Hawaii Macintosh & Apple Users' Society…connecting people and technology since 1979.

Doctor Kokua – I can’t print!

Image of hand holding an unplugged power cable.

From Alice Unawai:

I have suddenly lost the ability to print any documents. What can I do to fix this problem?


Dear Alice,

After you have checked to make sure that the printer is receiving power and that it has ink (or toner) the first thing to do is to restart everything.

Shutdown your printer, computer and router. We even recommend unplugging these devices from the power source. Wait about 30 seconds, plug back in and restart everything.

Doing this as a first order of business is most often the easiest and fastest fix for many electrical devices and systems. If it resolves your problem, you’re done, and you haven’t invested a whole lot of time. If the problem persists, then the fix may take longer, if it can be fixed at all.

Why is a reboot often all that is needed to fix computer issues?

Electronic devices can sometimes find themselves in odd states. Power-cycling forces the equipment to reset and restart from a “known good state.”

Software affects many things on your computer while it operates. The longer it operates, the more things change. Memory is used, released, and fragmented. Files on the disc drive, similarly, are opened, read, written, and fragmented. The hardware—video cards, network hardware, other peripherals—are all being accessed continuously. Any of these can end up in states with problems.

  • A reboot restores all the software to a known state.
  • A power-cycle restores all the hardware to a known state.

This resolves most issues. However, temporary files, installed files, preferences, and more will remain. So in some difficult cases, a reformat and software reinstallation may also be needed to restore complete functionality.

The printer problem that gave you so much grief?

These devices are actually small single-purpose computers. They have internal memory to track bits of information relating to the connections with other devices, like your computer. The longer they run, the more likely that their memories might have a problem. The problem could be hardware related or something in the internal software. A reboot of your printer, router and computer every couple of months will set things back to normal.

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