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from Dr T -- RTemlak4dds@aol.com
Q: Whenever I try to print something, the text comes out all smudged together and everything just looks distorted. What could be causing this and how can I fix it?
A: Great question! We've covered similar printing problem questions like this before, but I don't think we've ever hit this topic head on. That's going to change today though and all you had to do was ask! Okay, so just to make sure, this is what's happening: You go to print off a document from your computer and the end result turns out to be a bunch of ink just all jumbled together. It could either be smudged copies, lines, distorted text or even unrecognizable images. Basically, you can't go on like this, so let's get this printer problem under control. Here we go!
As with all printing problems, this could be caused by a number of things. Below, I'm going to go over some of the main ones, along with a brief description of what you can do to troubleshoot and eventually fix it. Hopefully, at least one of them will give you what you need to get your printer up and running successfully again.
1.) Paper Issues: First of all, you need to make sure you're using the right kind of paper. When printing regular documents from a computer, you should try to always use the 8 1/2 x 11 or A4 standard paper. If you're trying to use a special kind of paper or an untraditional kind, your printer may not respond well to it. If they don't get along, your work will come out all smudgy or the text could be uneven. This even causes text to run off the side of the paper sometimes as well.
Now, this doesn't mean that you can't ever print with special paper, but you have to make sure of a couple things before you do it. First, make sure the paper is being fed into the printer correctly. You may have to move your paper tray over a little in order for the paper to fit. Next, simply be sure that the type of paper you're using is okay to use with your printer. Your printer's manual should have some information on what types of paper you can and cannot use. Basically, if you're only having trouble with one kind of paper, you can probably guess what the culprit is.
2.) Driver Issues: The second most common cause of bad printing is the drivers. If you're only getting unreadable text or strange looking characters, you probably have a bad driver. To fix this, you should look into and make sure you're using the most recent and updated drivers for your printer. If you don't, download and install them right away. You can find this information online by searching for your type of printer or you can read about it in your printer's manual as well.
3.) Print Head Issues: If your printer is only printing out fuzzy or blurry text or images, you probably have dirty print heads. Luckily, there are ways to check on this (at least for the most recent printers). If you look in your manual, you should be able to find some information on how to do a printing test, which will also lead you in the right direction to check and clean your printer's print heads. Of course, this method is different for every printer, so I can't really give instructions, but like I said, it can all be found in your manual. Also, if you use your printer on a regular basis, it's recommended that you do this at least once a year, if not more.
4.) Ink Issues: You knew this one was coming! If you haven't replaced your ink cartridges in awhile, this may be the base of your printing problems. This is especially true if you don't use your printer very often, because the ink could dry up. Each time you print something, there's usually an image that comes up on your computer screen showing you an estimated amount of ink that you have left. Pay close attention to that each time and be prepared to change it if the levels look low. If your printer doesn't do that, it will still notify you by flashing a light on one of its buttons. Either way, you'll be able to tell if your ink cartridge needs replaced. All of this is the same for the toner in laser printers as well. Again, if you haven't changed your ink or toner in over a year, you might as well get to it!
5.) Other Hardware Issues: If you have checked into all of the above suggestions and you're still having trouble with your printer, you may have a basic hardware problem. If this is the case, the best thing to do is contact your printer's manufacturer and ask them about it. Their contact information can probably be found online or in your manual. They might be able to recommend something else or even repair your printer for you.
Either way you look at it, printers are very important to our computing lives. Without them, we can never see our work on paper. So, I guess all I'm telling you is to take good care of your printer and if you run into a problem, get it resolved right away. You'll thank me later!