Computer Doesn't Detect Printer

By David Nield

Troubleshoot printer problems as early as possible to minimize disruption.
i Adam Berry/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A printer is an essential piece of business equipment and any problems with a device like this can have a direct impact on productivity or even profits. If you're having issues with a printer not being detected correctly, the root cause may lie with the printer, the connecting cable or port, or the computer you're running it with. For wireless printers, you also need to troubleshoot issues with the local router and network.

Basic Checks

It's important to eliminate potential causes as quickly as you can. To begin with, test the printer in a different USB port to make sure a port or motherboard fault isn't to blame. If you're connecting via a USB hub, plug the printer into a USB port connected directly to the motherboard instead. Use an alternative USB cable if a spare one is available -- if the detection problem persists you can eliminate the connecting cable as a potential cause. Ensure the printer is plugged into a working power socket and powered on, and that both power and data cables are firmly inserted.

Printer Drivers

If the printer isn't detected automatically, you can run a manual scan for new hardware from the Hardware section of Control Panel. Some makes and models require the printer drivers to be installed before the unit appears as an available printer, and drivers can be installed from the supplied software CD or by downloading them directly from the manufacturer's website. The documentation supplied with the printer should set out the correct order for connecting the printer, powering it up and installing the necessary drivers.

Wireless Printers

If a wireless printer isn't being detected correctly, then the router and local network are potential causes. Work through the printer's initial configuration process from the beginning and reset your router to reestablish the connection with local computers and devices. Many wireless printers must be set up initially using a USB cable connection, so ensure you've completed this process by following the supplied instructions before attempting to connect wirelessly.

Further Troubleshooting

Another possibility is that the printer itself is faulty. The easiest way to check for this is to attempt to install it on another computer. If the problem persists, it's more likely that the printer itself is to blame. If you're using a printer that has been available previously but which now doesn't appear, open "Device Manager" from Control Panel. From here you may be able to roll back to a previous version of the printer driver or reinstall the device. Windows built-in System Restore program is another tool you can use to roll back the state of your system to a state in which the printer was working.