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Issue #709: February 21-27, 2021

Q: My wireless printer HP 8130 is new. When I set it up, I could print without any issues. Now my laptop says my printer is offline. My printer shows that it is connected to the Wi-Fi and has no issues. The Wi-Fi is the same one my laptop is connected to. How do I get my printer back online? I can connect the laptop and printer via USB and successfully print but they are in different rooms, so this isn’t convenient.  Thanks so much.

 – Corlene Z.
Destin, Florida

A:  Before doing anything else, Corlene, I’m going to ask you to verify, verify, verify.  You’ve told me that the printer is connected, and furthermore, connected to the same Wi-Fi host, but by all rights, it should be working, unless something has changed.  It’s that little “something” that’s causing me to recommend you verify your facts.  I want you to double-check the network name of both the laptop and the printer connections.  Go ahead – I’ll wait.

Back so soon?  Good.  If you found and fixed a configuration problem, you can stop reading here – see you next week.  If not, then there is more going on than should be.  Or, perhaps I should say that there is less going on.  Because logic would seem to indicate that if your computer and printer are both on the same network, and they used to talk to each other, that they should still be talking to each other, right?  Unfortunately, the dynamic nature of home networks means that’s just not the case.  I have a pair of HP 8000-series printers at home, and I have had similar problems with mine as well.

The easiest solution is to just remove the printer from your PC and re-install it. The quickest path to removing it is to click on the Windows Start menu, and start typing the word “Printer”.  Before you get much past “Pr”, you should see “Printers & scanners” in the search results.  Open it, and you’ll see a list of all your installed printers.  Select your HP 8130, and click “Remove Device”.  Once the removal is complete, redo the steps to install it from scratch, and you should be up and printing again.

But that begs the question of why this happens.  Well, as I said above, this has happened to me, so I’ve investigated this for my own sake.  What I discovered is that the IP address of my printer had changed, and the underlying virtual printer port retained the old address.  Sounds wonky, I know, but read-on.

The word “port” is a poor choice for this function, because there are multiple things called by this name in a computer, including at least three directly related to printers and printing.  So, it’s important that we disambiguate exactly what “port” I’m talking about.  If you re-visit the “Printers & scanners” page, and select the printer, you’ll see a button labeled “Manage”.  If you click it, you’ll see a “Manage your device” dialog box for the printer.  There are some links about halfway down; click the one that says “Printer properties”.  Find the “Ports” tab, and click it, and from here on out, be very careful what you click, or you could accidentally break something.

Listed here are all of the ports through which you can print.  You’ll see some with familiar-sounding names like LPT2:, COM1: and so forth.  These correspond to hardware ports present on your computer.  But there’s also likely to be some others with names that are mostly gibberish to the human eye, and still more that are nothing more than an IP address.  It’s those last ones that are suspect.

Most IP addresses on a home network are dynamic.  That is, they are not static, and are subject to change at the whims of the router.  Your printer is installed using whatever IP address was available at the time, and a port was set up to talk to it.  If the IP address of your printer changes after it’s installed, the result is obvious: your computer will try to print to the old IP address, not ever knowing that your printer moved, and didn’t leave a forwarding address.

If you know exactly what you’re doing, it’s possible to fix this problem by re-configuring the port.  But it’s far easier, and perhaps more reliable, to follow the “remove and replace” method I provided above.

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