Tech Tips
My Mac Magazine #23, March ’97

To start with, I’d like to thank those readers who contact me with their technical problems, I’m always happy to help out a fellow Mac user. This month Tech Tips will cover general printer troubleshooting, how to determine the cause of the problem and which areas to look at for the resolution.

Problem one: Printer won’t print, error message on the computer. This one is a very common occurrence for my clients. The main issue is that “won’t print” is enormously vague and can vary widely by printer type. Let’s start with a couple basics.

Can you print another document? If not, then try another program. If nothing will print, follow the steps below. If a different document/program will print then there are different software issues that will be covered in a future article.

What type of printer is it? If it is a laser printer, did it print out the startup page (if it normally does)? If it is an inkjet printer, did the printer make its usual ratchet noises (from the print head moving back and forth)? On either printer type, is the ready light on, not blinking, and no error lights on? If the answers were yes to these questions, we can hope that the printer itself is ok, or at least consider it the last item to check since it appears to be working. If you had difficulty answering any of these questions, mainly because you’ve never paid attention to your printer, I suggest watching what it does when you power it on – that way you know what is “normal” for your printer and can speed up any troubleshooting on your own.

So, the printer appears ok, now what? Double check the cabling from the computer to the printer. If you are on a network, well, check the cabling immediately from your computer to the network access point and the same for the printer. It would also be beneficial for you to check how your printer is attached to the Mac, which port it is plugged into and so on – if it currently works. Make sure your cables have not been pinched or cut and verify that they are firmly seated into their appropriate ports. Many printing problems can be resolved by simply reseating cables that have been bumped loose.

Ok, cabling appears functional, now we blame software or more appropriately, software settings. Pull the Apple menu down and select the Chooser. Do you see your printer listed in the resulting window? If not, reload the printer software; if so, then click once on your printer’s icon/name/driver. On the right will be the settings for that printer, Network printers (Apple’s LaserWriter II, Pro and Select 360 for example) will show the printer’s name in the right hand window; inkjet and some laser printers will show both ports that you can connect them to. If your printer’s a network unit and its name doesn’t show up, then the printer or the cabling are at fault. It’s also important to note that network printers require that AppleTalk be active and if AppleTalk was inactive when you opened the Chooser you should select the “active” button, close Chooser and restart your Mac before you try to select the printer. If you are using an inkjet (or direct connect as they are sometimes referred) you must click on the appropriate port that the printer is plugged into. By examining the back of your Mac you can determine which port it’s plugged into by matching the icon near the port with the icon in the right hand window of the Chooser. Note that if you are not on a network and the AppleTalk selection is Active then you should make it Inactive, close Chooser, restart and then reselect the printer. This is a major problem in that AppleTalk will kick active and try to use the same port that the printer is plugged into, normally the printer port.

You should be able to print now if the printer itself is ok, cabling is proper and the Mac has the correct printer selected in the appropriate port.

If you still can’t print, there are a couple more options (actually plenty more reasons that I will cover in a future column) that you can try. When you print, what type of error does it give you? If it is some sort of memory message, try turning background printing off in the Chooser. A printer related message means that you must now blame the printer, so verify that the ink/toner is installed properly and paper is where it should be. Try shutting the printer off for 3 minutes, then back on and do the same to your Mac. Errors can often be corrected by cycling the power to an unit (which usually stems from a “corrupt” print job causing a looping error either in the printer or computer).

Real World Experience

The computer: PowerMacintosh 8500
The problem: Some fonts not displaying/printing properly.

The solution: Removed duplicate screen fonts, reset Suitcase to use correct fonts.
The explanation: This unit was your standard print shop machine that had a ton of fonts that I had just been called in to service. Knowing how many Graphic Artists have their machines set up to their personal prefs, I get leery of jumping into the machine to reset the font configurations. This one took a little time to finally realize that the user had duplicated several folders of fonts, but only a partial amount of the fonts and then had instructed Suitcase to use the new folders. The issue was that they had not moved the printer fonts, just the screen fonts. Deleting the extra folders/fonts and reconfiguring Suitcase to look in the correct folders for both the screen and printer fonts solved the issue. This is another one of those learning experiences that tells you not to believe the user.

Jeramey R. Valley (

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