Thursday, January 14, 2010

Printing is offline

Here's an interesting problem that I've recently experienced on Windows. Let me tell you my story:

At work, I have a little desktop USB Canon inkjet printer connected to my laptop, which I primarily use to print quick items like an agenda for a meeting I'm in. For big print jobs, I have a Windows print queue definition that points to the network HP laserjet printer in our office.

One day when printing to the local printer, Windows warned me that one of my color ink cartridges was running low. Ever the lazy person, I just clicked the "print in greyscale" box whenever I printed to the local printer.

Eventually, my black ink cartridge ran empty. About to go on vacation for the holidays, I didn't order a replacement, and just printed everything to the laser printer.

When I got back to the office, I figured there wasn't a point in keeping the local inkjet printer powered on if I wasn't going to print to it, so I turned it off. The next morning, I wasn't able to print to our network printer. That meant I couldn't print anything! Every time I tried to print, Windows said the printer was "offline". Ouch!

If you can see the problem, you are smarter than I am.

Through many iterations of experiments, I've determined the following:
  1. If the local printer is off when I boot Windows, the network printer appears to be "offline".
  2. If the local printer is on when I boot Windows, I can print to the network printer.
I'd love to have someone explain this to me!

Why does Windows seem to care about the local printer, when trying to print to the network printer? Linux doesn't care about these things. These printers are defined on different queues - or at least, Linux puts different printers on different queues. I assume Windows does that. Does Windows do some kind of weird print-fu where the local printer matters, even when printing to a network printer?

I guess I'll have to unplug the USB cable to the local printer until I get a new ink cartridge ...


  1. Egads, what an ugly Vista bug! For two equally ugly work-arounds, see:

  2. I guess I'll have to unplug the USB cable to the local printer until I get a new ink cartridge ...

    Update: that doesn't work either. Can't print if the local printer is disconnected.

    I went into the printer control panel to see if I could apply the ugly workaround suggested by BillR. Interestingly, the local printer is marked "offline" but not the network printer. Yet when I try to print anything to the network printer, it won't, and the print queue tool (whatever you call it) then shows the network printer as offline.

    The network printer is definitely online, though. Lots of other people can print to it with no problem. But they don't have an offline local printer.

  3. My experience 10 years ago was that *some* proprietary printer drivers screw up the entire MSWin print system and required a purge + "fix" (some MS system files were replaced).

    VisDud is horrible though; I got my sister-in-law a nice printer for her birthday and she couldn't use it. There was some obscure setting which had to be changed just to use that printer. So my brother had to print for her using his old XP machine; it took months to resolve the problem (the printer manufacturer finally figured it out).


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