How to Fix Basic Issues with an HP Printer

Introduction

Printers can experience a wide range of issues. Whether your issues may range from ink or quality problems to a complete inability to print, this guide will help troubleshoot common printer issues.
Stock photo of an HP printer.

? What kind of issue are you having?

  1. My printer won't print
  2. I have a paper jam
  3. Print quality is poor
  4. Certain things don't look right when printed

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Printers can experience a wide range of issues. Whether your issues may range from ink or quality problems to a complete inability to print, this guide will help troubleshoot common printer issues.
Stock photo of an HP printer.
There can be many reasons why your printer may not be able to print. The following steps will take you through things you can try to resolve issues with printing.
Image of a printer error icon.

The following illustrations are a general representation of what your printer's paper tray may look like. Your actual paper tray will vary depending on the manufacturer and model printer you have. However, most paper trays are made in a similar fashion.

  1. Slide the paper guides to their outermost positions.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the movement of the printer's paper tray guides.
  2. Load a stack of plain paper with the print side facing up into the input tray, and then slide the stack forward until it stops.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting standard paper being inserted into the paper tray.
  3. Slide the paper length and width guides so that they are resting against the stack of paper.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the paper guides being adjusted to fit the size paper that was inserted into the paper tray.

On a Windows-based computer:

The following steps may not work if you have not installed the software that was included with your printer. It's also important to note that every printer is different. These steps are meant as a general guideline.

  1. Locate the printer settings, often found by right-clicking the printer icon in the Windows Notification Area, located in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.
    Screenshot of the Windows system tray area with the show hidden icons button highlighted, and the hidden icons area expanded with a printer software icon highlighted within.
  2. Within the printer settings software, you should see the toner levels for the currently installed cartridge(s). Below are a few different examples of how the ink level screens may look.
    • Samsung Laser printer available toner example:
      Screenshot of the Samsung printer software's current toner level indicator.
    • HP Photosmart 7900 available ink example:
      Screenshot of the HP printer software's estimated ink level screen.
  3. Replace any cartridges that are flagged as being low or in a precautionary state.

On an Apple Mac computer:

  1. Click on the Apple Menu and click on System Preferences.
    Screenshot of the macOS interface with the Apple logo in the upper-left corner highlighted, its menu expanded, and the system preferences option highlighted.
  2. Click Printers and Scanners.
    Screenshot of the macOS system preferences window with the printers and scanners icon highlighted.
  3. Select the name of your printer in the printers list, click Options & Supplies.
    Screenshot of the macOS printers and scanners window with the current printer selected within the left column, and the options and supplies button highlighted.
  4. Click the Supply Levels tab.
    Screenshot of the macOS options and supplies window open for the current printer with the supply levels button highlighted. It displays current ink levels.

Through the Printer Menu:

Every printer is different and the following steps are generalized. For explicit instructions on checking ink levels, consult your printer's documentation.

  1. Locate the Menu button of your printer and use the appropriate navigation keys to find a Status or Reports section.
  2. Print a Printer Information or Status page to see current toner levels.
  3. If it has one, your printer's screen may display ink/toner levels regularly.
    Assortment of printer screen screenshots that demonstrate how different printers provide ink level estimates within their own interfaces.
  4. Replace any cartridges that are flagged as being low or in a precautionary state.
To proceed, we will check the connection between the computer and the printer itself.
Show Me How

Clicking this button will open a new guide that will provide you with steps to resolve your issue.

Not all programs obey Windows' default printer settings. Below are some examples of what to look for when initiating a print job. This will vary depending on the program or application you are printing from.

  1. Always ensure that the correct printer is selected when printing a document. Some examples of print dialog boxes are as follows:
    • In Google Chrome's print window, the currently selected printer can be shown to the right of the Destination field. You can click the Change button to be given the opportunity to select a different print destination.
      Screenshot of Google Chrome's print window highlighting the currently selected print destination, and the change button beneath it.
    • In many Windows applications, the print window will be a dropdown box. Simply click the arrow on the dropdown box to display the full list of available printers.
      Screenshot of a common Windows print window highlighting the printer selection dropdown box with a list of available printers shown.
    • In most Mac apps, the print window displays a dropdown box. Simply click the double-arrows on the dropdown box to display the full list of available printers.
      Screenshot of a common macOS print window highlighting the printer selection dropdown box.

The following illustrations are a general representation of what your printer's power button/switch may look like. Your power button / switch will vary depending on the manufacturer and model printer you have.

