Fix printer problems

Printing problems can be caused by cables that aren't connected properly, problems with wireless adapters or settings, damaged or incompatible printer drivers, or missing updates. This tutorial doesn't cover printing problems related to specific apps.

1. Check hardware

Many printing problems are caused by hardware that isn't set up quite right. Here are ideas to solve common problems with printer hardware.

Check the power

Make sure that the printer's electrical cord is plugged into an electrical outlet and that the power switch is turned on. If you're printing to a shared printer or a printer on a network, make sure that all necessary computers and routers are turned on too. If your printer or other equipment is plugged in to a surge protector or a backup power supply, make sure that hardware is plugged in and turned on as well.

Check the cables (wired printers)

Make sure that the printer cable is properly connected from the printer to your PC.

Picture of a typical USB cable and port
A typical USB cable and port

Check the wireless connection (wireless printers)

  • Make sure the printer’s wireless option is turned on and available. Many printers have a button that displays a blue wireless icon when wireless is available. To learn where this button is located on your printer and to find instructions about how to turn it on, see the manual that came with the printer.

  • Run the printer’s wireless connectivity test. Many printers have a menu option to test the printer’s wireless connectivity. Read the instructions that came with the printer or check the printer manufacturer’s website for instructions about how to do this.

  • If you're using Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, follow the steps in Why isn't Windows finding my Bluetooth or other wireless device? If the problem persists after you follow those steps, there might be something wrong with your PC’s network adapter. To learn more, see How do I fix network adapter problems?

2. Use a troubleshooter

A troubleshooter is an automated tool that can find and automatically fix some problems with your PC. The printing troubleshooter can fix problems with installing and connecting to a printer.

3. Update drivers

Most printers require driver software to work properly. If you recently upgraded from one version of Windows to another, it's possible that the current printer driver is for the previous version of Windows. If you've had recent power outages, viruses, or other computer problems, it's possible that the drivers have become damaged. Downloading and installing the latest driver for your printer can resolve these types of problems.

Note

  • Windows RT 8.1 is only compatible with printers that are designed to work with Windows RT 8.1. These printers display a Designed for Windows RT 8.1 logo.

Here are three ways to find and install a driver:

  • Use Windows Update. Windows Update might have an updated version of your printer driver.

To update the driver using Windows Update

  1. ‌Open Windows Update in Control Panel by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or, if you're using a mouse, pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer up, and then clicking Search), entering Windows Update in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Windows Update settings .

  2. Tap or click Check now.

    If there are any available updates, tap or click the links to see more info about each update. Windows Update tells you if an update is important, recommended, or optional. Each type of update might include drivers.

  3. On the Select the updates you want to install page, look for updates for your printer, select the check box for the driver that you want to install, and then tap or click OK.

    There might not be any available driver updates.

  4. On the Windows Update page, tap or click Install updates. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

    Note

    • Some updates require you to restart your PC.

  • Install software from the printer manufacturer. If your printer came with a disc, that disc might contain software that installs a driver for the printer.

  • Download and install the driver yourself. You can search for a driver on the manufacturer's website. Try this if Windows Update can't find a driver for your printer, and the printer didn't come with software that installs a driver.

To download and install a driver yourself

If Windows can't find a driver for your printer, and the printer didn't come with driver software, you can look for a driver on the manufacturer's website. Driver updates are often available in the support section of such websites. Locate and download the latest driver for your printer.

Follow the driver installation instructions on the website. Most drivers are self-installing—after you download them, you usually double-tap or double-click the file to begin the installation, and then the driver installs itself on your PC.

Some printers have drivers that aren't self-installing. If you download a driver that isn't self-installing, follow these steps. Administrator permission required You must be signed in as an administrator.
  1. Open Device Manager by swiping in from the right edge of the screen, tapping Search (or if you're using a mouse, pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen, moving the mouse pointer up, and then clicking Search), entering Device Manager in the search box, and then tapping or clicking Device Manager. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

  2. In the list of hardware categories, find the device that you want to update, and then double-tap or double-click the device name.

  3. Tap or click the Driver tab, tap or click Update Driver, and then follow the instructions. Administrator permission required You might be asked for an admin password or to confirm your choice.

Notes

  • In Windows RT 8.1, you can update drivers only through Windows Update. Windows Update also automatically installs important and recommended updates as they become available, but you can check for other optional updates.

  • For information about printers that are compatible with Windows 8.1, visit the Compatibility Center.