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Laser Printer Communication & Connection Problems

How To Troubleshoot Laser Printing Communication & Connection Problems

Calls about communications problems are the ones most laser printer technicians would rather not get. The most common of them goes something like this: "My computer is saying, 'Printer not ready, check cable.' I've done that, and it looks fine. I can send data to other printers. There's got to be something wrong with the printer itself.

How To Troubleshoot Laser Printing Communication & Connection Problems
How To Troubleshoot Laser Printing Communication & Connection Problems

This would be a great call if the customer's diagnosis was likely to be correct. Unfortunately, it almost never is. Seldom is the printer hardware at fault. For the printer to have caused the problem, the failure would have to be in the logic, Formatter or the Interface. Printer Interfaces and Formatters usually fail (if they fail at all) for three reasons.

  1. they start out with a weak component or combination of components and fail early in their life;

  2. their Cooling Fan fails or they overheat; or

  3. they are sited so that the vents are blocked and they subjected to excessive electrical stress.

Certainly there are boards that fail at any given point in a machine's life but, for the most part, the longer a board lasts without failure, the less likely it is for failure to occur.

So the first difficulty with this call is that it's not likely to be a printer problem at all. It is quite likely caused by something you're not properly qualified to troubleshoot. But it gets worse. Before going forward, let's add some further problems that would fall into this category.

  1. Printer prints one line of text that looks like it is overprinted several times, so only the ascenders and descenders of any characters are discernible. After this line is printed, nothing happens.

  2. Elements aren't positioned properly in the final print. Checks printed don't line up, logos feathered into other programs are mispositioned, etc.

  3. Wrong font prints out, or characters print incompletely or with extra punctuation or punctuation missing, etc.

  4. Printer prints garbage.

  5. Printer begins to accept job, but stops with no indication at printer or computer that printing will ever occur.

Laser Pinter Setups In a Complex IT Environment

Communications problems are frequently a function of complexity. The more complicated the IT environment, the more likely the problem. In mid sized to large offices, the environment is so complicated and vulnerable that it is generally necessary to employ full-time, on-staff professionals to deal with data processing problems. Should you get a call for a communications problem from a firm like this, it was invariably the IT professional that diagnosed the problem as being the printer

NOTE: Be careful to limit your activity to determining whether the printer works properly not. As soon as you join your Customer in a search for the outside solution, you may be in on open-ended up investigation that you won't be able to bill for adequately.

This sets up a situation that is fraught with peril for you. Here's how it goes: You arrive at the client site and begin looking at the printer. You know it's highly unlikely that the printer has failed, and mention that to the user, Mary Jane. Mary Jane responds that Rebecca, the IT professional, has already checked out the site and determined that everything is fine. The printer is the problem. Fix the printer, buddy.

It is very easy to very quickly get into an adversarial relationship with the user (and hence with the client). This happened to my staff and me frequently, until I learned how to deal with it. I usually respond to Mary Jane as follows: "Golly,I hope you're right, because the only thing that could cause this problem in the printer is the Formatter board, and it's the most expensive thing I could change. We really need the money. (Smile at this point.) Unfortunately for us, this problem is almost never due to the printer; it's usually some little thing that nobody thought to look for.

Continuing, I would say, "I've just run a a Self Test that demonstrates that the machine is able to format data properly. The problem can't be the Formatter. That only leaves the Interface. What I gong to do is run a test to determine if the Interface is capable of receiving and forwarding properly formatted text to the Formatter. Perhaps you'd like to invite your IT support person over to witness the test."

Prove That The Laser Printer Is Not Broken

On virtually all of these calls, your job becomes not to solve the printer problem, but to demonstrate that the printer is working properly. Frequently, you will stumble upon the solution to the problem with your customer, but that's not your job in this situation. Your job is to demonstrate that the printer is working properly, or fix it if it isn't.

There are many common things that can cause communications problems, which we'll review here. Don't let this confuse you about your mission. You were called for a printer problem. You are a printer technician.

On communications calls, when asked to check further for a solution after demonstrating that the printer is working fine, That's up to someone else. The printer is a well-defined, known universe. Every variable of its performance can be known and dealt with by a technician. That's not so with the greater office environment, including computers, hubs, peripherals, servers and software-worst of all, users. No telling what could have caused the problem.

Hot Swap Laser Printer Testing

The easiest way to confirm the performance of the printer is to disconnect the resident host and connect the printer to a laptop that you carry into the customer's office. Alternatively, you can just hook one of your Customer's computers to the printer, although sometimes the computers configured where that won't work. Your final choice is are physically move the printers to other network addresses and see if the problem follows them; another printer to the troubled address to determine if the move move problem stays there.

If the machine is connected to a network through a dedicated network card, such as a JetDirect card or one of the optional Interface cards, you may have to juggle printers around to prove your point. The logic is as follows:

  1. Your test indicates the printer is functioning normally.

  2. You suspect that properly formulated data is failing to reach the printer.

  3. Properly formulated data is reaching other printers at other printing stations, and the printers are functioning normally

  4. Switch printers. If the problem follows the printer that originally failed at another address,then you have demonstrated a printer hardware problem. If the problem remains resident at the original printer address, irrespective of which printer is connected, you have demonstrated that the problem is with the host system or network.

  5. Attempt both tests; results should be consistent.

What If It Is The Laser Printer

After you have demonstrated that the laser printer is capable of properly receiving and formatting data, you have proved that the printer is not the cause of the fault, and that the customer needs to look elsewhere for a solution. But what if your tests are inconclusive? Or if they follow the printer? There are several things that could possibly trigger the problem; thoroughly investigate them before making a final decision.

The first possibility: It may be a printer problem. Run an engine test. If your engine test is successful, you have a printer that, if failing at all, has a failure in the proprietary system. Proprietary components include the Formatter, the Interface, the Display Panel (if any) and any cabling connecting these items. If a Self Test prints properly, you have generally eliminated the Formatter from suspicion, although on most System Boards, formatting and interfacing are combined, so the net effect is the same.

Similarly, the display and the cabling connecting the display to the Formatter board are unlikely (in the extreme) to have caused the problem. If cabling is at fault, it is cabling that connects Formatter to Interface.

The second possibility is that the Network Interface installed on the printer has failed. Here I am talking about optional Interfaces, not host connections through special devices.

Devices in this category Would be cards that insert into optional Interface slots, and dedicated network cards that slide into dedicated network ports. The check for this is