Printer not working with error message on display

Having problems with your printer can be a headache, especially if you have important documents you need printing on the double. If your computer printer ceases to function, the cause could range from connectivity issues to outdated drivers, and in rare instances, even cyber threats like viruses or malware.

While routine maintenance, such as clearing paper jams or removing dust buildup, can often restore printer functionality, neglecting potential malware infections can put your entire system at risk.

Whatever the case, this guide will help you fix your printer and peripherals not working and show you the best way to keep your PC and devices safe with the best antivirus.

Printer and peripherals not working: Quick fixes

Fixing printer problems can be daunting, as each printer from a different brand, such as HP, Brother, or Canon, has unique features and components. However, there are a few ways to fix common printer issues with the steps listed below.

The same goes for peripherals, such as a mouse or keyboard. We recommend following each step, especially if there is malware causing problems for each device.

  1. Check for hardware issues

    Worker fixing printer device

    Printers commonly experience hardware issues that need to be sorted out before they get working again. This includes paper jams, poor print quality, connectivity issues, Wi-Fi connection problems and more. There are also “ghost paper jams” when small paper residue continues to jam the printer, which could be causing the issue. 

    If this is the case, make sure to clean out the device for anything obstructing it. To make sure not to damage the printer, refer to the user manual of the specific device. It will let you know how to clean each part of the device. 

    This can be as simple as cleaning your printer of any dirt, dust, leftover paper residue, etc. If your peripherals are wired, a damaged cable can lead to printer malfunction. The best way to clean is by using a PC cleaning kit or a can of compressed air

    If you’re getting poor print quality, try cleaning the printheads (the part that transfers ink onto paper). If you haven’t already, you may also need to replace ink or toner cartridges. 

    It’s also a good idea to check if the cables connecting your computer to your printer are properly connected. If it’s over Wi-Fi, check if the printer is connected to the correct Wi-Fi network and can connect to your PC. 

    You may also see error messages that stop your printer from working. For example, if you see “Non [brand name] Ink Cartridges Installed,” make sure you have the right components. You can also clean the cartridge contacts (usually a gold chip) to make sure the printer can read what’s being put in. 

  2. Update your drivers

    Windows Graphics Driver Update Settings

    An outdated or corrupted driver can cause plenty of problems for peripherals as they communicate between the device and your computer. 

    Making sure your print driver, along with other peripheral drivers, is up to date can help solve the problem. 

    This can be done in two ways. You can download the latest drivers from your printer or peripheral manufacturer’s website. For example, if your printer is from HP, you can visit the HP Printer Drivers support page, type in your printer model, and download the driver update. 

    You can also update your drivers in Windows settings. In the search box on the taskbar, type in “Device Manager” and select Device Manager > right-click on your printer or peripheral > Update driver and follow the steps. 
    If driver updates are available, download and install the update to see if this fixes the issue.

  3. Clear up the printer queue

    Printer Spooler Windows Settings

    If your printer is working but won’t print when requested, it could be an issue with the print job queue. Once a print job is finished, it should automatically be cleared. However, if too many print jobs are requested or the printer encounters a problem when printing something, this could block the queued jobs and cause a logjam – stopping further print requests. 

    To fix this, you’ll need to head into Windows settings. You’ll also need to turn off your printer and save any work that hasn’t been printed. 

    Type in “Services” in the search field on the taskbar. Open Services and scroll down to Print Spooler. Right-click and select Stop. This will stop all print jobs the printer is struggling to process. 

    Next, head to Windows File Explorer and search for C:\Windows\System32\Spool\PRINTERS. Delete all files in the queue. 

    Restart your device and your printer, enable the Print Spooler in Services and check if the problem is solved by printing your document. 

  4. Update your software

    Windows update settings for blocked software updates

    Updating your Windows PC software can often fix minor glitches, including printers not working. However, they can also fend off malicious software.

    Cybercriminals take advantage of security vulnerabilities on your device. These zero-day vulnerabilities allow threat actors to exploit computer systems until developers mitigate them, which can cause major damage. 

    Updating your system’s software can resolve the issue. A software update often contains security patches that help protect your device, as developers work to protect users from known zero-day attacks and other forms of malware trying to infect your device. 

    You can update your device through its settings. For example, you can update your Windows PC by navigating to Start > Settings > Windows Update > Check for updates. If there are any, download and install the update. 

