Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

There are a lot of different things that can impact the printing process, everything from large graphics to disk overload.

Printing takes a long time to start. I'm using a Dell Dimension 3000, Windows XP, SP3, Firefox 15.1. From click to printing, it can take from eight to 14 minutes. Help!

In this excerpt from Answercast #55, I look at a number of reasons why print jobs may be slow.

Slow printing

Unfortunately, there's no easy answer for me to give you, because this kind of symptom can be caused by many, many different things.

What you're printing

So, we'll start with what it is you're printing. If what it is you're printing is very (I'll just say) "dense." For example, if it was

  • A full page, a full color picture of something

  • Or multiple pages of full page graphics that are all in color

Then you know... it could just take that long because that takes a tremendous amount of data to represent. That means there's a tremendous amount of data that gets transmitted from your computer to the printer in order to render that image.

Busy computer

Now, along those same lines, if your computer is busy at the time you're printing (in other words, there are programs that are running, maybe especially if the disk is being accessed heavily), it may be slow.

What the printing process usually involves is:

  • The program you are printing from doesn't actually connect directly to the printer. It connects to what's called the "local spooler service."

  • So, all of the data that would be sent to the printer is first written to your hard disk. Then the spooler takes care of sending that information on from your hard disk directly to the printer when it's its turn.

It's how the spooler manages the possibility that several applications could be printing at the same time. Rather than trying to get that mess all printed at once, it makes sure that things get printed one after the other.

One program's print job happens after another, and so forth. But the bottom line is that all of the data that's created by your program attempting to print something is first written to the disk. If the disk is very busy, well, that can slow that process of writing to the disk.

In fact, it could also slow the process of subsequently reading from the disk as the spooler sends things to the printer.

Printer network and connection

Finally, it is also possible that things like the connection (I don't know what kind of connection type you are using to the printer), but the connection itself could be having some kind of difficulties.

If you're on a network connection (in other words, if this is a network printer) and your network is having problems, that can slow things down. If the network is saturated (and by that, I mean a lot of programs are transmitting a lot of data on the network), everything can be impacted. That includes the transmitting of the data from the spooler to the printer.

There are a lot of different things that can impact the printing process.

Printer drivers

Finally, I'll throw it out there because it is one of those things... it's not obvious, but it can have an impact. That's to make sure you are using the correct and latest drivers for your specific printer and that they're installed and working properly.

Sometimes, printer drivers will kind of, sort of work... one of the symptoms may be that they're just being super slow.

Typically, if things are printing eventually, it usually turns out to be something like:

  • Something slowing it down along the way

  • The disk being too busy

  • Or there simply being large, large quantities of data to be transmitted as part of the process.

But the printer driver is always something worth checking when you're running into printer problems as well.

Article C5839 - September 22, 2012 « »

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?

September 25, 2012 12:59 PM

@ the person with a slow printing problem: Leo is correct in that any number of issues can cause the slowdown in printing, but one possible solution has not been mentioned. The model of computer identified in the article is not very recent. I have recently tuned up a similar model and given it away. It had very little memory on when I began the process of rehabilitation. I added enough to give it 768MB - the bare minimum with a sensible AV solution installed that Windows XP will run at any sensible speed. Any less than this and the print spooling process that Leo describes will take minutes as Windows dumps parts of itself out of memory into the page file on the hard disk, to make way for the spooled pages, which need translating from HTML (for the web page that was cited by the questioner - the OP), to the language that the printer will understand. Once this is complete, Windows needs to copy bits of itself back into memory from the hard disk to instruct the printer to print. The time indicated in the post suggests to me that the machine is outfitted with it's original 256MB of memory. The OP should get some more - their computer will love them for it - and it will last longer! Reducing the number of programs that start with Windows will help, but only after more memory is installed. Sorry to be so wordy and long, but I'd hoped to write in a style that everyone will understand!

September 25, 2012 2:52 PM

I have an i7 PC with 12 Gb of RAM. My LJ P2055dn had begun print jobs immediately until a couple of weeks ago, when a 5-10 second delay was thrown in. It turns out that the printer monitors cartridge usage and when it gets to within 200 pages of the predicted capacity, it opens a popup warning you to replace it. I turned off the popup display but can't get rid of the delay. I suppose it's a memory-resident service.

September 30, 2012 10:39 PM

Thanks Leo!

After reading many of your articles on slowdowns/freeze issues, I stopped cursing Windows OS or suspecting a Virus infection. I realized that my own pattern of working at that moment(like keeping many windows/applications open) and third party drivers/add ons too can be the reasons! And, there is an intervening process to execute any command.

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