When you upgrade a user’s system to Windows XP, the installation procedure can fail to correctly detect the user’s printer/parallel port. In these cases, the printer appears to be installed and configured correctly, but when the user sends a document to the printer, the document shows up in the printer queue and then never prints. The real mystery of this problem is that no error message appears. Most common solutions, like reinstalling the printer or updating the printer driver, don’t seem to have any effect on the problem and only further compound the mystery. To help in your troubleshooting efforts, I’ll discuss a series of steps that you can use to locate and fix printing problems caused by an incorrectly detected printer port.

Completely remove the printer
First, close down all open applications. Next, access the Printers And Faxes folder from the Start menu, select the problem printer, and then click Delete This Printer In The Printer Tasks Explorer Bar. Power down the printer and disconnect the cable from the parallel port on the back of the computer.

If the printer had any additional software or special drivers installed from a CD, you should remove those as well. Access the Control Panel and launch the Add Or Remove Programs utility. Then, select the program you want to remove from the list of currently installed programs and click the Change/Remove button. After you’ve completed these steps, restart Windows XP.

Create a restore point

Before you get started on this particular troubleshooting expedition, you might want to consider creating a restore point with the System Restore utility. That way, if anything goes awry during the procedure, you can easily undo any changes made to the system. To create a restore point, launch the Help And Support Center. Next, click the Undo Changes To Your Computer With System Restore link. When you see the Welcome To System Restore window, select Create A Restore Point and click Next. Provide an appropriate description for the restore point and click Create.

Reinstall the parallel printer port
To reinstall the parallel printer port, you must first remove it using Device Manager. While you can access the Device Manager from the System icon in the Control Panel, there’s a quicker way to get there. Open the Start menu, right-click on the My Computer icon, and select the Properties command from the shortcut menu. When you see the System Properties dialog box, select the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button.

Once the Device Manager’s Management Console window appears, double-click Ports (COM & LPT). When you see the system’s parallel printer port, right-click on it and select Uninstall from the shortcut menu. This will bring up the Confirm Device Removal dialog box, which will prompt you to confirm the operation, as shown in Figure A. To continue, click OK.

Figure A
Start by removing the existing parallel printer port from Device Manager.

After you’ve removed the parallel printer port configuration, you’ll be ready to reinstall it. First, select Scan For Hardware Changes from the Action drop-down list. Keep in mind that this detection operation can take a few moments to complete, and don’t be alarmed if you see the parallel printer port appear in the Ports (COM & LPT) subtree as Unknown Device. This designation is temporary, and it will be correctly identified before the operation is complete. To complete the operation, close Device Manager and restart your system.

Reinstall the printer
As soon as the system restarts, you’ll want to reinstall the printer. Reconnect the cable to the parallel port on the back of the computer and turn on the printer. Depending on which method you originally used to install the printer, you’ll perform that operation again.

If you’re using a standard Windows XP printer driver, access the Printers And Faxes folder from the Start menu. Click Add A Printer from the Printer Tasks list. Once the Add Printer Wizard appears, just follow the steps to install the printer driver. If the printer came with its own Windows XP driver on CD, use that to install the printer. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions in the installation manual.

Check for updated drivers

Regardless of whether you’re using standard Windows XP printer drivers or drivers from a manufacturer’s CD, you may want to check the printer manufacturer’s Web site to see if it has recently released updated XP drivers for the printer. Tracking down drivers on a manufacturer’s Web site can be time-consuming and frustrating since they’re usually buried by a lot of product marketing information. You might want to investigate some of the following driver resources:
Drivers Planet
These sites specialize in tracking down all kinds of drivers and provide you with links directly to the driver pages on the various manufacturers’ Web sites.

Check I/O address settings
If, after you’ve completed the steps above, your user is still having difficulty printing from Windows XP, you may want to investigate the I/O (Input/Output) address settings. By default, XP assumes that the parallel printer port is using the default I/O address, 0378h. However, some computers may be configured to use nonstandard I/O addresses for the parallel printer port.

To investigate this possibility, begin by checking the setting in the BIOS and, if possible, resetting the parallel printer port’s I/O address to 0378h. Since the methods of accessing and changing BIOS settings are unique to each brand of computer, I’ll refer you to the instruction manual that came with the system for more details on resetting the parallel printer port’s I/O address in the BIOS.

You can also reconfigure XP to use a different I/O address for the parallel printer port. To do so, access Device Manager as I explained earlier and locate and double-click on Ports (COM & LPT). Right-click on the system’s parallel printer port and select the Properties command. Click the Resources tab and deselect the Use Automatic Settings box. This enables the Setting Based On drop-down list, allowing you to choose a setting that matches the system’s BIOS configuration, as shown in Figure B. As you do so, keep an eye on the Conflicting Device list box at the bottom of the Resources tab; you don’t want to create other problems in the process.

Figure B
Once you deselect the Use Automatic Settings box, you can choose alternative settings from the Setting Based On drop-down list.

To enable the new setting, click OK and close Device Manager. At this point, you should remove and reinstall the printer drivers and restart the system.

Change the port settings
You may also find it necessary to change the configuration of the port settings. To do so, access the Properties dialog box for your printer from within Device Manager as I explained above. This time, select the Port Settings tab. Then, in the Filter Resource Method panel, select Use Any Interrupt Assigned To The Port. Next, check the Enable Legacy Plug And Play Detection box, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
You may find it necessary to change the configuration of the port settings.

To enable the new setting, click OK and close Device Manager. At this point, you should remove and reinstall the printer drivers and restart your system.

Another quick tip
Another troubleshooting tip for printer port problems is to change the parallel port mode setting in the computer’s BIOS. There are three possible options: the standard (or Centronics) mode, ECP (Extend Capabilities Port) mode, and EPP (Enhanced Parallel Port) mode. You’ll want to select a mode other than the one that is currently selected and then test the printing operation. Again, since the methods of accessing and changing BIOS settings are unique to each brand of computer, refer to your system’s instruction manual for more information.