By Claire Sulmers and Natalie Hope McDonald
August 17, 2014
Alli Arnold

Average life span: Five years or longer.

Preventive medicine: High humidity can cause paper jams and ink clogs, so if you’re having problems, you may need to run an air conditioner or a dehumidifier while using the printer. Cover the printer with a dust protector when not in use, especially if it’s near an open window. Wipe away any dust and grit inside it with a soft cloth, says Paul De Pasquale, a technician with Image 1, a printer-repair company in Oak Park, Michigan.

Most common ailment: Your printouts look pointillistic (like an Impressionist painting). Or, worse yet, like a Rorschach test.

Diagnosis and treatment: When the printing is spotty at best, remove the cartridge and gently get rid of inky residue with acetone and a soft cloth. If that doesn’t work, replace the cartridge. If you have an ink-jet printer, consult the instruction manual to see if you can clean the print nozzles using built-in software.

When to pull the plug: If the printer isn’t working and you’ve ruled out human error (like failing to connect to the computer properly), you probably have a mechanical problem, such as a broken ink sensor. In this case, “it’s better to buy a new printer than to pay for parts and labor,” says Calvin Green, a computer technician for Geek Squad, a repair shop in Philadelphia.

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