Why Is My Printer Offline? (and How to Get It Online)

An office printer on a desk with a person in the background using a computer.
Memory Stockphoto/Shutterstock.com

There are several possible reasons why your printer is showing as offline. In most cases, the problem is easy to fix as long as you know where to look. Learn why your printer is offline and how to bring it back online and print again.

What does “printer offline” mean?

When a printer shows as offline, it means that it is not currently connected to a computer, either with a cable or over a Wi-Fi network. It cannot communicate with your computer and cannot receive the print data.

In some cases, this can be because the printer is defective or has an internal hardware error. Luckily, this type of critical error is uncommon, and there’s usually an easier-to-fix reason behind the offline status.

By working through the troubleshooters here, you can quickly eliminate the more common causes of a printer being offline. In no time at all, your printer will be producing pages as needed.

the printer list in Windows

Check the printer cable or wireless connection

As with any troubleshooting process, start with the most basic steps. If the printer is connected directly to your computer, verify that the cable is securely connected and unbroken. If the printer cable looks crushed but is otherwise intact, it could still have a broken protective outer sheath.

Consider replacing the cable if anything looks wrong or if it’s not firmly connected to the USB port on the printer or computer.

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If the printer is wireless, make sure it’s connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the computer. Try refreshing the wireless connection by disconnecting from the network and then reconnecting.

If you recently changed the network that the printer is connected to, you may need to reset the printer’s Wi-Fi settings. Most wireless printers allow you to reset Wi-Fi settings to default by pressing and holding a key or key combination. Check the manufacturer’s website for the correct procedure for your printer.

Restart the printer and your computer

The advice favored by some tech support hotlines might seem lazy, but turning a device off and on can fix a variety of simple errors.

Turn off both the printer and the computer. Then restart your computer and turn on the printer once the computer has started up.

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Check the printer for error messages

A red error indicator on an office printer.
mr.kriangsak kitisak/shutterstock.com

If your printer has an LCD display, check for error messages. Error icons can appear next to or in place of a screen, which can also indicate a specific problem.

If you’re not sure what an error code, icon, or light means, check the printer manufacturer’s website for information.

Delete all jobs from the print queue

Print jobs are the queue of print tasks that are queued and ready to run. If a print job fails, it can get stuck in the queue, preventing later print jobs from completing. This can occasionally cause your computer to think the printer is disconnected.

On Windows, you can view and clear the print queue from the printer status monitor on the taskbar. You can also open Settings > Devices > Printers & Scanners, select your printer and click Open Queue. Right-click anywhere in the print queue area and choose Cancel All Documents.

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Option to cancel documents in the print queue

If you are using a Mac, click the printer icon in the Dock and choose Jobs > My Jobs. You can then delete a print job by selecting it and choosing Delete.

Make sure the printer is not in offline mode

In Windows, a printer can be taken offline manually. If the printer is shared over a local network, changing this setting prevents others from using it.

Checking if the printer status was previously changed to offline mode is easy. On Windows, open the print queue as described above. Click the Printer menu and make sure Use printer offline is not selected.

the printer menu in the print queue

If so, disable it and try to print again.

Run the printer troubleshooter

Perhaps considering how common printer problems are, Windows has a dedicated printer troubleshooter. You can find these under Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot Windows 10. In Windows 11, go to Settings > System > Troubleshoot > Other troubleshooters.

Run the printer troubleshooter and follow the prompts to resolve any detected issues.

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Update printer software/firmware

If you are using the printing software that came with the printer or that you downloaded later, make sure it is updated to the latest version.

You may be able to update within the software. If not, check the manufacturer’s website for software updates to install.

You may also find firmware updates from the manufacturer there. Firmware is the software permanently installed on a device that allows it to function properly. This is different from the printing software installed on your computer. Corrupt or outdated firmware on your printer can cause it to remain offline.

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Restart the print spooler in Windows

The print spooler is a system component that temporarily stores print jobs. If this service stops working, it can cause the printer to show up as offline.

Find and open the Services app. In Local Services, scroll down until you find Print Spooler in the Services list. It should show as Running in the status column. Right-click on it and select “Restart” from the context menu.

the print spooler service in the Services app

Uninstall and reinstall printer

If none of the previous steps worked, it’s time to completely uninstall the printer. You can then factory reset it and install from scratch.

In Windows, open Settings > Devices > Printers and scanners and select the device. Click Remove Device. Now uninstall any installed printing software that came with the device.

On Mac, click Apple menu > System Preferences > Printers and Scanners. Select the printer you want to delete and click the “minus button” to remove it.

If your printer has an LCD display, you can usually use it to navigate to a reset option. Non-display printers should have an alternate factory reset process. You’ll need to check the manufacturer’s website for the exact method for your printer.

Now install the printer like new, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Printer still offline?

If your printer is still offline after trying all the fixes here, it could mean there is a more serious problem. Search online for the manual for the exact make and model you have and make sure there aren’t any specific solutions for that printer. You can also search online to see if anyone else had the same issue with your model.

If even that doesn’t provide an answer, it might be time to buy a new printer.

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