How often have you been faced with the inconvenience of not being able to print something off your computer because your printer is supposedly "offline"? Techspirited helps you work around this problem and tells you how to change your printer settings from offline to online.
Did You Know?
The “Printer is Offline” error message is just one of the many annoying problems which may require cumbersome and extensive troubleshooting that printer users face. Others include, very slow printing, erroneous “Out of Ink” declarations, misdirection of printing jobs to the wrong printer, bad quality of printout, and many more.
An issue that probably every computer user has come face-to-face with at least once in his/her life, is that of not being able to print, despite seemingly having both an error-free computer and a generally-cooperative printer. It is a problem that strikes in an unbiased manner; irrespective even of the operating system that one is using on his or her computer.
So, let us assume, that one morning, you urgently need a hard copy of an important document, or you are running late and need to take a printout of a movie/travel (bus/flight) ticket, but your printer mercilessly declares that it is “offline”, at the most crucial moment. Our advice to you, is to swallow that growing urge to lift it up, and hurl it to the floor, and instead, calm down, and check each of the following.
Why is My Printer Offline?
The problem needs to be approached by looking at the most basic mistakes that one could make. Hence, the first step is to check if the printer is plugged in and switched on at all.
Many printers are known to mistakenly display the wrong error message. Although not entirely likely, it is probable that your printer’s cartridge is out of ink, or there is a shortage of paper on your printer’s tray. If either of these is true, replace the printer’s cartridge with a new one, or refill the paper tray.
Check the cable that connects your printer to your computer. Apart from checking for looseness, also make sure that the cable is not damaged, or in any other way faulty. If so, replace it with a new cable. It is a good idea to disconnect, and subsequently reconnect the cable if it is a direct connection, just to refresh the connectivity. Remember to restart your computer, as well as your printer if you do this. You should avoid the disconnecting-reconnecting process when dealing with a network printer; in such cases, limit yourself to only looking for loose connections.
Check that your printer and all its drivers are installed on your computer in the first place. Sometimes, one may unintentionally delete the drivers associated with the printer. Uninstalling and reinstalling the printer’s software on your computer entirely, is the most efficient way to rectify this. Printer drivers can also be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website.
To do this, you need to open the configuration folder inside your Windows’ Control Panel that pertains to printers; since its exact path differs with versions of Windows, the easiest way is to type “printer” in your Start Menu’s Search Box, and make sure that the folder you opened is nested within the Control Panel.
Make sure that your printer’s status has not been accidentally set to offline.
To do this, in the aforementioned folder, right-click on your printer’s icon, and from the drop-down menu, click on ‘Use Printer Online’. Just to be sure, double-click the icon, and in the window that opens, click on ‘Printer’ in the menu bar, and make sure that ‘Use Printer Offline’ is unchecked.
For Windows 7, 8, and 8.1
In these newer versions of Windows, the clickable option in the drop-down menu that is generated when the printer icon is right-clicked, to ‘Use Printer Online’ is not present. Instead, to complete the same action, you have to either select the option (in the same menu) to ‘See what’s Printing’, or otherwise, double-click on the icon itself. This will open a window, and in the menu bar, open the Printer menu, wherein you can uncheck ‘Use Printer Offline’.
Your Print Spooler may be running an error, and in this case, you will have to restart the service.
To do this, type”services.msc” in the Search Box of the Start Menu, and press the Enter key. It will open up the Services window containing a list of all the services running on your computer at the moment. Search for ‘Print Spooler’ in the list, and right-click on it. In the drop-down menu, click on Restart.
If there is more than one printer on the network, and each of them has been installed on your computer, check whether the printer you have selected is the Default Printer on your computer. If it isn’t, you may be served a “printer offline” error message.
Network printers come with a whole range of issues related to connectivity, including IP address errors, SNMP errors, being blocked by the Windows firewall, and so on. Any of these could be a seed for your problem if you are still receiving an error message after rectifying everything else.
