How Printing Works

The Process

In order to troubleshoot your printing problem, you have to understand the process at work. This document will detail what happens to your document from the time you click "Print" to the time it comes out of the printer and offer tips for troubleshooting any problems which might arise.

There are 4 basic stops along the path from your computer to the printer:

The Printing Process

Here are the details:

  1. Document Rendering.  When you click print in an application, (e.g. Microsoft Word, Finale, Internet Explorer, etc.), that document is created in a language the printer can understand.  When you choose "Print..." you get a dialog box that allows you to select the printer (if more than one is defined) as well as options regarding number of copies, etc.  When you click the "Print" button in this box, your application sends the job to a local Spooler.   This fools the computer into thinking the job has actually printed so you can keep using your application.  But it has not, in fact, printed yet!
  2. The local Spooler. The local spooler is the process that feeds the job to a printer, giving your operating system the illusion the document has printed so you can continue to use your application. You can check the status of your print job after it has spooled (system tray icon). In this case, it is printing to a print SERVER.
  3. Remote Spooler/Print Server.  A print server is a computer that accepts jobs from many clients (computers) and can send them to any of a number of printers.  Our print server also has the ability to parse the job looking for username, number of pages, etc, as it is passed to the real printer.  Print servers in general act as "funnels" for real printers in busy network environments, ensuring that only one job at a time is sent to a printer.  To other computers, it looks no different than a normal printer. 
  4. Printer!  When the print server is done accounting for your job, it contacts the printer to which your job is addressed and makes sure it is ready to receive a job.  If so, the job is sent on its way.

If all goes well, this process takes only a second or two and by the time you actually walk to the printer after clicking "Print", your job is already waiting for you there. If it is a large job, it may take a few minutes.

Troubleshooting

Things do not, alas, always go well.  You are in complete control of this process until the job has left your computer and been handed to the print server.  If you clicked "Print" and everything seemed to go OK, the next thing for you to do is to check your job's status according to your local spooler. Pay attention to what it says the job is doing. If it's a very large job, it may take a few seconds to spool to the print server.  If it seems to just sit there, try deleting it and sending it again.  Unless it comes out of the printer, there has been no charge for the printout. 

Troubleshooting your printing

If you can see your job but it is not going anywhere, delete it and try printing something else.  Something simple like a Word doc with only one letter in it.  If THAT prints and the thing you really want printed does not, then there's something about your document that precludes it from printing.  Seek help from a lab monitor or at the CTS Helpdesk in Kellas Hall.  If nothing you try to print ever prints, try logging into another computer.

If still no luck, report the problem to the nearest support personnel, or the CTS Helpdesk (helpdesk@potsdam.edu, x2083)  If you experience the same problem on another workstation, there may be something wrong with the network, the print server, or the printer.  Check the Printer first; see if it displays any error messages.  If it indicates a jam, empty toner, or empty paper, let the support personnel know.  If it indicates any other kind of error, turn the printer off, then on again.

If, after trying all of these things, you still have not seen your job come out, please contact the CTS Helpdesk with the following information:

  • Your Username  
  • The date you had trouble  
  • The time at which you had trouble  
  • The workstation/computer you were using identified by it's SUNY Potsdam Decal Number.
  • The application you were using when you had the problem  
  • The document you were using when you had this problem.  (Providing a copy of that document would be a great help as well!)  
  • A detailed description of the problem, including the exact and complete wording of any error messages you encountered.  
  • Details about what was attempted by you and/or others to resolve the problem.  
  • Any other information you think might help.