Why Does a Printer Go Offline?

Printers go offline due to power surges and sags, corrupted files in the print queue, paper jams, an empty toner cartridge or paper tray, bad components in the printer itself and interference by remote users. Only some of these generate unique error messages.

Sometimes clearing a “printer offline” message is as simple as turning off the printer and restarting it or dumping all the jobs in the print queue to clear it. In order for a printer to generate an error message that says “offline,” depending on manufacturer, specific errors must have occurred. Users should consult the owner’s manual for individual printers.

Other conditions that cause a printer to go offline can generate specific error messages, which may be categorized in a user manual. For instance, when pushed offline due to paper jams and empty toner cartridges, most printers report that message. Clearing the paper jam or replacing the toner cartridge puts the printer back online. Empty paper trays also generate specific error messages.

A print job with a corrupted file or a file with a corrupt graphic can cause a printer to go offline. This may generate an error message, but it stops the printer nonetheless. The user can clear the print queue and try printing the file one page at a time to find the element that is causing the error.

Should a component in the printer go bad, such as the fuser in a laser printer, it may not generate a specific message, but the printer will stop. Likewise, when other wireless signals block a wireless printer, it will stop printing until the interference clears, and because so many networked printers have software tools for remote administration, a remote operator can take a printer offline even when there’s nothing wrong.