Category: Printers

All About Printers has a very informative and funny article about printers, by Liam McCabe, Why All Printers Suck – Even the Best Ones

You’ll be gratified to know that printer frustration is not your fault.  McCabe says, “Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and stop expecting printers to “just work” because that would make sense in a world where a touchscreen supercomputer fits in your shirt pocket (mobile phone). Like most things in life that you have no control over, you’ll be happier if you accept printers for the janky money pits that they really are. Most of you are going to hate something about any printer that you buy, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead of fighting it, try to reframe the issue in your mind: You’re not buying a printer because you’re supposed to have one at home. You’re buying a printer because it’s (just barely) less inconvenient than going to a copy center.”

There’s lots of good information in his article, and it will make you laugh, but here’s what I think you want to know, explained in simple terms:

Printers are actually pretty inexpensive when you consider all the amazing technology in them — the print-heads, the ink, and the mapping software.  That simple-looking box can cover a piece of paper with a precise array of millions of dots of colored ink in a few seconds.

The cost of the printer doesn’t cover the costs of the research and development, manufacture, and distribution. The manufacturer is essentially subsidizing the machine with the intention of recouping its costs from your ink purchases.

Don’t use generic ink cartridges.  Ink is formulated to work with specific print-heads. Generic ink might not have the right properties.  Also, inkjet printers designed for home use have print-heads built into the cartridge itself. There’s no permanent print-head in most inexpensive printers. If you refill a cartridge you might still have a burnt-out print-head.

Some manufacturers purposely design their printers to shut down if you try to use third-party cartridges. It’s very frustrating, but remember, they’re just trying to protect you from a big mess.

On the other hand, it’s OK to use generic toner cartridges.  Toner is an electrostatically charged powder (part polymer, part carbon), and the cartridge itself is just a simple plastic container. There aren’t any fancy print-heads or circuitry. Manufacturers don’t try as hard to protect toner cartridges, they just charge a higher markup on the printers themselves.

If an ink cartridge is missing, your printer will not print and it may not even scan.

If your home network is more complex than just a modem, a router, and your PC, there’s a chance that you’ll run into network connectivity problems. Networking technology in the printer industry is not very good.

At some point, you’ll need to manually download new drivers for your printer after updating your operating system. It would be nice if this happened automatically, but it usually doesn’t. Some companies are better than others at issuing new drivers in a timely manner. has found that Brother is very diligent and Canon is the most likely to stop updating drivers for printers that are more than a couple of years old.

The Bare Minimum

If you just need something to print words, the simplest solution is a cheap laser printer.  It will cost less than $100 to buy and less than 2¢ per page to operate. Because a laser printer uses toner instead of ink, the toner cartridge won’t dry out even if you print infrequently and you can safely use cheaper, third-party toner if you want to save money.

You’ll have to go to a copy center if you want color prints and the LCD screens on these printers tend to be small and hard to use but it’s better than not being able to print your black-and-white tax returns because one of your color cartridges has dried up.

Home Office

If you need more out of your printer, consider an all-in-one inkjet printer. These are best suited for home offices that occasionally use color printing, scanning, copying, or faxing but don’t require any of these tasks on a daily basis.  An all-in-one inkjet printer costs about $200 and printing costs 2¢ to 4¢ per page for black-and-white and 7¢ to 10¢ per page for color. However, unlike a laser printer, you have to use the ink regularly or the ink will dry up and ruin the print-heads in spite of the automatic purges to keep their nozzles clean and ready to print.

It’s fairly common with my clients who are only here in the desert during the season, to have problems with ink drying up in the ink jets from lack of use. So if you don’t print frequently, a laser printer is a better option than an inkjet printer.  (Note: I’ve had problems getting Brother laser printers to work with iPhones, iPads, and Chromebooks even though they claim to work with mobile devices.)

If you only need to scan an occasional document and don’t need a sheet feeder, use a scanning app on your phone or tablet instead of a printer scanner. Printer scanners are very slow and the apps that talk to the computer are poorly designed and very confusing.

It’s a good idea to read some user reviews of any printer that you’re considering. Some printers may test well in a controlled setting when used by experienced testers but fail a home test. User reviews will give you an idea of long-term reliability as well as details that the pro reviews sometimes overlook, like poorly written owner’s manuals, jams with card stock, or problems with the fax machine, etc.

To see my recommendations for specific printers and other techie gadgets, go to Resources Page.


Techie Tips Live Class This Saturday – How to Buy A Printer: Tips and Tricks

Do you find shopping for printers to be very complicated and a little overwhelming? I do too! There are so many makes, models, features, and prices!

People frequently ask me what I recommend and it’s hard to know where to start.

I recently had to buy a new printer myself, and in my haste, I made a big mistake. I learned from the experience and I decided it would be a good idea to create a class on how to go about finding the best printer for one’s individual needs and budget.

This class will teach you:

  • What to look for
  • How to do research and
  • How to shop for a new printer.
I hope you will join me this Saturday, November 18th, at 9:00 AM for this complimentary online class (in my Zoom Room)

I will show you my process, some internet tips, tricks, and answer all your questions. It will be fun!

The class will be recorded, so if you can’t attend the in person, register anyway and I will send you the link to see the recording.

Please share this invitation with your friends so they can register too.

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.

When: Nov 18, 2017, 9:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Register in advance for this meeting:…

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Hope to see you in class!



P.S. If you’ve never used Zoom before: Zoom will automatically instruct you how to download the Zoom interface and join the session. It will only take a few seconds, and you only need to do it once. You can see a tutorial video here

When Your Printer Won’t Print…

Don’t you just hate it when your printer won’t print!!

I get calls from clients about this all the time.

