How to Maintain Fax Machines and Scanners - dummies

How to Maintain Fax Machines and Scanners

By Gary Hedstrom, Peg Hedstrom, Judy Ondrla Tremore

Fax machines are usually trouble-free. The best way to keep your fax machine or scanner in top condition is to service it periodically, as recommended by the manufacturer. Use good paper that doesn’t leave a residue or film and use the appropriate ink cartridges.

A fax scans paper images and then transmits them to another machine via a modem linked to your telephone. The receiving fax decodes and translates the light and dark images and reproduces them on thermal or plain paper. There are so many different models and manufacturers of fax machines that it’s not possible to explain how to fix them. But you can troubleshoot your machine.

All fax machines have phone receivers. If the fax doesn’t work, then call a friend or neighbor to see if there’s a problem with the phone. If it’s not the phone, get your owner’s manual and check the settings. Also review all setup instructions. You can check how your fax machine works by putting a document into the fax and copying it. If the copy looks like the original, your machine is trouble-free. If you have two phone lines and a computer, send yourself a fax from the computer. If it doesn’t arrive, take the machine for service, or service it yourself by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you get a fax that’s hard to read, it’s not your machine: the sender’s machine has a problem. Let that person or company know the fax was unreadable.

The best way to avoid problems is to use rubbing alcohol periodically to clean the machine; also blow out accumulated dust and fuzz with canned air, your vacuum cleaner, or a blow dryer.


When a scanner scans a document or picture, it converts the image into a file that can be stored on your computer. Then you can send that image anywhere using the modem. It’s also possible to make a quality reproduction of the original page on the printer. Dust, lint, fur, fingerprints, and other culprits can cause smudges or mar the glass. Keep the glass bed on scanners clean by wiping it periodically with a good glass cleaner and soft paper towel. Here’s how:

  1. Turn the scanner off and unplug it.

  2. Raise the cover.

  3. Dampen the cloth or paper towel slightly with a non-abrasive glass cleaner.

    Don’t spray the glass directly and don’t use too much liquid. You don’t want it to seep into the scanner.

    Avoid cleaners with abrasives in them because these chemicals may permanently damage the glass. Windex or a similar product is safe.

  4. Keep the lid open until the glass dries.

If you recently bought your scanner and you have an older computer, it’s possible the USB ports aren’t compatible. Check the ratings. A USB 2.0 scanner should plug into a USB 2.0 port; anything less means that the scanner will send information faster than the computer port can accept it. What can you do, short of buying a new computer? Ask the service department or a knowledgeable sales person for help.