How do I remove a document stuck in my printer’s queue?

Every so often the Windows Print Queue will get "stuck". Everything looks like it should print, but it won't. We'll clear that up.

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I’m trying to delete a document in the queue of my printer, but I can’t. It writes “deleting”, but it never finishes, I’ve tried to cancel the same from the field of my printer but it doesn’t disappear, restarting my computer, restarting the document, turning off the printer, unplugging the cables, still I can’t. What else can I do? It doesn’t allow other documents to print!

When you print a document, say from your word processing program, that document is not sent directly to your printer. Instead it gets placed in a queue. The idea is that then once placed into the queue, the printer software will come along notice that there’s something in the queue that needs to be printed, and print it.

Sometimes the queue gets “stuck”, for lack of a better word.

And it can be really, really frustrating.

Since you can run many applications on your computer at once, and they could all try to print at once, the documents to be printed need to be printed in sequence somehow. Windows handles this by creating what’s called the print queue. When an application prints a document it’s placed into this queue of documents to be printed. When the printer is ready and available – perhaps after having completed printing a prior document – the next document in the queue ready to be printed is then actually printed.


What do you do when the printer should be printing, the print queue shows several documents ready to be printed, and yet …

The print queue is managed by the “Print Spooler” service. (The process of adding a document to the print queue, or sending it to the printer from the print queue is referred to as “spooling”, which dates back to days when documents to be printed were written to a spool of magnetic tape and then physically taken to a different device to be printed.)

Each printer you have available on your system has its own queue. You can view the print queue for each by opening up Control Panel, and going to Printers, or Devices and Printers, and double clicking on the print icon you’ll find there. Here’s the print queue for my printer after printing the Ask Leo! home page:
Print Queue
You can see that the document is “Spooling”. If there are multiple documents waiting to be printed they would all be listed.

You can also cancel printing a document if it shows up in the print queue: right click on the document and click on the Cancel option.

Now, it’s important to note that Cancel doesn’t always work, and that the document actually being printed might not be listed. That’s because the spooler is just a stop along the way. Many printers actually have very large buffers of their own and might have already received several pages, if not the entire document, therefore removing it from the Windows print queue often well before the pages are actually printed.

But what about the opposite, which is really what this question is all about? What do you do when the printer should be printing, the print queue shows several documents ready to be printed, and yet … nothing’s happening?

First, check all the “usual” stuff. Is the printer out of paper? Is it complaining about some other kind of fault? (If you look closely at my print queue above, the printer is complaining about “No Toner/Ink” since I opened the cover to pause printing.) Is the printer connected and powered on, even? Is there a paper jam?

You get the idea. There are a lot of things that can stop a printer from printing, and nine times out of ten, it’s one of those issues that gets in the way.

And yet, sometimes not.

An unfortunately common scenario looks like this:

  • Your printer is confirmed ready to print.
  • You have documents in the print queue.
  • Nothing is printing, even though it looks like it should.
  • Attempting to cancel a print job in the queue does nothing.
  • Rebooting doesn’t help.

The solution is to clear the print queue manually. This is done on the computer to which the printer is connected.

  • Turn off your printer.
  • Right click Computer (in the Windows 7 Start Menu) or My Computer (on your desktop), and click Manage.
  • In the resulting dialog, expand Services and Applications, then click on Services. Scroll down the resulting list to find Print Spooler.
  • Right click on Print Spooler and click on Properties.
    Print Spooler Properties
  • Click on Stop to stop the print spooler. (You can leave this dialog open.)
  • Now, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the folder c:WindowsSystem32spoolPRINTERS. A quick way to do this is to click on Start then Run and then enter “c:WindowsSystem32spoolPRINTERS” as the item to run.
  • Delete the contents of this folder.
  • Back at the Printer Spooler Properties dialog, click on Start.
  • Turn your printer back on.
  • Print something.

If your printing problem was related to a stuck printer queue, you should now be able to print again.

There are 82 comments:

  1. David Reply

    Nice explanation. I like the way you provide background facts and also include the mundane possibilities before getting to the techie stuff.

  2. Alex Newell Reply

    This Print – No Print Answer is superb. It is very helpful…I wish I’d read it BEFORE the hassle!

    :-)

  3. Jeff Burns Reply

    I see this regularly while working on customer computers. While Leo’s method is technically correct, there is a much easier way to clear the print queue which works nearly all the time.

