Inkjet or laser, all printers require proper care and feeding to survive the rigors of daily use. If you’re a thrifty type who frowns severely on the idea of buying a new printer whenever the one you own decides to start performing poorly, this article’s for you. Here’s a checklist of best practices that will help you perform printer maintenance like you were born to do it.
If you’re doing it right, you partake of regular cleaning cycles for everything in your life – from your teeth to your carpets to your water filter. A printer is no different in that it needs to be cleaned regularly if it’s going to stay in tip-top operational shape. The office can be a perilous place for a device as delicate as a printer. There’s dust and debris, but there’s also residual ink or toner that can gum up the works and lead your printer down the path to poor performance.
When you clean your printer, start first on the outside. Brush or wipe away any accumulated matter from the hood and paper tray. Instead a can of compressed air, which may only serve to push dust further inside your printer, use a small office vacuum to suck out any excess junk that could impede the smooth flow of paper and result in frequent paper jams. As a safety precaution, always turn your printer off and unplug it from the wall before poking around in its guts.
Next, clean your printer heads by running the automatic cleaning utility. This is a built-in process that serves to clean any clogged ink heads by printing a sheet or two of paper, using a variety of colors for color cartridges. Usually this is accessed by running your printer software, but some printers let you launch this directly from the button pad. While you can take a cotton swab dampened with water to clean away any excess ink or toner from the outside of our printer cartridge, it’s not always recommended. Check the manufacturer’s specific recommendations on this and follow its guidance to the letter.
Download Updates on the Regular
One of the more important and frequently overlooked keys to maintain your printer’s operational integrity is to download software updates as they become available. Just as OS updates serve to address identified issues in security and performance for your computer, printer software updates can improve your printer’s performance and shore up security gaps that may otherwise leave you open to a backdoor hack. As a best practice, set your printer software updates to download automatically. If you prefer to do it manually, get yourself on a schedule of checking for updates on a weekly basis.
Don’t Overwork It
Among the leading causes of death for printers these days is overwork. Every printer has its limit, and there’s no more certain way to decrease the lifespan of your office investment than to use it for purposes it wasn’t intended. In this case, we’re referring to the printer’s monthly duty cycle. This is a numerical value that all printers have which gives you a near estimate of how many sheets of paper a printer is capable of printing in a single month. Lower end printers have lower monthly duty cycles, just as higher end models are capable of much more. If you’re shopping for a new printer, make sure the monthly duty cycle is double what you expect to print in a month. If you already own a printer and want to extend its life, find out what the duty cycle is and don’t work it to death – unless you want a good reason to go printer shopping.