  5. Change your passwords

    Norton 360 Password Manager

    If you’ve experienced printer or peripheral malfunctions and nothing will fix it, chances are your PC has been infected with a virus or malware, and your online accounts and devices are at risk of being compromised.

    To help mitigate potential malware threats or hackers taking control of your accounts, change your passwords and use a strong password to stop suspicious activity. 

    Using password managers such as LastPass or 1Password can help manage all your passwords in one place, create a complex, near-unbreakable master password and encrypt your information. 

    Changing passwords will stop hackers from trying to steal any sensitive information and your online accounts. 

  6. Use antivirus software to detect and stop malware

    Norton 360 Security and Settings

    If you can’t find any way to fix problems with your printer, mouse, keyboard and other peripherals and malware may be the issue, using one of the best antivirus software like Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) will keep you safe from any malicious software, like ransomware, adware, spyware, phishing and more.

    That’s not all; antivirus software can provide extra features like VPNs, dark web monitoring and more. Norton 360 has all these features and extra security tools that can backup your data, prevent online identity theft and stop malware. 

    What’s more, Norton 360 comes with monitoring features to identify all suspicious activity on your device. It will help detect and notify you about any unusual activity, including printers not working, and stop it using it’s protection tools. 

    Check out our Norton 360 review and Norton 360 Platinum review to see which antivirus package suits you best.

How to fix my printer not working?

While printers from different brands are unique, they can generally be fixed using similar methods.

As mentioned, checking your printer for hardware issues is a good idea. Make sure to clean out any dirt or dust clogging up the system, unblock any paper jams carefully using the manufacturer’s user guide, check if all cables are correctly connected and see if its Wi-Fi connection is stable.

If the print quality is poor, ensure the ink and toner cartridges are filled and compatible with the printer. You can also try cleaning the printheads.

When the peripheral’s driver is outdated or corrupted, then it won’t be able to function. Update the printer driver by heading to Device Manager or visiting the manufacturer’s support page.

If there’s nothing wrong with the printer itself, it may have to do the print job queue. That’s when you’ll need to clear out the print queue to prevent a logjam.

However, what can cause significant damage to your system, other devices and private information is malware. If your printer stops working and there are no apparent issues, malware may have infected your computer, causing problems to your printer.

Malware can sneak onto your device in several ways, including mistakenly clicking a suspicious link in an email or going to a dodgy website, thanks to phishing attacks.

To identify and remove malicious software and prevent infections from happening, it’s best to use an antivirus like Norton 360 to detect any malicious activity and stop the malware from causing more harm.

Office Paper Printer

What can cause a printer to stop printing?

There are plenty of common reasons why a printer stops working. This can include a paper jam or “ghost paper jam,” outdated or corrupted printer drivers, non-compatible ink or toner cartridges, connection issues, print jobs stuck in print queue and many more.

The most significant cause for concern is when a virus or malware is causing your printer to malfunction, as it can affect your computer and the rest of the system.

If you suspect a virus or malware infection is damaging your PC, it’s best to perform a system scan using a reliable antivirus that can identify the issue and eliminate a virus or malware. Once it’s done its job, check to see if your printer is working again.

Can any antivirus software stop viruses and malware?

The best antivirus software will stop malware in its tracks. Not all antivirus software is equal, as some don’t have high malware detection and protection rates or have accredited lab scores to back them up.

However, many high-standard AV protections offer near-perfect scores when detecting and protecting against malware, meaning even complex malicious software can’t go unnoticed. Even if it’s a hidden app running in the background and causing your printer to malfunction, an antivirus will be able to detect and eliminate it.

Services, including Norton 360 (from $19.99/year) and Bitdefender (from $19.99/year), include device monitoring features to help uncover suspicious activity early and offer the tools to fight off cyberattacks. Whether its a phishing attack, ransomware, spyware or infostealer malware, these security products have the tools to protect you.

These services have protection features that block malicious activity on your device, along with extra features like cloud backup and PC boosters. To make sure your device is ready to identify and block malware damaging your system, set yourself up with an antivirus.

Best antivirus to prevent viruses and malware

1. Norton 360 🥇From $19.99/year
Best overall antivirus of 2023

Norton 360 on Laptop scaled

“Norton” and “antivirus” are synonymous these days, as the well-established cybersecurity brand has successfully fought against malware, viruses and nasty software threats since 1990. 

