Troubleshoot Your Printer in Mac OS X with Its Built-in Self Test

by Matt

Problem: You can’t get your printer to print from your Mac, or if it can, the ink is smeared, the page has lines running through it, or the page is crooked.

Solution: Most printers offer a host of troubleshooting tests that are built-into the printer. These tests usually print a page with some diagnostic information. Because the options vary from printer to printer, you may need to consult your printer’s manual to see how you can actually perform these tests. A good starting point is a menu system or button labeled “Setup,” “Tools,” or “Settings,” etc. Some of the tests you may be able to run include:

  • A print alignment test (sometimes called a print head test or simply self test). This test prints a page with a series of lines and other shapes, which shows you whether the printer can print objects parallel to each other without overlapping. A failed test means that when you go to print a document, you’ll likely end up with lines of text running into each other.
  • Print head cleaning. While not a test per se, this tool is useful when you have lines or splotches running through your printed pages. The cleaning dislodges gunk that has built up on the print head and tries to ensure an even distribution of ink across all of the head.
  • A diagnostic test (self test, print report, etc.). These are generic terms, and your printer may call it something else, but this is a test the printer runs to check its internal hardware, and it then prints the results for you. It’s everything you ever wanted your six-month-old baby to be able to tell you instead of crying, but don’t be surprised if the English your printer spits out is equally unrecognizable. You may be able to glean some useful troubleshooting information from the document, but it’s more likely helpful if you have to call the manufacturer for technical support.
  • A networking status test. If you have your printer connected to a network, this test prints out all the information your printer knows about your network. You probably only care to see whether the printer is connected to your network and what its IP address is. Note that addresses that start with 169 are fake addresses and indicate the printer isn’t actually connected to your network (if it’s a WiFi network, try retyping your password).

Did this tip work for you? What else have you used your printer’s self test for? Let others know in the comments.

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