This is the 87th article in the Spotlight on IT series. If you'd be interested in writing an article on the subject of backup, security, storage, virtualization, mobile, networking, wireless, DNS, MSPs or printers for the series PM Eric to get started.
I’ve had my fair share of printer issues in my 7 years of working in the IT world: everything from replacing toner in a color LaserJet printer, to setting up a new network printer, to “The printer smells like it’s on fire!” (It was the toner leaking into the gears and getting hot — that was a fun one.) However, my most recent printer issue was probably the most stress inducing, especially with how simple the fix ended up being.
It all started when…
I had only been at my new help desk administrator position at a new employer for a couple of weeks. I had been out of the actual end user support world for about 4 years, so I was eager to get back into it and “prove” myself. But for the time, I had pretty much been relegated to gofer duty and the replacer of toners the first couple of weeks — I was starting to get into a lull. I got yet another request to replace a toner in a Brother 8890DW printer.
“Woohoo,” I thought, “Yet ANOTHER toner replacement request. Go me.” (For the Sheldons of the world, that was sarcasm).
I went out to this printer, which was covered in about an inch of dust, and replaced the toner. I started to walk away, but I noticed it had a status on it: “Toner Low.” I thought that was strange since I just replaced it, so I decided to do a test print and test copy. I found the printer was working, and I thought nothing of it. I was anxious to get out of there so that I could take a chemical bath to get rid of the nasty dust and who knows what else got on me as I replaced the toner.
I got back to my desk and the user emailed me asking about the printer. He said the toner was low. I asked him to try and turn the printer off and back on and then try to print and see what happened. He reported it was still saying “Toner Low.” I told them I’d come back out the next day to check it out for them.
I went out the next day with another new toner cartridge and swapped out the original replacement with another new one. I then proceeded to do another test print and copy, and it was working fine, but the printer was still giving the “Toner Low” message. At this point, I’m covered in dust yet again, drenched in sweat (it had been around day three of six of high temps in the 100s and this was in a non–air conditioned warehouse) and mildly irritated. I regrouped, told the user I would go back and do some research and see what I could figure out. Since it was still printing and didn’t have any other issues, I thought I’d have some time to look into the issue.
Into the Inferno
The next day, I went out with some canned air and some information from the Googles to try on the printer. I blew out the printer area to try and get rid of dust (which I found out after that fact is something you should NOT do due to the toner particles flying around) and then proceeded to try and clear the message. Still, no luck.
I reset the printer numerous times, tried to reseat the drum and toner and still the message was there — taunting me, daring me to try something new to clear it.
“You can’t defeat me, I am the printer forged from Hades itself!” It didn’t say that, but it might as well have at that point. After about an hour and a half of working on it yet again, I accepted my defeat and went back to my office to clear my head and try to do more research.
The next day (day five of the toner issue), the user emailed me and said the printer is now saying that there is no toner at all. They can’t print or copy anything at all. They don’t know what to do.
My first instinct was to pack my laptop back up, shut everything down, go home and call in sick. Then I thought those guys in “Office Space” were onto something when they took their printer/fax thing out to a field and brought proper IT justice down on it with a baseball bat. I then remembered that I’ve been at this new job for less than a month and am still in my 90-day probationary period, and I don’t think that destroying company property would be something that would allow me to keep my employment.
That’s when I went to Spiceworks to see what I can find. I had perused the community a few times in the past and was quite impressed with the level of knowledge (and humor) out there. I posted my question/dilemma for my fellow SpiceHeads to mull over and tap into that knowledge.
After going back out to the user to set up a spare printer so that they could at least print while I racked my brain and continued to Google, I got an email saying that someone responded to my question.
“Huzzah!” I exclaimed as I went to check my post. My fellow SpiceHead A.J. Stringham suggested using authentic Brother toner. I thought that seemed simple and crazy enough to work, so I got approval from management (after a day of waiting) and waited a few days for the toner to come in.
A-tone-ment and redemption
I finally received my redemption in a toner box. I took it out to the user to swap out their generic toner. At last! The “Replace Toner” message went away and they could finally print again!
Oh, happy day! It took everything within me to not spike the empty toner box right there and do some crazy touchdown dance (again, the 90-day probationary period came to mind). I allowed myself a silent Tiger Woods fist pump and went back to my office knowing that I had vanquished Satan’s printer.
I want to thank A.J. for his help on getting this issue resolved. And a question to part with: How many times have you used the Spiceworks community to answer a question or fix an issue you were working on? Have you ever had a similar situation where you spent forever on an issue and the solution was amazingly simple?