As much of a tech geek that I am, I find printers annoying. There's always something wrong with them.
Which brings me to a common problem many home users have when it comes to their wireless network printers.
It worked yesterday, but not today.
Surprisingly this type of printer problem has a simple explanation with a solution that will have you printing again…today.
Now, before we go any further, this problem that I have seen many times, occurs when your wireless printer (including wired printers) is setup to use DHCP.
That means, your printer is not configured with a static IP address, but is assigned an IP address automatically by your wireless router.
And while it's convenient to use DHCP (which makes it easier to get your printer online quickly), there is a drawback with DHCP that causes those unexplained reasons many home users have when you suddenly can't print anymore.
The problem is really with your computer…not with your wireless printer.
Let Me Explain
Setting up your printer to use DHCP, automatically configures your printer with an IP address (when the printer talks to a wireless router).
Now, remember back, when you told your computer to FIRST use your printer?
Your computer used the IP address, which was assigned to your printer at that time, to setup and configure the printer.
From that time on, your computer was happy until it could no longer communicate with the printer.
That's when your printer was more than likely restarted.
When that happen, the printer then asked your wireless router for an IP address, but was assigned a new IP address.
And because your computer was setup with the original IP address that the printer was using previously, it no longer can find the printer on the network (it does not know the IP address has changed).
You see, when using DHCP, the IP address that is assigned to the printer is not permanent. It eventually expires (known as DHCP lease). That's how DHCP works.
Because DHCP cannot rely on computers, printers, etc, to it know they no longer exist on a network, a timer mechanism is built-in to the DHCP service that LEASES IP addresses to devices (instead of permanently assigning address). This way, DHCP will not run out of addresses and they can be reused.
So when the lease expires, DHCP will either assign the same IP address or a new IP address (each with a new expiration time).
The reason why a new IP address may be assigned, is if your printer and other devices were restarted at the same time (power outage is one reason to restart at same time),
The DHCP service (running on wireless router) may give the first device it communicated with, the old IP address your printer had been using).
Which means your printer now has a new IP address.
The Quick Fix
First you need to find the new IP address of your printer.
NOTE: Screen shots are from Windows 7, and should be similar for previous versions of Windows.
- Either access your wireless router administration interface and check the address that DHCP has assigned, or check your Printer menu display and navigate to the Network section.
- Once you have the new IP address, go to the Control Panel on your Computer and open Devices and Printers (Windows 7 and Vista) or Printers and Faxes (Windows XP).
- Next, right click on your printer and select Printer properties (Win 7 & Vista) or Properties (Windows XP).
- In the properties window, select the Ports tab (circled in screen shot below) then find the active port with the check next to it (arrow in screen shot below) and click on the Configure Port… button.
- In the next window, edit the Printer Name or IP Address: field with the new IP address and click OK to save the changes (close any remaining open windows).
You should now be able to Print once again.
A Permanent Fix
Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to worry about making a configuration change every time you printer is restarted (like when power goes out or the printer is just being stubborn).
Well you can by simply using a static IP address for your printer. This way, if the printer needs to be restarted, the IP address will never change, because it's not relying on DHCP anymore.
But, does that mean you can't use DHCP on your home network anymore?
Nope, you can use both by following the steps to assign a static IP address to your printer while still using DHCP on your network.