Technological birth and obsolescence accelerate at breakneck speed. Desktops are being superseded in favor of laptops (save for specific uses with ultra-high-end hardware that laptops cannot keep up) to leaner, more portable and faster machines. And soon, laptops will follow with the proliferation of tablets and smartphones. As for printers, they also have a trend path of their own although it’s not that precipitous.
Printers have gone a long way from its simple, almost crude electromechanical beginnings to technology sophistication. Dot matrix printers reigned supreme back in the 80s; inkjets and laser printers were still at infancy. And if they were available, the masses couldn’t afford them. Millennials may have forgotten or haven’t seen the LPT printer port. Even if today single-functions printers are still hanging around, its market share has significantly dropped because AIOs are simply much better units.
Every year, manufacturers release a new breed of printers, serving even the niche market. You rarely see anyone, or any office use a dedicated fax machine because an all-in-one printer can do the same task. Even large photocopiers aren’t exempted from descending to obsolescence. Multipurpose units are getting better at copying documents (albeit a few seconds slower at copying but for light-duty work environments, they’re up to the task.) From USB to Ethernet to WiFi to Cloud printing, these connectivity options are solutions for work environments that is time critical with added flexibility.
Despite the progress, it is not without flaws and it breeds new challenges. Users get confused how they can use their new printer and maximize its features. It takes time getting used to a new one and their learning curve can be steep. Sometimes when the printer is not responding or behaving strangely, they would hastily think their printer is defective or before realizing something’s amiss and wouldn’t take long to troubleshoot such problem. Or they get frustrated if a tried-and-tested solution doesn’t work.
All these considered, here are some things to keep in mind about printing in general:
- Economics is the name of the game. Yet most often than not, consumers can be instantly drawn how cheap a printer is without considering the ink cost.
Try this: while you’re reading the specifications of a printer, do a quick search of its ink and calculate the average cost of printing in a month for every cartridge or toner within your shortlisted printers of choice before purchase. Some printers may surprise you how low (or high) the cost may be.
For businesses that require continuous printing, a laser printer or AIO with high-yield toner capacity option and very high duty cycle is recommended. Anything else that doesn’t require much printing can opt for an inkjet or an entry level laser printer instead.
- You can install the software from the printer CD unless it also stealthily installs bloatware.
Nobody likes bloatware. Put it in another way, nobody should use bloatware. They hog memory resources like gluttons; making your computer sluggish. Unfortunately, many users install their printer software from the CD unbeknown to them or not giving some time to select what programs they only need. Worse, bloatware can be inconspicuously preselected, and subtlety blended in between window dialogs during installation process that you can only notice it after the installation. When installing from the printer CD, only the drivers are needed. Install or reinstall the printer software if you’re sure it doesn’t slow down your computer and it has all the essential functions needed for your printer to work.
- If possible, have a printer with screen panel interface rather than the blocky LCD or none.
Its visual impact makes you more aware what the printer is (or you are) doing while not being confused or lost in the middle of an important task.
- Choosing within two or more printer models of the same series can have different features present or lacking.
Some manufacturers have these acronyms for distinguishing features from one printer to another. For example, a Brother HL-L3230CDW is a color multifunction LED printer that supports duplex printing and wireless printing unlike its other sibling Brother HL-L3230CDN which shares the same features except wireless printing, hence, without letter “W”. A printer with wireless feature usually supports wired network printing but it’s the opposite is true the other way around. Commonly seen acronyms are:
- W for wireless
- N for wired network
- D for duplex printing
- C for color
- L for laser or LED
- M or MF for multifunction
- F for fax
- There’s no harm if you’ve skipped updating your printer drivers. Update only if it is necessary.
Update or reinstall only when:
- Having hardware changes like modem or router (for wireless)
- Upgrading your operating system
- A printer driver bug was discovered that can only be fixed with a later driver version
- Your printer isn’t working properly
- Familiarity about wired or wireless networking and other common technical terms is a necessity.
Unless you only have one computer and you only need to connect via USB, if you have no idea how to setup your WiFi, chances are you won’t be able to set up your printer at all.
- Setting your printer up can be trickier than you thought it would be.
Even if you’re tech-savvy, printer quirks solutions range from a walk in the park to downright challenging. Some printers aren’t that easy to install by just adding a printer in the Add Printer Wizard. Sometimes during the installation process, you are required to manually input your local network’s SSID or the router’s IP address. And if you have multiple laptops that need to connect to a single printer, you probably need to perform the installation for each computer especially if you’re doing wireless method. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and do not skip any steps or else you have to do it over again.
- Different methods for different models.
With the help of Google, you should search specifically of your printer’s model for any help guide needed. Because sometimes what works for a recent model may not work to the newer one even if they are of the same manufacturer.
- When connecting via USB, some printers will work to the specific USB port when it was first set up and installed.
This is caused by the printer’s USB interface not having a unique serial number or you’re connecting to virtual printer port if another printer is connected. Windows cannot distinguish one USB port order of the printer to another, so it creates one driver instance for each port. This happens to any USB device without a serial number. You can see where your printer was originally installed from the Printers and Devices at the end of the printer model name with the suffix USBxx1 (can be USB002, USB003) depending on how many USB ports your computer has. Your solution is to use the same port as when it was last installed or open Devices and Printers and set the active printer to default.
- Make use of WiFi Direct printing method. It’s that convenient.
A WiFi Direct feature lets you connect from a wireless device directly without connecting to a WiFi network. Setting it up from your laptop or an Android device is easy as turning it on from Wireless and networks in Settings then scan for the printer (make sure it’s on), select it, and then accept the invitation to connect.
- You can also print via Bluetooth, which is another wireless printing method but surprisingly isn’t widely used.
It can come in handy if all other options fail. All you have to do is pair your device to the printer and you’re good to go. The distance between your device and the printer should be close.
- Mobile specific printing apps like Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint don’t work if your printer isn’t connected to a wireless network.
They are just as inconvenient without WiFi. Enough said.
- Sometimes a wireless printing problem is solved as easy as just enabling printer sharing.
If you managed to install the printer with its wireless feature enabled and still unable to print, you can enable sharing by turning on file and printer sharing in the Printer properties in the Control Panel. You should see your shared printer from the Network window. For Mac users, navigate to Printers and Scanners and then make sure Printer Sharing is checked or enabled. Then add your printer in the Add Printer or Scanner from Printers and Scanners window and select your Mac computer, your workgroup, and your printer model. Then click add.
- Be mindful to your printer status whether coming from your printer panel interface or its software.
It’s not a big deal if you only ran out of paper, paper jam or a low-ink notification. Other than those warnings, your printer might need serious attention.The list can go on, and if I have learned something new along the way, I may add it to this list. How about you? Let me know what you have learned by posting a comment or two below.