The good news is that there’s usually an easy fix.

What do you think it is?

For a Printer connected directly to the computer with a cord:

  1. Make sure the printer is plugged in, turned on, and has paper in it.
  2. Make sure the printer cable is properly connected to the printer and to the computer.
  3. Check to see if there is a paper jam. Most printers have a flashing light to indicate a jam.
  4. Check to see that the printer toner, or ink is adequate. Printers will not print when even one cartridge is out of ink.
  5. Make sure the printer is switched to Online mode. There is usually a button on your printer’s control panel. If it is switched to Offline mode, it will not print.
  6. Try rebooting both the printer and the computer
    1. Turn them both off.  Then turn them on again in this sequence.
    2. Turn the printer on first
    3. Then turn the computer on.

If it still doesn’t work, the printer will need to be un-installed and re-installed.  I can do it for you in a few minutes via remote access.

Wireless Printers

Wireless printing is very convenient at times, but it’s slower and less reliable than a wired connection.  If your computer is usually near your printer, consider using a wired connection. You can get printer cables as long as 25 ft..

If Your Wireless Printer is not working:

Reboot the computer, printer and wireless router

  1. Turn off the computer and printer and unplug the router (If your router is built into the modem, unplug the modem.
  2. Plug in the router or modem and wait for it to reboot (all the lights are on)
  3. Turn on the printer
  4. Turn on the computer

If that doesn’t work, call your technician or call me for a referral to a good one.


To receive a handy printer troubleshooting cheat sheet and checklist to put on your printer, send me an email below.

Please share this with your friends and encourage them to sign up for Techie Tips so their techie lives can be simple, easy and fun too.

Your friends can sign up for Techie Tips right here.



Protect Your Printer Ink From Drying Up

Have you had issues with your printer ink dying up while you were on vacation or just because it’s so hot?

Recently, several of my clients have had issues with their printers not printing clearly because the ink has dried up so I thought it would be helpful to give you some tips on how to prevent this.

Storing and Handling Ink Cartridges

  • TrioKeep ink cartridges sealed in the original package until they are installed. Store at temperatures between -15 and 35 degrees Celsius (5 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit).

If you don’t print very often, run a test page or print a page of coloured print once in a while to keep the print head clear and the ink running.  

To keep cartridges from drying out while you are on vacation, always turn the printer off using the power button, and wait until the power light goes out before you pull the plug or turn off a power strip. This allows the printer to move the cartridges to a capped position.

If you remove a cartridge from the printer for any reason, try to replace it again as soon as possible. Outside of the printer, if unprotected, cartridges begin to dry out. If the printer uses separate ink cartridges and printhead, the printhead can be damaged if cartridges are not installed.

If you must store opened cartridges for any reason:

  • place them (nozzles up) in a plastic tub with an airtight lid.

    Image: Plastic tub with an airtight lid
  • Some cartridges have an orange cap that is twisted off to open. If these supplies have been opened, replace the orange cap before it is stored.

  • Place a damp cloth or paper in the tub.  Do not use plastic bags. Do not allow anything to touch the cartridge nozzles.

Avoid Printer Drama

Do Moon Phases Affect Printers?


Do the phases of the moon affect techie gadgets?  This past week was so full of printer drama that I had to wonder…

Here are some tips that will help you maintain peace in your techie world:

  1. If you need to move your printer, be sure to turn it off first.  Shut it down with the off button rather than just unplugging it.  Printers are are actually computers and they need to file everything in it’s proper place before shutting down.  If you just unplug them, they may wake up very confused and not be able to connect to your wifi again.

Note: your printer may look like it’s off, but only be sleeping.  If there is a light on anywhere, it is just asleep.  Use the on/off button to turn it off.

  1.  Sometimes there are minor power surges or mysterious techie hiccups that confuse our machines.  The first line of defense is always to reboot them. (turn them off and then back on)  If your printer loses its wifi connection, turn it off, wait a minute or two, and then turn it back on.  Hopefully, it will find the router and reconnect on its own.  If not, you will have to go through the setup process again.

Note:  I’m not a certified Technician, I’m an Instructor and Peace Maker.  For technical issues and installations, I refer you to my friends at Desert Cow Computers.

  1. Hp is offering an “Instant Ink” service with some of its new printers.  These printers connect directly with HP, let them know when you need new ink cartridges, and HP mails you ink cartridges automatically.  You pay a flat monthly fee, depending on how many pages you print each month.  Unused pages roll over to the next month.  HP description of program   It looks like this service is less expensive than buying ink at the store.  Review I have one client who is on the program.  We’ll let you know how it goes.  If you are using this service, I would love to hear from you.

Chromebook Update: I am not happy about printing from my Google Chromebook without a “cloud-enabled” printer.  I didn’t buy a cloud-enabled printer because I had just bought a new printer last year and thought it would be a good idea to test the alternative method offered by Google.

My Chromebook has to print via my old computer which is connected to my printer via my WiFi network.  Therefore, my old computer has to be on in order for my Chromebook to print. I find this very inconvenient.

Fortunately, I can access docs from my Chromebook and smartphone, so I don’t need to print very often.  Have me show you how to do this.  It’s great!

If you buy a Chromebook, you may want to buy a cloud-enabled printer for it.  If your current printer is connected directly to your computer and is not on a wifi network, you will definitely need to buy a cloud-enabled printer.  Fortunately, you can get one for less than $100.

By the way…I’m really enjoying my Chromebook in all other respects.  It’s a great solution for a lot of people and I highly recommend it.  I carry it with me during the day and can get a lot more accomplished between appointments than working from my smartphone.  I’ll be delighted to share it with you at our next appointment.  

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