Essential printer maintenance tips

1  Read the manual

First things first, don’t start rooting around inside your printer without consulting the relevant section of the instruction manual. If you don’t follow your manufacturer’s recommended procedures you might invalidate your warranty. Your manual should be the first port of call for any printer-related issues.

You can also invest in a manufacturer’s maintenance kit to help prolong the life of your printer. These typically contain cleaning supplies and replacements for the parts most susceptible to wear and tear, such as the roller. Worn or dirty parts are often responsible for printer jams or streaky printing.

Many modern printers, whether laser or inkjet, have self-cleaning functions. For that reason turn the printer off with its on/off button rather than by switching off the unit at the plug socket, in order not to interfere with its automatic features.

2  Location, location, location

Heat and dry air can cause problems for printers, potentially contributing to print head clogging with inkjets and toner degradation with lasers. Site them away from radiators and other heat sources to be on the safe side.

And talking of safety, some common printer problems arise from nothing more than being knocked and barged by passing human traffic. If possible, locate the printer in an unobtrusive corner of the office, away from narrow and busy thoroughfares.

3  Be paper smart

Paper jams are common, and if a page gets stuck in the system the best policy (after referring to the manual) is to very gently pull it free using both hands. Try to make sure the paper doesn’t tear.

But prevention is better than cure, so don’t overfill the paper tray and make sure paper being fed into the printer is not torn or stuck together. Dog-eared and damp paper can get stuck in the printer’s mechanics and cause a jam. Keep you reams of paper in a dry place and out of direct sunlight.

Regular paper jams without an obvious cause might signal a problem with a sensor inside the machine. In that case get a qualified technician to take a look.

4  Be printer proud

A dusty printer can lead to streaky printing. Giving your printer a clean will make it sparkle and will also stop dust and debris accumulating and blocking print heads. Use a small vacuum to suck away dust, or wipe over external surfaces with a duster.

If your printer is in a dusty or dirty environment – a workshop, for instance – consider investing in a cheap plastic cover.

5  Keep your printer up to date

Print problems can be caused by out-of-date software. Occasionally a manufacturer will update printer drivers (the software that controls your printer) to add extra features or to remedy a problem. Check with your manufacturer to make sure your driver is up to date.

Many devices automatically update driver software. HP Update, for example, provides an automated way to keep your HP printer software current.

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