    If there are multiple documents shown in the queue, right-click on the printer and tell it to delete all the documents in the queue. All but the active document will clear. (The queue now shows 1 document) Now tell it to “Pause printing”. While it is paused, tell it to delete the remaining document. IT WILL NOT DELETE but, when you “Resume printing”, it disappears.

    I’m glad that works for you – and it’s certainly something to try. Gotta say, though, that every time I’ve tried something like that it’s not helped.

    Leo
    05-May-2010

  4. John Reply

    The solution does not always work under Vista which is the only place i have seen the problem. Needs reboot sometimes

  5. nytibcp Reply

    As an oldtimer in the computer business, I’ve always thought that the term “spool” is an acronym for “Simultaneous Peripheral Operations On-Line”. It originated in the late 1950s when early mainframe operating systems such as the SHARE Operating System became able to perform operations simultaneously instead of sequentially. While not yet able to run multiple jobs concurrently, they were able to run one job, read input for the next job, and print the output from the previous job simultaneously. The input and output (peripheral) operations were concurrent with the executing job, hence the term “SPOOL”. See, e.g.,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spooling

    Obviously I could be very wrong, but my sense is that seems like a very manufactured acronym – as if they were putting things on spools of tape, and then later as technology improved manufactured an acronym that preserved the sense of what they had been doing while accurately reflecting the new way. Just a guess, though.

    Leo
    05-May-2010
  6. Frank Reply

    I found a batch file on the internet to clear the print queue. Copy the following text to a text to a blank text document.
    Use notepad to open the blank document.

    Text starts at @echo off and ends with net start spooler.

    After creating and saving the document change the name to clearprint.bat, the name can be anything
    the .bat extension is the important, changing the
    document to an executable batch file.

    Save the file to a any location on your hard drive
    and create a shortcut to it on your desktop.
    When your printer locks up run the batch file to fix it. Works great.

    @echo off
    echo Stopping print spooler.
    echo.
    net stop spooler
    echo deleting stuff… where? I’m not sure. Just deleting stuff.
    echo.
    del %systemroot%system32spoolprinters*.shd
    del %systemroot%system32spoolprinters*.spl
    echo Starting print spooler.
    echo.
    net start spooler

  7. DBrown Reply

    I was taught that SPOOL is in fact an acronym for Simultaneous Peripheral Operations On-Line – I never forgot this acronym I learned during my undergraduate studies in Computer Science – I’m glad you set the record straight – good to see!

  8. James Reply

    While it’s true that SPOOL is an acronym that goes back at least as far as the IBM 7090, as the earliest example of multitasking, when program and data were read (slowly) from punched cards and copied to magnetic tape that could be read faster when the program was executing, the problem these days arises from the large buffer in a modern printer. Once the print file is in that buffer, there’s not much the computer can do about it. Even if the printer runs out of paper, it will be all set to resume when more paper is loaded. Switching the printer to standby may also be ineffective. If you realise to late that you’re printing the wrong document, the only way to stop it may be to power off the printer and hope that resets everything in it.

  9. Andres Reply

    Hello i have this problem u did everything but that print spooler i don’t have it on my xp and the cancel thing wont work for me mm

  10. Andres Reply

    all i have are 3 things services wmi control and indexing service

  11. Carlos Coquet Reply

    SPOOL does stand for what the earlier comment said and, in fact DOS (which did exist exist since the 60’s in the mainframe world) did the same Windows does today. The operating system has always been in charge of printing. DOS would simply tell the program that the “line” had been printed but wrote it to hard disk then, another task in DOS fetched the data and printed it. As it is more common for mainframes to have many different printers attached, they all operate(d) simultaneously printing the output of programs executed sometime before.
    The PC world developed without much assistance from the mainframers (who saw PC’s as toys) and so, the PC’ers often “created” or “recreated” terms. That is why starting a PC is called “booting” it while starting a mainframe is called IPL’ing it (from Initial Program Loading, a term that makes much more sense).
    Many Windows “inventions” in fact are very old. Case in point “Virtual Memory”. That concept started in the mainframe DOS world around 1975 when IBM went from DOS version 27.1 to DOS VS 28 (the VS stood for “virtual storage”). “V M” in the mainframe world first stood for Virtual Machine”.

  12. Paul Gesellchen Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I wrestled with this issue for several hours before I found this site. I followed your instructions exactly and it solved my problem immediately! I really appreciate you putting down these instructions in such a clear fashion. Thanks again.

  13. Glenn P. Reply

    It’s not like you, Leo, to be so biased. Now how about providing us all the corresponding instructions for XP (both Home & Pro)?

    Those instructions work for XP as well.

