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What does "Communications Error" really mean?

By john.a.wills ·
I have Windows XP (domestic version) on a Lenovo ThinkCentre. To it is attached an Epson C88+ printer. Fairly regularly, for a year or more, when I change an ink cartridge, the printer runs very slowly, with long pauses. There comes up an error message on the PC monitor "Communications Error", with instructions to check all connections and, if that doesn't work, consult the printer manual. The connections appear to be in order, and the manual gives no relevant help.
The solution I have developed is, using the Start button, to switch the computer off (not to restart it: that doesn't work) for several minutes (letting it cool down? surely not), and the printer too, then to switch them both back on.
The error does not seem to affect any other part of the computer, e.g. modem, monitor, loudspeakers.
What is really happening here? How can I prevent it happening? What hitherto unnoticed side-effects can I expect to rear their ugly heads in the future? And what should I do about it?

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Assuming your printer is connected via USB

by robo_dev In reply to What does "Communications ...

Universal Serial Bus (USB) can be a somewhat cantankerous beast at times.

One thing to look at closely is if you are using a USB hub, long cables, or cheap cables.

USB hubs tend to make the USB connection unreliable, and note that there are both powered and non-powered USB hubs. Some USB devices get their power from the USB cable itself, thus a powered hub is needed in many cases. Best bet is NOT to use a hub, if possible, and plug the printer by itself into a USB port on the computer.

Note, by the way, that a printer plugged into one USB port needs to be completely resinstalled if you plug into another USB port. So make a note as to where it was plugged in before mucking around with cables.

Typically the way to reset the USB stuff is to power-cycle the printer and/or unplug/replug the USB port. In some cases, like what you're seeing with the cartridge change, the USB bus gets all confused, so I would reboot the printer and/or unplug/replug the USB cable.

The only other angle on your problem is that laptops sometimes do odd things to conserve battery life (like cutting off power to the USB ports!).

There are power settings in Windows Control Panel that affect how the laptop deals with power savings.

Goto System >Hardware > Device Manager ...then find your USB controller or port

...on some computers there is a tickmark that says 'don't tell me about USB errors' and there is also a tickmark that says 'allow the computer to shut off this device to save power'. I would turn off the errors and uncheck the second one.

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Getting there, I suspect

by john.a.wills In reply to What does "Communications ...

I am not on a laptop (can't stand the things), but I am using a USB port for the printer, and I understand (from Epson) that I must do so for this model of printer. I have 4 USB ports (as well as a 5th, "enhanced") mentioned in the device manager, and I do not know how to determine which corresponds to which physical port (I have the keyboard and the DVD reader on others). I cannot find the tickboxes you mention.

I tried power-cycling the printer in my earlier investigations. The next time I have to change an ink cartridge I will try unplugging and re-plugging the USB connection.

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