  1. Press the Power button on the front panel to turn the printer off. Wait a few moments, and then press the Power button again. This should restart the printer.
    Illustration of a user pressing the power button on the front of a printer.
  2. If the power button will not turn the printer off, turn off the printer by using the power switch at the rear of the printer, if your printer has one.
  3. Remove the power cords from the power sockets.
    Illustration of a common power rocker switch and removable power cable on the rear of a printer.
  4. Wait for 10 seconds.
  5. Reinsert the power cords into the power sockets and turn on the power switch if necessary.
  6. Press the Power button to turn on the printer on again.
Please reboot your computer.
Your printer's software suite many times is the link between your printer and your computer. Since other troubleshooting steps have failed, our next step is to completely remove your printer's software suite and reinstall it.
  1. Click Start then Settings.
    Screenshot highlighting the Windows start button being clicked revealing the start menu, highlighting the settings button within.
  2. Next, Select Apps.
    Screenshot of the Windows Settings screen highlighting the apps icon.
  3. Scroll down and locate any installed HP software related to your printer. Click it once to select it, then click on Uninstall.
    Screenshot of the Windows apps and features window highlighting the uninstall button each app has access to.
  4. Carefully read any prompts in case there are special instructions. Proceed until all HP Printer related software has been removed.
  5. Windows may require that you reboot to complete the uninstallation process.
Show Me How

Clicking this button will open a new guide that will provide you with steps to resolve your issue.

  1. Click Finder from the Dock across the bottom of your screen.
    Screenshot of the macOS dock with the finder icon highlighted.

  2. Click Applications (1) from the left-hand column.
  3. Click and hold the mouse button on the HP or Hewlett Packard folder and drag it to the Trash Bin. You can let go of the mouse button once you are hovering over the Trash Bin.
    Screenshot of the macOS finder interface highlighting the applications option in the left-hand column, the application or folder the user wishes to remove, and the trash bin icon within the dock across the bottom of the screen.

  4. From the Finder window, click Macintosh HD (1), then Library (2), then Printers (3).
  5. Within the Printers folder, click and hold the mouse button on the HP or Hewlett Packard folder (4) and drag it to the Trash Bin.
    Screenshot of the macOS finder interface highlighting navigational instructions.

  6. In the menu bar, choose Apple menu (1), then Restart (2).
    Screenshot of the macOS interface highlighting the Apple icon in the upper-left corner having been clicked, revealing the menu beneath highlighting the restart option.

  7. Right click the Trash Bin icon and select Empty Trash.
    Screenshot of the macOS interface highlighting the trash bin's empty trash option.

  8. Click Empty Trash again to confirm this action.
    Screenshot of the macOS interface with a confirmation prompt highlighting the empty trash button.
  1. If your printer does not connect via Wi-Fi, it will connect directly to a computer with a USB cable. One end (1) goes into the computer and the other end (2) goes into the printer.
    Photo of a USB printer cable with the physical differences between the two ends being highlighted.
  2. Locate the USB cable that connects the printer to the computer. Ensure the flat end is plugged into the computer correctly and securely.
    Stock photo of a desktop computer with the available USB ports highlighted.

  3. Locate the USB port on the side or back of the printer. Make sure not to confuse it with the any other ports that might be next to it. Look for the USB symbol next to the port. The number and layout of the ports varies by printer. Ensure this end of the USB cable is plugged into the printer correctly and securely.
    Stock photo of the backside of a common USB printer highlighting the USB port it would use to be connected to a computer.

Paper jams are fairly common, but can be more than just pulling out a crumpled piece of paper from the paper tray. The following steps will help you overcome common printer paper jam issues.
Stock photo of a printer with a paper jam.

  1. Check the paper tray. The paper tray is one of the most likely spots to get a paper jam. If you notice any loose paper in the paper tray, remove it. If any paper got stuck while feeding from the tray into the printer, gently pull it back out of the printer to remove it.
    Photo of a printer's paper tray.

  2. If your printer has one, you may be able to remove an access door on the rear or bottom of your printer. This will allow you to look into the printer to see where paper may be jammed. There should be a knob or a clasp that will release the door and allow you to take it off.
    • Pull out any paper that is stuck in the rollers in the back of the printer. Make sure all of the paper has been removed, including any scraps of paper or ripped pieces.
      Photo of a printer's removable rear access door.

  3. Lift the front cover of the inkjet printer. Remove any additional paper jams. Pull any paper out very slowly, to minimize the risk of damaging the printer.
    Photo of jammed paper being removed from the inside of a printer.

  4. If accessible, check the print carriage to make sure it is working properly. It must be able to move freely from one side of the printer to the other.
    • Unplug the power cord and gently move the carriage from side to side. Do not force it if it is stuck or hung up on something.
    • Rotate the rollers inside the printer for 3 full rotations with your fingers if the printer carriage is not moving freely. Roll them in the upwards direction and make sure everything inside the printer can move easily, without getting stuck.
      Photo of a common inkjet printer carriage.