    Leo
    15-Dec-2010

  14. Lutz Pansegrau Reply

    Dear Leo, I also like to thank you. I pinned your instruction next to the printer for everybody of my family members in case they
    got stuck on that and I’m not available at the time.

    Thanks again.

  15. Peter Ballantyne Reply

    Hi Leo. Yes, over many years of Windows the good ol’ print spooler has done this to me often enough. Only ever when I am in a tearing hurry naturally. As I have only one printer on only one PC and I never want to print more than one thing at a time can I go to Printer/Properties/Advanced and select “Print directly to the printer”, thus bypassing the spooler? I know that ties up the computer until the print job is finished, but I typically only print a few pages per job and I wouldn’t mind the wait. Would that remove any chance of print spooler problems such as your correspondent describes?

  16. Pieter Reply

    Just by way of letting Leo off the hook, the same instructions apply for XP. To navigate to Spooler, click Start, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management and double click Services and Applications. First double click Services and then Print Spooler

    This sequence opens the Print Spooler Properties dialog box shown in Leo’s post.

  17. insight2bp Reply

    Your “common scenario” ends with “rebooting doesn’t help.” In my scenario, as I sit still during reboot, the item suddenly prints, with no action on my part. What is going on? How can that be avoided?

  18. Rob Reply

    I just used this today at the help desk. Worked like a charm – this is a complete from start to finish, Leo you are the man!

  19. Daniel Reply

    So, it’s really just Windows preventing Windows from removing temporary files… sigh.

    If I remember correctly I’ve encountered this issue in every Windows since 3.1 (not sure about 2.0). It’s mighty strange how Microsoft have chosen to leave this glaring bug unsolved for close to twenty years. And counting.

    Anyhow, it helped me too, and I guess I’ll create a small batch file to automate this. Thanks.

  20. Indee Reply

    Deleting the contents of the folder ends with some printers (like mine) not working and having to re-install the software. You probably should mention this as I knew better than to delete the contents after I got to the end of your instructions I thought no this is dumb but I’ll give it a shot-took your recommendation, Now I have to re-install software AFTER I delete all traces of the old software in system folders…Can’t wait for your next tips on “how to cross the street” where you add in a line that says to first put on your blindfold & remember cars have the right of way unless you’re in the way.

    Deleting the queue doesn’t involve the printer drivers and software. If they then fail and you find yourself needing to re-install them then something else completely is going on. Even looking both ways you can still get hit by a speeding our of control car.

    Leo
    10-Mar-2011

  21. Nitrothor Hesperion Reply

    Hey Leo!

    Great help tip! It works great! Brilliant!

    However, my problem more lies in the fact that I make PDFs from a virtual printer. Sometimes after days, weeks or months, when I am producing a PDF, some mysterious PDF pops out that I had tried to make months earlier but failed to print then.

    I am using Nitro Primo free PDF maker, which always seems to work pretty good, and it is my default printer too, even though I have an HP printer attached to my XP Pro computer too. However, I don’t think that the problem is in the software. The problem, I think, has been stopped-up or congested or constipated PDFs that I tried to make long ago, but never printed until weeks or months later. It is really strange. It is like Bill Gates haunting my computer or something. Really eery, if you ask me.

    So, do you think that your suggestion here will solve my problem? I deleted the contents of that folder, but there was only one file there; a very large file too: something called, FP00020.SPL, but that was a whopping 248 MBs in size! Wow! Talk about a hard drive space hog running riot! It makes me wonder what other little or large suprises might exist in my Windows folder.

    Btw, I keep my computer squeaky clean and completely free of any sort of malware including tracking cookies. I am really good with computer security; so, my problem is not a trojan or something.

    Thanx Leo! Keep up the good work!

    -Nitrothor

  22. KRS Reply

    The infallible way to create a stalled printer queue is to send a document to print while the printer is turned off. Believe me, I know.

    Many thanks. I had been doing a cold boot, which wastes a lot of time.

  23. Jocelyn Patton Reply

    Thank you!!! Was completely frustrated!!!! You made it smooth sailing!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

  24. Christine Reply

    FANTASTIC! Great directions, it worked like a charm. Will definitely bookmark THIS site! Bless you!

  25. Jayne N Reply

    Thanks so much! Was soooo frustrated! Great instruction.

  26. Spence Reply

    Unfortunately, windows won’t allow me to delete teh files because “the file is open in another program” even though the printer is off and I have stopped the spooling as instructed. What should I do?

