Troubleshoot “The Print Out Doesn’t Look Right” - dummies

Troubleshoot “The Print Out Doesn’t Look Right”

By Dan Gookin

Sometimes the PC talks to the printer and the printer prints, but it certainly doesn’t look like what you expected. To troubleshoot that problem depends on exactly what the print out does look like.

Wrong colors or streaks in the print out

For the content of your document or even its formatting, when the printed page looks ugly, chances are that the printer itself is to blame. The chief motivator of the ugly printing demon is your printer’s ink supply.

Weird or faded colors indicate that a color ink cartridge is low. Some printers inform you of this fact, and others don’t. Sadly, if you use an ink cartridge that contains multiple ink colors, you must replace the entire thing. Yep, that’s how they make their money!

Dark streaks down the page might indicate that ink or another gunky substance got on the printer’s paper-feeding mechanism. But for a laser printer, the streaks often mean that the toner is old. Replace the toner cartridge.

  • Replace the ink cartridges in an inkjet printer when they‘re empty. Obey your printer! Using ink cartridges that are too low on ink can damage some printers.

  • It’s possible to extend toner life in a laser printer. The first time you see the Toner Low warning, remove the cartridge and gently rock it from side to side. Replace the cartridge and the warning message should no longer appear. When it does, replace the cartridge at once!

Weird characters on the printed page

On occasion, random letters, numbers, or symbols appear on printouts. Typically, the characters appear at the top of every page. They may be the same on all pages, or different.

First, confirm that those characters aren’t in the document’s header.

Second, update the printer software driver. There may be a problem with the one you have. You can visit the printer manufacturer’s website to check for new or updated driver software.

Page after page of gobbledygook

I’ve seen a printer spew endless pages of nonsense. It often happens for one of two reasons.

The first reason is that printing was somehow interrupted. The stream of data flowing from the computer to the printer had a hiccup, so the printer is misinterpreting the information. The solution is to stop the printer, cancel the print job, and then restart the printer and resend the print job. (Print again.)

The second reason for seeing the junk may be an improper printer driver. Again, visit the printer manufacturer’s website to get the right and most up to date driver.