Use Print Settings to Troubleshoot PC Printing - dummies

Use Print Settings to Troubleshoot PC Printing

By Dan Gookin

Printing from Windows PCs is pretty straightforward, but occasionally things don’t work exactly the way you would hop and you have to don your troubleshooting hat. In that case, the first thing you need to understand are all of the print settings and how to manipulate them to do what you want.

Because Windows handles all printing duties for you, the printing procedure works basically the same way in every program: Press Ctrl+P to summon the Print dialog box. If need be, adjust settings in the dialog box; otherwise, just click the Print button to print. Or, you can click the Print toolbar button to quickly print a document.


The printer must be on and ready to print and have plenty of paper and ink for the printing process to be successful.

Here are some general printer notes:

  • Save paper! Use the Print Preview command before printing. Proof your document. Print only when everything is ready to print.

  • The Range option allows you to set the starting and ending pages. Some Print dialog boxes offer a more flexible plan: You can specify individual pages or a range or a combination of both. Separate individual pages with commas; a range of pages, with a hyphen. For example:


    This range prints pages 2 and 4 and then all pages 9 through 16.

  • When a Selection option is available, only the text or items selected in the document are printed.

  • Some printers can print on both sides of a sheet of paper — duplex printing. When this type isn’t available, print all odd pages first. Reinsert the pages in the printers face down, and then print all even pages.

  • If the stack of paper comes out of the printer in the wrong order (the first page is on the bottom), consider printing in reverse order. An option to do so can generally be found in the Printer’s Properties dialog box; click the Properties button in the Print dialog box.

  • The Print to File option is dubious. Rather than send information to the printer, you save the same raw data in a file. There isn’t much you can do with the file, sadly. Rather than using Print to File, you can use the Adobe Acrobat Writer program to create a PDF file. You can also use the Microsoft XPS format, though it’s not as popular.

  • Acrobat Writer is a different program from the widely available and free Acrobat Reader program.

  • Color options are often available, but not in the Print dialog box itself: Click the Properties button in the Print dialog box and then use the printer’s Properties dialog box to set color options.

  • Printing a color document in grayscale (no color information) saves color ink. It’s a good trick to use for drafts.

  • When the Collate option is used, multiple documents print one after another. When documents aren’t collated, all the first pages print first, and then the second pages, and so on.

  • The infamous printer error message PC Load Letter means that the printer is out of paper. PC in this case stands for Paper Cartridge, and Load Letter means to load letter-size paper.