  27. Megan Reply

    This does absolutely nothing. The documents that endlessly say “Deleting” are still there, not deleting or printing or going away or doing anything.

  28. PS Reply

    These instructions were excellent! I could not have fixed this without your help. Why does Windows require everyone who buys a PC to be an IT person?

  29. Jan M Reply

    Thanks Leo! You are a lifesaver. This issue never happened to me before and I was frustrated when the stuck print job wouldn’t delete and prevented everything else from printing. All other solutions that I found on other websites were for everything except Windows 7. You rock!

  30. Margaret C Reply

    I got all the way up to the step where I am to open Windows Explorer- finally found it in accessories, but when I open it- it simply opens my document files and no search there reveals the mysterious whereabouts of the file I am supposed to be deleting- what am I doing wrong?I do not see anyplace to enter either Start or run.
    Thanks!
    IT illiterate;)

  31. Carol Reply

    Thank you Leo! I am not PC savvy and spent all day trying to connect my printer to Windows 7. I tried everything I could find on websites, and even used the services of the printer manufacturer. Only your directions worked to “unstick” my Windows print queue! Bless your heart!!

  32. MadCellist Reply

    Thanks Leo. That did the trick. W/o this there would have been NO reasonable way for me to divine that solution.

  33. Karen Reply

    thank you so much for your help, i was pulling my hair out! Really got me out out of a pickle ! greatly appreciate it !

  34. Abdulrahman Ishaq Reply

    thanks a million. now it’s working again
    It was really frustrating

    I will save this site to my favorite

  35. Karen Reply

    THANK YOU! I was at the end of my rope trying to print out my son’s school project. You are my hero. Your solution was a) correct and b) easy to follow. I’m bookmarking this site.

  36. Chrysta Reply

    You are AWESOME!!!! Thank you sooooo much for the quick advice. Going for an interview and needed much info printed… You saved my day!

  37. Sue Bergman Reply

    Great article. How do I get internet coupons to print from a HP computer to a Dell 926 printer. It says that they are printing and shows them as printed and nothing comes out of the printer. When I checked the queue it says they are in there. Any ideas would be very appreciated.

  38. autum Reply

    Went to print a pdf file, a coupon, but found out later that the coupon was removed, so I was able to print. Went to delete the pdf in the queue and it’s just stuck on deleting. I’ve used your method but still does not work.

  39. shmeather Reply

    This fixed it! One of the most frustrating issues I happen upon on a daily basis, and I’m so glad I finally found a resolution! Thank you!

  40. LaLa Reply

    Just hooked up a new wireless printer. Could print from one user profile, but not the other. Spent hours trying to resolve issue on my own. If not for this post, I probably would have just bought a new PC. THANKS!

  41. April Reply

    Thank you! My wireless printer does this to me a lot and you’ve just saved its life. I was about to go “Office Space” on it. PC LOAD LETTER?

  42. Joel Reply

    This article is priceless. You saved me a bunch of time. Thank you so much Leo!

  43. mary Reply

    At least once a week I use your excellent instructions for removing a document that is holding up the printing queue.
    thank you.thank you. thank you!

  44. Geoff Reply

    You are a life saver! Thank you so much for your detailed instructions to remove a document stuck in the print spooler.

  45. Don Reply

    Absolutely a life saver!!!!!!!!!! I NEVER would have succeeded without your help!

  46. Catherine Reply

    Thank you so much this really worked first time and I was getting so frustrated.

  47. Penny Dunn Reply

    Thanx. I print a lot of online sewing patterns in pdf format. This happens to me often and I appreciate having a solution that works and that I can understand.

  48. Jules Gagne Reply

    Excellent article, as usual, but I’m afraid you got the derivation of the term SPOOLING wrong; it is actually an acronym for Simultaneous Peripheral Operations On-line (transferring data between media concurrently with other work) Us old time geeks really love our acronyms :) often to the point of creating cumbersome terminology to make the initial letters work (e.g. Engineer’s Notational Grammar for Linguistic Interchange and Semantic Handshaking)

  49. Robin Clay Reply

    Here’s what I have – a good old DOS Batch file called “KillPrinterQueue.bat”:-
    ————–
    @echo off
    net stop “print spooler”
    del /q “%SystemRoot%system32spoolPRINTERS*.*”
    net start “print spooler”
    ping localhost -n 5 > nul
    —————————–
    This has a Shortcut to it, that is on my DeskTop.

    A bit quicker and easier to remember than your “by the book” method ;-)

    But thank you, all the same. I just might need it. Perhaps when MicroSoft decide not to include a Command method !

