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When a wireless printer is giving you problems, a good first step is to uninstall and reinstall the software, but sometimes, you simply need to clear the printer queue.

I have an HP OfficeJet 6500 wireless. I do not use the wireless and it will suddenly not connect to my laptop. I've gone to HP's website, downloaded everything I am able to download to help, but I'm still not able to print. The printer's four to five years old. Does anyone have any advice?

In this excerpt from Answercast #32, I look at some difficulties in connecting a laptop to a wireless printer and some troubleshooting steps to work through.

Laptop connects to printer

I definitely have a couple of pieces of advice: One is to realize that (and this is purely conceptual): The printer does not connect to the laptop. The laptop connects to the printer.

It's an important distinction in that: the printer is a passive device. It simply receives data from your computer.

When you have it on a network like that, it's the laptop that you need to be focused on: It's the laptop that's reaching out to find and/or connect to the printer.

The distinction turns out to be subtle yet important.

Networked printer

I'm assuming, since you're not using wireless, that you have the printer connected to your network. You have an Ethernet cable connected to the same network that your laptop is somehow connected to.

In situations like that, what I advise first is: On the computer you're having problems with...

  • You completely uninstall the printer from the laptop.

  • Then make sure to reboot the system, so that the laptop doesn't think the printer exists at all.

  • Now, basically, start over.

  • Add the printer to your laptop as if you were adding it for the very first time.

The reason I suggest that is because, very often, attempts to fix a printer driver will actually add more cruft: more things that don't really help. Whereas starting over from scratch allows you to start with a clean slate.

Unable to print

Now, you haven't mentioned exactly what it means when you say you are unable to print. I don't know what kind of error messages you are getting. That might give us more clues as to what might be going on.

In the general case where it's simply not printing, one of the things to consider is to simply remove the driver:

  • Remove the printer software from your system,

  • And then add it again.

  • Starting from a clean slate should get you further.

Ask Leo!

If you still run into problems, then make sure to include additional and specific reasons that it's failing: What it's telling you, The error messages, The behavior that you have

And so forth.

Clear the printer queue

There's also one other straw that I'm going to grasp at real quick - since again you haven't mentioned exactly how it's failing.

I have an article on the site about clearing the printer queue.

It is very possible that you simply have a document stuck in the queue. That's something that is very easy to fix with a couple of instructions. There is an article on that on Ask Leo!

That may be something that could even more quickly get you up and running and off the ground.

Article C5546 - July 5, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Ken B
July 5, 2012 10:10 AM

I've used the phrase ┬źdefine "doesn't work"┬╗ so many times on one particular mailing list, I decided to simply use "DDW" from now on.

The OfficeJet 6500 also has USB support. I've seen printers that simply "stop working" all of a sudden, and plugging it into a different USB port will "magically" fix it.

But, without more details on "doesn't work", we're just guessing.

Welcome to my world. :-) I try to give it a guess, but it's often very difficult to get people to really express what "it doesn't work" really means. Many people simply don't realize, I think, that there are hundreds of different ways even simple things can "not work", and the differences in how it's not working is critcal in helping to define (or devine) possible solutions.
Mark J
July 5, 2012 10:23 AM

That clear the printer queue suggestion is definitely a magic bullet, and the first thing I do when people have problems printing. In 89-90% of the cases I've cleared it, the problem was solved. So I'd say, try that before doing anything else. It might save you a lot of time.

George Williams
July 6, 2012 9:17 AM

I was flustered by the same problem. My wireless HP Officejet Pro 8500A did everything except take wireless prompts from my PC. Eventually, I noticed that the wireless indicator light on my Belkin router was out. Once I reset my router, the printer came back to life. If I read correctly, user said he "didn't use the wireless," yet he somehow expected his laptop to wirelessly prompt his printer. I "missed the wireless point" in both his question and your reply.

July 6, 2012 1:16 PM

If your printer is on a network, and your router has DHCP enabled, you should assign a static ip address to the printer. When you restart the router, it might assign a different ip address to the printer than the computer is looking for.
Look on the HP printer support site for directions on how to do this.

Jeff Lentz
July 9, 2012 1:03 AM

Drew's point about static IP addresses for networked HP printers is spot-on. Ours kept disappearing to our PC's (IP printing) but not our Macs (Appletalk) when it would go to sleep and be assigned a new IP address on awakening.

Our router actually allows you to easily assign the same IP address to specific MAC-addressed pieces of hardware, rather than going to the trouble of setting up a bank of static IP addresses. You just use the "reserve IP address" function if your router supports it, and it won't give that one to any other device, and always assigns it to the printer when it sees it connect. Pretty handy.

July 9, 2012 4:13 PM

In my experience, anytime you need to re-install drivers for an HP printer, it is important to uninstall anything related to the printer first. HP printers in particular (the main question, and 1 comment) do not like the software being re-installed over itself. I have yet to figure out why.

July 22, 2012 4:54 AM

Informative and good. I would look at my Canon Smart |Base MP390 which had stopped printing.
I got it, printing in Black, but does not print in colour. Various suggestions, including blocked PrintHead. Tried cleaning and washing and now works in black ;results are poor.Fortunately,I also have Pixma 500 which I am presently using. I will certtainly have anothher go at my MP390.

Tony Kightley
July 27, 2012 9:43 AM

With regard to Mark J's comments about clearing the printer queue, this normally solves the problem, of course. However, frequently, it does take a frustratingly long time to clear. But, there is a way to speed up the process and that is to, physically, disconnect the printer. In my case, I am glad to say that is simple as I have several printers connected to several computers by means of multi-way switches. So, just turning either the computer or the printer switch to another position clears the queue in a few seconds - instead of many minutes!
I realise this is not practical in some instances but switching off or pulling the power connector to the printer will, usually, achieve the same result.
But, as one correspondent mentioned, shutting down the computer does not clear the print queue and I have had the surprise of hearing a printer start up on its own as a computer boots up on more than one occasion!

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