Norton 360 offers excellent antivirus protection and extra features that make for a valuable, all-in-one security product. Its Norton 360 Deluxe and Premium package may cost a pretty penny. Still, with security across multiple platforms, a full-blown VPN, Dark Web Monitoring, Parental Controls and more, it will have a household free of cyber threats. 

Norton’s certainty of its antivirus software’s capabilities is clearly defined by the brand’s 100% Virus Protection Promise. If a device protected by Norton 360 can’t get rid of a virus, the user receives their money back. It’s a big claim, but unquestionably, no one should expect to get that refund.

If you have the money for it, you can also check out the premium Norton 360 Platinum package for even more online protection, including from identity theft. Without a doubt one of the best antivirus to get.

Read our full Norton 360 review

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2. Bitdefender 🥈 From $19.99/year
Best security features and tools

Bitdefender Lead Image scaled

Bitdefender takes the spot as best antivirus, and for good reason. It’s not enough that it boasts near-perfect lab test scores across the board, as it goes the extra mile by giving users access to a plethora of advanced security features.

Bitdefender goes above and beyond in the features department, all while keeping known malware, ransomware, and viruses at bay. It will defend your device against new attacks, provide security for online transactions, keep you safe with a reliable VPN, and protect your accounts with a password manager.

It’s a no-brainer when it comes to defending your devices against virtually any form of cyberattack, and its top-notch protection extends to its most affordable package, too. Protecting your PC and smartphone, from Windows and macOS to iOS and Android, is becoming even more necessary, and Bitdefender is the tricked-out shield you need. 

Read our full Bitdefender review

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3. Malwarebytes 🥉 From $44.99/year
Best antivirus for Windows PC

Malwarebytes Logo scaled

Hundreds of malware emerge every minute, and it’s Malwarebytes’ mission to detect and conquer them all. Does the antivirus do this successfully? Yes, but there’s wiggle room for improvements.

Malwarebytes’ no-nonsense approach to protecting your devices from the onslaught of malware and viruses is effective for those who need a reliable antivirus that will detect and remove malicious software, especially with its free version. However, while its premium service provides 24/7 real-time detection, conveniently blocks vicious ransomware and shields users from malicious websites, it doesn’t go beyond on the feature front.

That’s no bad thing, as sometimes a user only needs a powerful antivirus to keep them safe from cyber threats. But considering its competitors add a few more security tools, such as data breach monitoring and a firewall, there’s room for improvement. 

Read our full Malwarebytes review

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4. Avast One 🙌 From $39.99/year
Best antivirus for beginners + free plan available!

Avast One logo on laptop

With Avast One, you can protect your device from viruses, malware and ransomware for free. That’s right, and you don’t have to pay a dime for the extra security features the antivirus throws in, including its VPN, firewall and more.

Avast One will safeguard your device from malware, comes with ransomware protection, blocks harmful websites and downloads from the web, scans your emails for malicious attachments, stops hackers from infiltrating your device through Wi-Fi with a firewall – the list goes on. That’s a lot of tools for software that’s free, and the included VPN and the ability to speed up your PC are a welcome bonus.

It’s the ideal antivirus software for home use, as it takes the hassle out of staying wary of cyber threats lurking around, even if you’re not a tech whizz. What’s more, if you are looking for added precautions, its paid Individual and Family packages still boast great value. Hard to go wrong with this best antivirus.

Read our full Avast One review

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5. AVG👍 From 4.99/month
Best antivirus for + free plan available!

AVG Antivirus logo scaled

You can never go wrong with free antivirus protection, but some deliver even better detection and protection rates, along with extra security features, without costing a dime. This is where AVG antivirus shines.

AVG provides reliable protection and only a small impact on performance for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. It safeguards your devices against malware, viruses and zero-day exploits, along with blocking malicious links and attachments in emails. Throw in phishing protection when surfing the internet and extra security features such as its SafePrice browser extension and Network Inspector, and you’ve got yourself a do-it-all antivirus.

Sure, you can find all of these perks with Avast, but if you like a slick, darker user interface that’s easy to navigate, then AVG is for you.

Read our full AVG Antivirus review

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.

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