How to Troubleshoot a Printer With Weird Characters

By Jacob Andrew

Printer miscommunication often results in dozens of sheets of wasted paper.
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It can look like something out of a horror movie: after sending a print job, your printer begins spewing pages and pages of weird characters. With the heavy demands business place on the average printer, you’re bound to experience this at one time or another. You need not panic; this is typically a sign of a temporary communication failure between you and the printer. The key to troubleshooting this problem is to first eliminate faults in your print file or computer before moving on to the printer itself.

Cancel the Print Job

Sometimes, a print job simply gets stuck upon sending. This can occur for any number of reasons. The most important step you should take, however, is to cancel the print job and stop the seemingly endless stream of garbage pages. Canceling should stop the printing shortly thereafter. If it does not, perform a “hard” shut down on the printer, which is typically accomplished by pressing and holding down the power button. If you cannot perform a hard shut down then, as a last resort only disconnect the printer’s power supply.

Re-Send the Print Job

Once the strange printing has stopped and power is restored to the printer, try printing the page again. This is important, as it will tell you whether or not the issue was a temporary fault or is a persistent problem. If the same file prints again as garbage, cancel the print job as before and send a different print job. The second print job will tell you if the problem lies with the file or with the communication between you and the printer.

Re-Install Latest Printer Drivers

If your printer is producing weird characters across all documents, something may have happened to the drivers. Unplug the USB connection from the printer and uninstall its driver from your PC entirely. Download the latest drivers for the printer directly from the manufacturer website. Reinstall the printer with these new drivers. Send your original print job to see if this resolves the problem.

Replace USB Cable

When you reinstall the printer and still receive weird characters, you must replace the USB cable. A broken USB cable could maintain a connection and yet still corrupt the print job data on its way to the printer. Replacing this cable eliminates this possibility. If, after replacing the USB cable, your printer still does not print properly, then it is likely that something has occurred with the printer's internal memory. At this point you must have your printer serviced at an authorized service facility or replace it.