous printer, click Remove…, then Remove driver and driver package., then press OK. It may not succeed at first, try to restart the spooler service as per step 2. You may even try restarting your computer.
    • Go to %SystemDrive%\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\DeviceMetadataStore\en-US and remove any files. You’ll most likely have to fiddle around with NTFS ACL (take ownership, grant rights, etc. use Google).
    • Start / Run and run regedit. Delete any remnants of your deleted printer from under the HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\Printers and HKCU\Printers keys.
      • Once all the cleanup’s done, restart your computer just to make sure.
      • Once restarted, plug in your printer and wait for Windows to conclude that it cannot find the proper driver (remember, you deleted them). Now point it to your downloaded driver (.sys, .inf, etc. files) or tell it to use Windows Update. In the latter case, it’ll take several minutes for Windows to download the required files, be patient. Once it’s there, just install as normally.

There you go, your printer should be back to normal operation.

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