  5. Test the printer to make sure it is printing correctly and will not jam again.Photo of a user printing an alignment or test page from the printer.

The following illustrations are a general representation of what your printer's paper tray may look like. Your actual paper tray will vary depending on the manufacturer and model printer you have. However, most paper trays are made in a similar fashion.

  1. Slide the paper guides to their outermost positions.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the movement of the printer's paper tray guides.
  2. Load a stack of plain paper with the print side facing up into the input tray, and then slide the stack forward until it stops.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting standard paper being inserted into the paper tray.
  3. Slide the paper length and width guides so that they are resting against the stack of paper.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the paper guides being adjusted to fit the size paper that was inserted into the paper tray.

The following illustrations are a general representation of what your printer's power button/switch may look like. Your power button / switch will vary depending on the manufacturer and model printer you have.

  1. Press the Power button on the front panel to turn the printer off. Wait a few moments, and then press the Power button again. This should restart the printer.
    Illustration of a user pressing the power button on the front of a printer.
  2. If the power button will not turn the printer off, turn off the printer by using the power switch at the rear of the printer, if your printer has one.
  3. Remove the power cords from the power sockets.
    Illustration of a common power rocker switch and removable power cable on the rear of a printer.
  4. Wait for 10 seconds.
  5. Reinsert the power cords into the power sockets and turn on the power switch if necessary.
  6. Press the Power button to turn on the printer on again.
  1. Check the paper tray. The paper tray is one of the most likely spots to get a paper jam. If you notice any loose paper in the paper tray, remove it. If any paper got stuck while feeding from the tray into the printer, gently pull it back out of the printer to remove it.
    Photo of a printer's paper tray.

  2. If your printer has one, you may be able to remove an access door on the rear or bottom of your printer. This will allow you to look into the printer to see where paper may be jammed. There should be a knob or a clasp that will release the door and allow you to take it off.
    • Pull out any paper that is stuck in the rollers in the back of the printer. Make sure all of the paper has been removed, including any scraps of paper or ripped pieces.
      Photo of a printer's removable rear access door.

  3. Lift the front cover of the inkjet printer. Remove any additional paper jams. Pull any paper out very slowly, to minimize the risk of damaging the printer.
    Photo of jammed paper being removed from the inside of a printer.

  4. If accessible, check the print carriage to make sure it is working properly. It must be able to move freely from one side of the printer to the other.
    • Unplug the power cord and gently move the carriage from side to side. Do not force it if it is stuck or hung up on something.
    • Rotate the rollers inside the printer for 3 full rotations with your fingers if the printer carriage is not moving freely. Roll them in the upwards direction and make sure everything inside the printer can move easily, without getting stuck.
      Photo of a common inkjet printer carriage.

  5. Test the printer to make sure it is printing correctly and will not jam again.Photo of a user printing an alignment or test page from the printer.
Print quality issues usually indicate a physical problem with the printer or the cartridges being used. Sometimes the nozzles on inkjet printer heads can become blocked causing horizontal streaks on prints and poor or inaccurate color reproduction. These steps can help assist with resolving print quality issues.
Photo comparing contrasting examples of poor print quality.

On a Windows-based computer:

The following steps may not work if you have not installed the software that was included with your printer. It's also important to note that every printer is different. These steps are meant as a general guideline.

  1. Locate the printer settings, often found by right-clicking the printer icon in the Windows Notification Area, located in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.
    Screenshot of the Windows system tray area with the show hidden icons button highlighted, and the hidden icons area expanded with a printer software icon highlighted within.
  2. Within the printer settings software, you should see the toner levels for the currently installed cartridge(s). Below are a few different examples of how the ink level screens may look.
    • Samsung Laser printer available toner example:
      Screenshot of the Samsung printer software's current toner level indicator.
    • HP Photosmart 7900 available ink example:
      Screenshot of the HP printer software's estimated ink level screen.
  3. Replace any cartridges that are flagged as being low or in a precautionary state.

On an Apple Mac computer:

  1. Click on the Apple Menu and click on System Preferences.
    Screenshot of the macOS interface with the Apple logo in the upper-left corner highlighted, its menu expanded, and the system preferences option highlighted.
  2. Click Printers and Scanners.
    Screenshot of the macOS system preferences window with the printers and scanners icon highlighted.
  3. Select the name of your printer in the printers list, click Options & Supplies.
    Screenshot of the macOS printers and scanners window with the current printer selected within the left column, and the options and supplies button highlighted.
  4. Click the Supply Levels tab.
    Screenshot of the macOS options and supplies window open for the current printer with the supply levels button highlighted. It displays current ink levels.

