My Printer Keeps Saying “In Queue”

You’ve checked your printer’s queue of output jobs repeatedly, and each time you look, the same documents appear listed as ready for processing. If your printer keeps telling you that the file you urgently need on paper remains pending, you can narrow down the reason for the printing delay by examining your print process from the flow of document data to the device’s output tray.

Documents that linger in the output queue of pending jobs without progressing to completion signal potential printer memory problems. At the heart of every laser printer lies a miniature computer, complete with its own supply of RAM. Although entry-level laser devices include a fixed installation of memory chips, workgroup-class hardware, proofers intended for the graphic arts and copiers that double as color printers, offer optionally upgradeable memory. When you overtax your printer with too much data for its memory capacity, or it accidentally holds on to stale data from a previous document, the device may have trouble completing the output jobs you send it. Although inkjet printers draw their processing capabilities from their host computer’s installed RAM, the memory they use reduces the amount available for other computing tasks. If memory problems frequently snarl your printing workflow, look to upgrades as the simplest, most cost-effective solution.

If you’re accustomed to watching output emerge at lightning speed when you send text-heavy word processing documents and number-dominated spreadsheets to your printer, the slowdown you see when you work with graphics-laden design documents or complex database-dependent projects may leave you thinking you have a hardware problem. Document data size relates directly to print processing time, but unless you check the size of your files before you print them, you may not realize how much information they contain for your hardware to digest. Rather than halt the print job on the suspicion that file corruption has slowed its output, treat your machine like the proverbial watched pot and let it catch up. If the print job never finishes, however, you may be faced with a troubled file, in which case you can try printing it in sections to isolate the problem.

From small desktop photo printers to large floor-standing devices with multiple paper trays, output hardware can’t understand computer document data without an intermediary to translate file information into printable material. That liaison consists of the printer driver software you install — or your operating system already includes — to complete the addition of output hardware to your computer or network. If your printer provided trouble-free service before you completed an OS update, and now your documents linger in its output queue without satisfactory completion, update your printer drive to correspond with your OS. Printer manufacturers maintain repositories of downloadable driver updates on their websites, from which you can select the appropriate resource.

Printer status can interfere with printer performance. A machine that stays in offline standby mode after you replace a toner cartridge can’t process the projects that wait in its output queue. A device with a paper jam can’t resume printing without human intervention to clear out snarled sheets. A defective or empty ink tank or toner cartridge, or a too-low level on a solid ink device, effectively stops the printing process and freezes pending jobs in the output queue. If your printer seems unresponsive or unduly slow, check for warning signals on its display panel or in the management software that alerts you to the need for fresh supplies.

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