What Does it Mean When My Laptop Says My Printer Is Offline?

by G.D. Palmer ; Updated September 28, 2017

On a correctly set up network or directly connected printer, most print jobs are easy. The printer automatically produces the pages once it processes the information in the print request. However, sometimes printers that formerly worked report themselves as offline. Several different problems could cause this error message. You can correct most of them easily, but others require technical help or replacing the printer.

Connection Problems

A loose, unplugged or damaged cable prevents the printer and computer from communicating properly. If your printer says it is offline, check the cable leading from the printer to the computer or network device. Moving other cables or changing hardware could cause them to become unplugged accidentally. Pets also sometimes chew and ruin computer cables. Replace any damaged or defective cables and make sure all cable ends fit tightly in their sockets. Check the wireless connection for printers that don't use cables to connect to the computer. It may be disabled or blocked.

Power Loss

Check the printer's power button and cord to make sure it's getting the power it needs. As with data cables, defective or damaged power cords can keep the printer from working correctly. However, damaged power cables add an extra element of danger; a short in the cable could permanently damage the printer. Replace problem cables immediately and keep your printer where humans and pets can't easily turn it off.

Printer Error

Paper jams, misfeeds or out-of-ink errors disrupt the normal printer-to-computer communication process. If your printer suffers from one of these problems, it won't work until you correct the trouble. Some printers show offline status when they're out of a single ink color, even if the printer doesn't need that color for the print job. Check your printer for red or blinking lights to see if an error is keeping it from working correctly.

Software Problem

Out of date, missing or malfunctioning software can keep a working printer from communicating with the computer. Check and update all drivers and other printer software. Update the computer's operating system if necessary. If you recently installed a new driver or program, remove that software and reinstall the old version to find out if the new software interferes with the printer. Check the print job to make sure the operating system did not automatically select “Use Printer Offline” during a restart or shutdown. If needed, access Windows 7's troubleshooter for printers. Click "Start," "Control Panel" and "View devices and printers." Right-click the icon representing your printer, and select, "Troubleshoot.''

Equipment Failure

A move, power surge or thunderstorm could damage the printer, preventing it from turning on or communicating with the computer. Try connecting the printer to another computer or plugging it into a different outlet. If it still fails to respond, you may need to have the printer serviced by a professional. In some cases, replacing the printer provides the most cost-effective option.

About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.

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