Through the Printer Menu:

Every printer is different and the following steps are generalized. For explicit instructions on checking ink levels, consult your printer's documentation.

  1. Locate the Menu button of your printer and use the appropriate navigation keys to find a Status or Reports section.
  2. Print a Printer Information or Status page to see current toner levels.
  3. If it has one, your printer's screen may display ink/toner levels regularly.
    Assortment of printer screen screenshots that demonstrate how different printers provide ink level estimates within their own interfaces.
  4. Replace any cartridges that are flagged as being low or in a precautionary state.

Every printer is different and the following steps are generalized. Your printer may require that the print head be physically removed, while others cannot be physically removed at all. For explicit instructions on how to properly clean the print head on your printer, consult your device's documentation.

  1. Load plain white paper into your printer's paper tray.
  2. Press the Setup button.
    Image of a common wrench icon.
  3. Press the Down Arrow button to highlight Tools, and then press OK.
    Image of a downward facing arrow icon.
  4. Press the Down Arrow button to highlight Clean Print head, and then press OK. The printer cleans the print head, and a test page prints once the printer is done cleaning the print head.
    Image of a downward facing arrow icon.
  5. Examine the test sheet for print quality. Consider repeating the cleaning if there is improvement. If the print head is badly clogged, you may need to clean the print head several times in order to restore normal print quality.
  6. Recycle or discard the test sheet.
  7. When the cleaning process completes, press any button on the control panel to return to the Tools menu.
  1. Open the cartridge access door.
    Illustration of a printer's access door being opened.
  2. Wait until the printer is idle and silent.
  3. Remove a new cartridge from its packing.
  4. Pull the orange tab to remove the plastic tape. Do not touch the copper colored contacts or the ink nozzles as touching these part can mean clogs, ink failure, and bad electrical connections.
    Illustration of protective plastic tape being removed from a new ink cartridge, and a warning to not touch the copper contacts.

  5. Hold the cartridge by its sides with the nozzles toward the printer.
  6. Insert the cartridge into its proper slot.
  7. Push the cartridge forward into its slot until it snaps into place.
    Illustration of the physical installation of a new ink cartridge.
  8. Repeat to install another cartridge
  9. Close the cartridge access door.

The following illustrations are a general representation of what your printer's paper tray may look like. Your actual paper tray will vary depending on the manufacturer and model printer you have. However, most paper trays are made in a similar fashion.

  1. Slide the paper guides to their outermost positions.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the movement of the printer's paper tray guides.
  2. Load a stack of plain paper with the print side facing up into the input tray, and then slide the stack forward until it stops.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting standard paper being inserted into the paper tray.
  3. Slide the paper length and width guides so that they are resting against the stack of paper.
    Illustration of an HP printer depicting the paper guides being adjusted to fit the size paper that was inserted into the paper tray.
While your printer has the ability to print almost anything on your screen, lots of things that you may want to print are not always formatted to come out of your printer in such a way that makes sense. If you're experiencing issues with being able to properly print something, you may be running into one of the following issues.

The desire to print content from web pages is common amongst computer users. However, much of what is posted online is not constructed or formatted for standard 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper. This results in print jobs from web pages looking very much like the image below. All items on the screen will be printed, including advertisements, menus, etc.
Screenshot of a common print preview screen depicting what will be printed.
To avoid this, always look for a "printer friendly" version of the content you would like to print. Some websites will offer a Print button someplace on them, which will open a version of said content that is indeed formatted with printing in-mind.
Screenshot of a website highlighting a printer friendly button.

Similar to printing webpages, you may experience issues when attempting to print certain Microsoft Office documents - namely Excel spreadsheets. Due to spreadsheets not being confined to the size of traditional 8 1/2 x 11 printer paper, many columns and rows may extend far past these limitations and may simply be left out when printed.
Screenshot of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet depicting missing information from the print job.

Depending on your individual printing needs, Excel does offer options that may help with getting what you'd like to see printed out properly.
Screenshot of the Microsoft Excel print window highlighting the print settings area.

Inconsistencies when printing photos can be very common. You may experience issues like the ones depicted in the images below. Some things to always be aware of when printing photos:

  • If you are using a non-standard sized paper to print photos on, the size of the paper will need to be specified on the print window before printing. Otherwise, your printer will assume that standard letter-sized paper is being used.
    Screenshot of the Windows print and printing preferences windows highlighting the preferences button, and available preference options within.

  • The physical size or resolution of the photo can make a big difference. If a small photo is stretched to fit a larger sheet of paper, the image quality will be poor. Conversely, if the image is larger than the page it is being printed on and is not sized down to fit the paper, much of the image will be cut off.
    Photo of multiple photo printing attempts contrasting successful print jobs and incorrectly configured print jobs.
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