Troubleshooting an Offline Network Printer
IP Address Error
An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a required parameter that is uniquely set for each device in a network. Sometimes, a protocol known as DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is used to configure the network, which dynamically assigns IP addresses to devices that are added to the network from time to time, selected from a pool of available addresses.
- In a DHCP network, the IP address of the network printer can keep on changing every time it is disconnected, and then connected to the network once more.
- But this change may not be reflected on individual PCs on the network, and the IP address that each computer thinks that the printer holds, may in fact be different from its current configuration.
- The best way to prevent your printer’s IP address from changing is to assign it a static one, and then, once and for all configuring that IP address on all the computers.
- At other times, there is a simple mismatch in the IP address of your printer understood by your computer, as opposed to its actual value, arising due to various other causes. In each of the cases, you need to know your printer’s correct IP address to rectify the value that your computer has saved.
- If you do not know what the IP address of your network printer is, the simplest way to obtain it, is to take a printout of a test page from your printer, at a time when it is connected to the network. The page will contain details of all the settings and configuration that are associated with your printer.
SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol. It is a very useful protocol which allows your computer to communicate with the various devices that are connected to the common network, and to establish that the remote device can be contacted. Sending SNMP messages to all network devices is enabled by default on later versions of Windows, such as Windows Vista.
- Newer printers are compatible with the SNMP protocol, and hence, when your computer sends a PING message to any of them, they send back an acknowledgment to it via SNMP. Suppose the printer you are using is not SNMP-compatible, then it obviously will not respond to your computer’s PING, thereby leading your computer to assume that it is “offline”.
- The way to rectify this is to turn off this feature for your printer; open the folder nested within Control Panel, that contains details of all available printers, and find the icon for yours. Right-click, and select Properties in the drop-down menu. In the Properties window that opens as a result of this, open the Ports tab, and click on the Configure Port button, which is present below the list, at the right-hand side. Uncheck ‘SNMP Status Enabled’.
A firewall program is one that screens any data that is sent from a different device into your computer, and if necessary, restricts it. There are various types of firewalls, from the Windows Firewall (a component of Microsoft Windows), applying security at the network layer, to the firewalls that are set up by your antivirus software.
- Although firewalls are extremely useful when it comes to filtering out unwanted content and unauthorized access, sometimes they tend to block out your network printer, and hence, you encounter an error telling you that your printer is offline, when you attempt to take a printout.
- There are two solutions to this; either tweak the setting on your firewall and make sure that printing from your network printer is not being blocked, or disable the firewall altogether.
- If Windows Firewall is causing the problem, make sure that ‘File Sharing/Printing’ is checked in the list of exceptions. In order to do so, type “windows firewall” in the Search Box of the Start Menu, and open the respective program, after which you can try to diagnose the problem. If there is no restriction on file sharing, and printing, then take a look at the Advanced Settings as well, by typing “windows firewall advanced” in the Start Menu’s Search Box, wherein you can obtain a list of the exact services under each heading that are allowed or blocked on your computer.
- On the other hand, if your antivirus software is the culprit, with a new update that has launched a firewall blocks the network printer, look up the phrase, “how to change firewall settings”, on the developer’s official FAQ, or troubleshooting page. It is always recommended to use reputed antivirus software, which do not generally hinder essentials such as your network printer.
- The firewall-based error is truly a hassle, because you need to troubleshoot it at a very basic level and find out which of the various network security restrictions is blocking what service, and from where. The most obvious solution is to turn off all firewalls temporarily, complete the task of printing your document, and then allow the firewall to resume its protective action, but if you employ this method, you run the risk of exposing your computer to threats.
The most important thing that accompanies the task of troubleshooting your offline-printer-problem, is to make sure that you have logged in to your system as the administrator. Sometimes that itself could be the problem; the network simply may be configured in such a way that no guest user of any end device is permitted to access the printer. Whenever you are faced with this problem, keep your composure, and systematically rule out your options until you find the actual cause so that you can get your printer back online as soon as possible.