Document Won’t Print; Then I Get Several Copies

One of the most common problems that beginning computer users have is dealing with the Windows print queue. They’ll click the Print button and if the printer doesn’t spit out a page immediately, they’ll click the button again and again. When the printer finally warms up and starts printing, they wonder why they got 15 copies of the same document.

Yesterday, I received a call asking why the printer was printing documents dated three weeks ago and not printing the document dated today. The answer: The Windows print queue.

When you print a document, Windows doesn’t automatically send it to the printer. Instead, it sends the document to the print queue, where the document needs to stand in line and wait to get printed. If something happens to delay the printing of the document at the front of the line (such as the printer being off), then all the documents behind it have to wait. When the printer finally starts printing, the documents standing in the front of the line print first.

To avoid problems, enter the print command only once to print a document. If it doesn’t start printing, check the print queue. To display the print queue, double-click the printer icon in the lower-left corner of the screen as shown below.

printer icon

This displays the print queue, as shown below.

Windows Print Queue

You can then perform any of the following tasks:

  • To pause all printing, open the Printer menu and select Pause Printing.
  • To pause the printing of one or more documents, Ctrl+click each document in the queue, open the Document menu, and select Pause Printing.
  • To resume printing, open the Printer or Document menu and click Pause Printing.
  • To cancel all print jobs, open the Printer menu and select Cancel All Print Jobs.
  • To cancel individual print jobs, Ctrl+click each print job you want to cancel, open the Document menu, and select Cancel.
  • To move a document in the print queue, drag it up or down.

Tip: You can also right-click individual documents in the queue to display a pop-up menu that contains commands you can choose to control the printing of the document.

If you enter the print command and the document doesn’t print immediately, wait a few minutes. If it still doesn’t print, make sure the printer is turned on and check the display on the printer itself for any error messages, which usually tell you if the printer needs paper or ink or something else is going on. 

If you take care of all that and the document still isn’t printing, try clearing the print queue and printing the document again. If you’re still having trouble, then you may need to do some more serious troubleshooting, but continuing to click the Print button is probably not going to do you much good.

Meet the Author

Joe Kraynak
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Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Computer Basics.

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