Differences Between Older and Newer Printers - dummies

Differences Between Older and Newer Printers

By Dan Gookin

If you are going to troubleshoot in the personal computer world, you must be prepared to troubleshoot the printer as well as the computer. There have been rapid advances in printer technology recently, so understanding some of the differences between older and newer printers is helpful.

If you’re using an older printer with your computer, you’re missing out on some of the latest tricks. Although older printers share the fancy displays and full-text messages of today’s printers, newer models often sport one of those handy Cancel buttons. Nothing beats that.

The printer connects to your PC with a USB cable. Older printers use a specific printer cable called, remarkably, a printer cable. If you have an older printer, ensure that you get a bidirectional printer cable, which is more compatible with the printer’s features, allowing communications between the printer and computer.

Printers also plug into the wall.

Most printers feature power management abilities, just like your computer does. The printer can be left on all the time and doesn’t consume an abundance of electricity. Still, I recommend turning off the printer when you don’t plan to use it for great lengths of time.

  • Yes, there are wireless printers. They can be network printers, which plug into computer networks just like modems or other computers. There are also Bluetooth printers. Troubleshooting these printers involves not only the printer hardware and Windows but also wireless and network communications. That’s three things to troubleshoot, not the normal, annoying two.

  • All-in-one printers — the gizmos that combine printing with scanning, copying, and faxing — are popular, though they add extra items for hardware troubleshooting. For example, when the fax component stops working and you have to have it repaired, you then lose its printing and scanning abilities too — unless you go buy a new printer.

  • Get to know your printer. Discover how the paper goes in: face down or face up, and top edge first or top edge last or whatever. Often, a set of icons on the paper tray describe the paper’s orientation. Make a note of it.

  • If you have an older or a cheaper printer without a text display, know what its lights mean. Perhaps even label the lights with a Sharpie so that you can remember. English beats international icon hieroglyphics every day!

  • Always have plenty of paper and ink available for the printer.

  • Some printers feature an on-line or a select button. It controls communications between the printer and the computer. When the button is on, the printer is ready to print. Taking the printer offline or deselecting the button means that the printer is on and can be configured (or fixed) but nothing can be printed.