  50. Robin Clay Reply

    P.S. – No; that was not “all my own work” – I would like to give credit where it is due, but I don’t remember who produced it for me – Perhaps it was you, Leo ?

  51. Judi Reply

    Sounded like it might work, but, alas, IT STILL WON’T PRINT!! It DID clean out the queue (finally!), but it’s just sitting there, doing nothing! ;-(

  52. RR Slate4 Reply

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You saved me from writing an ENTIRE college assignment on paper!!! You are a live saver!!! Innumerable thanks.

  53. Denese McAfee Reply

    I just wanted to say “Thank you”. I am not a “techie” and was really dreading doing this. But you made it so simple that even I didn’t have any trouble. You’re a wonderful resource.

  54. Sharon Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Your directions were clear and concise and best of all, effective!

  55. Piper Reply

    Oh my gosh! Ditto to every other comment on here. I have been trying to fix this for three days! I was about to have to go print my payroll checks somewhere else (while weeping from frustration). Your directions were clear, concise, and easy to execute. You just saved me — and my printer. I was about to go all Office Space on the MF. You should really consider adding a donation box. I would have thrown you a few bones today for sure. Again, thanks so much!!! Consider yourself bookmarked, and a little worshipped.

  56. slyaii Reply

    Another way to get rid of stuck pages:

    1. Open a cmd line. (Windows icon + R)
    2. Type in cmd
    3. Press enter
    4. Type in net stop spooler
    5. As Leo stated “use Windows Explorer to navigate to the folder c:WindowsSystem32spoolPRINTERS”.
    6. Go back to the cmd prompt
    7. net start spooler

    …………………..

    If you still cannot print, you have a corrupted driver.
    Remove the driver that you are printing to.

    1. Open up the devices and printers from Control Panel
    2. Make another printer as a default print. Right click >> set as default.
    3. Highlight a printer
    4. Windows XP. File >> Print Server Properties
    4. Windows 7. Select Print Server Properties on top
    5. Go to Driver Tab and remove that driver.
    6. If it cannot, do it in safe mode. Same step.
    7. Visit your manufacturer website for the latest driver.
    8. Reinstall reinstall the driver.

    ………………………

    If you want to kill all of your print drivers.

    1. Go to Safe Mode (restart clicking F8 until it prompts you to).
    2. Select any mode of Safe Mode
    3. Delete everything inside:
    C:WindowsSystem32spooldrivers

  57. Marita Peralta Reply

    Thank you so much! You’ve made my day. I was really frustrated at not being able to delete the file in the queu. Your instructions were brief, clear and easy to follow :)

  58. Roger Baldwin Reply

    OMG Thank you. So quick and easy, why isn’t it all?

    Thanks again,
    Roger

  59. Betty Reply

    I had 7 documents in queue and I had tried for days to reinstall my printer, finally got that done and then could not print..followed your advise and it will print now but documents are still in in file and I have to go thru same procedure each time to print

  60. Diane Downing Reply

    thank you so much, I just removed a stuck document in my queue by following your instructions!!!!!

  61. Kimoo53 Reply

    Oh, you are a genius. I swear. After getting the same document getting printed at least 15 copies when all I wanted was one copy, I decided to search for help and found your life saving answer. Thank you sooooooooooooooooo muuuuuuuuuuuch. May GOD bless you.

  62. Lesley Reply

    brilliant! with such simple stepwise instructions that were so easy to follow and worked!!

  63. Greg Reply

    Thanks a million, Leo! It worked like a charm, and I certainly wouldn’t have figured this one out without some help.

  64. Van Barnett Reply

    I have an Asus with Lexmark S605 printer – the only way I have found to get rid of the first document in the print queue is to restart the machine – I can print one document but after that, nothing else will print until I restart the machine – I have used the stop/start bat above as well as other “fixes” but none of them will do it either without the restart – vnb

  65. Sue Watt Reply

    Many thanks for the clear instructions, Leo. This page is now on my Favourites bar for quick access when needed!

  66. REBECCA Reply

    BRILLIANT! Thank you. Was pulling out my hair. Worked like a charm.

  67. Noveniryanti Reply

    GENIUS.. thank you so so so much Leo this so helpful. god bless you

  68. Frances Reply

    Thank you Leo – you saved my life (I was feeling positively suicidal at the printer refusing to print !! – not really, but I certainly was darned mad )

    Frances

  69. Chris Reply

    Thank you for your help. I’ve been trying for 3 days to clear the print queue and now it’s taken just 5 minutes with your clear instructions

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