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.
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:
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.
- 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.