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Jim Rossman: Don’t let your printer get the best of you

Dallas Morning News logo Dallas Morning News 5/5/2021 Jim Rossman, The Dallas Morning News
a man wearing glasses posing for the camera: HD-ROSSMAN_JIM_DA. © Evans Caglage/Dallas Morning News/TNS HD-ROSSMAN_JIM_DA.

I got a note from a co-worker last week telling me about a discussion she had with a friend about the travails of printing while working from home. The printers they have at home are not as good as the big ones at work, and they had both thrown away home printers that were not cooperating.

I’ve had the same problem.

No one wants to spend a lot of money on a printer, so a lot of us buy cheaper, all-in-one inkjet printers.

All of the big printer companies, including Epson, Hewlett-Packard and Canon, make all-in-ones that cost less than $200 — sometimes less than $100.

They look great, and when you unbox and set them up, they produce really nice pages.

I see trouble happening in two areas — wireless networking and print quality.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention the high price of replacement ink cartridges.

Many of these printers can connect to your computer in two ways — through a USB cable or through your Wi-Fi network.

Choosing Wi-Fi printing is convenient. You set up the printer to talk to your router and then you can stick it in any corner of your home. My wife and I keep our printer in the laundry room.

This is great when it works, but when you go wireless, you introduce a whole new level of issues. If your Wi-Fi is not stable, your printing will be interrupted.

One of the first things to try if you can’t print wirelessly is to bring your printer and computer together and connect them via USB cable. Pardon the rhyme, but the cable is stable.

Usually when I set up a printer to connect directly to a computer, it works fine.

Secondly, inkjet printers are fairly cheap and produce beautiful color output, but if you don’t print to them regularly, the inkjet nozzles will dry out and get clogged.

This happened to me just this week. I had an old Epson inkjet that had been sitting under my desk for several months. I decided to take it to work and use it.

The printer set up just fine, but the printouts looked like garbage. There was ink clogged in the nozzles, so I had to go through nozzle cleaning, which squirts ink through the nozzles to unclog them.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I had to run the three-minute cleaning cycle a dozen times.

After each cleaning, the printer prints a test page of colored lines and black text. If any of the image is missing, the printer needs more cleaning.

I was about to give up when I searched the Epson website and found a reference to Power Cleaning, which the company warned would use a lot of ink and take 10 minutes.

The site also said that I needed to wait 12 hours after the power cleaning to try to print.

I did the Power Cleaning and it worked. I had my printer back.

The key is to not let the ink dry out inside the print heads.

I have to set a calendar reminder to print a few color pages once a week.

If your pages look bad, go through your printer’s menus to find nozzle cleaning.

Finally, if you really want some trouble-free printing, spend a little more and get a laser printer.

HP, Canon and Brother all make small black-and-white laser printers that cost $100 to $200.

Most won’t have the scanner function and they don’t print in color, but you won’t have any issues with print quality.

Color laser printers do exist, but the cost of replacing the four color toner cartridges will likely cost as much as the printer.

I realize this isn’t covering every problem you’re likely to run into, but just remember printers work best when they are used regularly, like the big ones at the office.

Also, don’t forget to factor in the cost of replacement ink or toner when you shop for your next printer. The set of ink or toner cartridges that ships with your new printer is probably only a “starter set” and won’t have as much ink or toner as the replacements.

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