It Won’t Print!: Or, the HP LaserJet P1102w and Me

UPDATED 07/18/12

To cut to the chase: Try changing your wireless access point to Channel 11.

The follow-up post may also be of interest: It Won’t Print Again.

Keep reading for the original post.

I have a friend who used to work in another nearby department on campus. He used to call me up just for fun and say, “It won’t print.” That’s all. No “Hello.” No “How are you doing?” Just “It won’t print.” It was kind of a running joke because I used to tell him about a number of the really strange printing problems I tackled.

It’s strange that in this age of being able to do so many things completely electronically people still like to print. They still like things on paper. I’m no different. Some things I just really want on paper. If a company doesn’t send me an e-mail confirmation within about five minutes of an online order, I’ll print the confirmation page. I’ve tried electronic boarding passes before, and I’ve let the airline scan my phone. Somehow though, I feel better with a paper boarding pass. Why? Maybe I feel that I’m more likely to lose my phone than that magic piece of paper. Perhaps my phone battery might die. Or how about this one? Maybe my phone will crash. It has happened before. My paper boarding pass has never crashed. Oh, it might get a little wrinkled and smudged, but the airline has never had a problem scanning it.

Whatever. I still want to print things sometimes.

About a year ago I built a new computer. It didn’t have a parallel port, and the USB-to-parallel cable didn’t work, so I wound up abandoning my trusty old HP LaserJet 6P for a new LaserJet P1102w. As these things often do, it went swimmingly at first. I installed the driver, printed a test page, and all was well. The wireless printing was fine as well, so I installed the driver on another laptop or two. Over the past year, it got gradually worse. It reached the point where it wouldn’t print without a lot of coaxing. I ignored it thinking that I would get around to it someday. Someday finally came when some visiting relatives needed to print their boarding passes and it wouldn’t print ANYTHING – not a test page or even a page of mojibake.

I took a shortcut by printing from a USB connection before settling in to finally tackle the problem. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of the troubleshooting, but anyone who has ever tried to solve a problem knows that there are a number of possible problems with just the printer and the computer. Add wireless printing into the mix and you introduce a number of other interesting variables.

I Googled. I poured over the HP forums. I removed the software and tried reinstalling it. I tried reconnecting to the wireless access point. I finally determined that the printer absolutely was not connecting to the AP. It wasn’t leasing an IP address, and its MAC address wasn’t showing up in the list of devices attached to the access point. Somewhere I finally came across a web posting where someone noted that the printer seemed to work best with the wireless access point was set to channel 11. I changed mine from channel 5 to 11, and I had the proverbial “Voila!” moment. Everything started working again across all devices. Printing was rock solid after reboots, after idle time, and after printer hibernation. I was back in business.

I’ve been doing computer support since the mid-nineties, so I remember exactly how we used to do our troubleshooting before there was such a wealth of technical support material online. Of course people were solving problems like this long before there was any online information, but it sure makes a difference! That experience notwithstanding, I still find myself occasionally asking, “How do we ever do this before the Internet?”

I guess I should also be asking, “How long until I can stop printing?”