How to Un-Jam a Printer

We asked an IT pro what you need to do to get your print job unstuck.

woman grabbing printer from home office printer
Photo: Maskot / Getty Images

Printer jams are a common (and unfortunate) part of life in our digital age. It doesn't matter whether you're working from home, sitting in an office, or just trying to print out your favorite recipe—when that familiar error message pops up, everything else grinds to a halt. Here, Cris Angulo, a tech specialist and IT expert with JustAnswer, explains how to wrangle even the worst printer paper jams.

Find the Physical Source

The first step Angulo says to take? Identify where in your printer the jam has occurred. "It could be in the paper tray, inside the printer, or even behind the rear cover," he says. "Start at the paper tray and continue through to the other areas; then, slowly pull the paper either way so it does not rip or get caught—removing that ripped remaining piece is difficult." If you can't easily remove the paper, Angulo suggests turning the printer off and then on, which he says can sometimes eject the sheet automatically.

Don't Use Tools

One major error Angulo says to avoid when clearing a paper jam is inserting a foreign object, like a tool of any kind, into the machine. "Tools should not be used to remove paper jams," he says. "You should be very careful of the components inside the printer when removing the jam—do not to force anything or try to move parts around. This could cause a hardware failure with bigger issues."

Resume Your Print Job

Most of the time, you can get back to printing as soon as the paper is cleared from the machine, says Angulo. "However, the printer may need a full shut-down to reset the sensors and turn back on," he explains. If this is the case, simply power down your machine and wait 20 seconds booting it back up again.

Printer Jam Causes

According to Angulo, printer jams can happen for a few different reasons. The first involves static: "Paper can get stuck together. When the roller picks it up, there are too many sheets trying to pass through," he says. To avoid this, fan the paper before you load it to remove the static, which should reduce the number of jams you experience. Another common cause? Regular wear and tear. Over time, rollers don't work as well as they once did. "Sometimes, [they] cannot pick up any paper and give you a paper jam or out-of-paper error," he says. "Paper leaves residue on the feeding wheels, also causing it to reduce grip; then, the wheels struggle to load paper."

Paper Matters

Your printer isn't always at fault—sometimes your paper is the culprit. Its thickness might not be suitable for your machine ("Thicker paper can be a challenge for lower-end printers," Angulo explains), or you might have attempted to load too many sheets into the tray. "Most printers will tell you how many pages it can hold," he says. "A small printer may only hold 250 pages—but I wouldn't recommend going above 200." Additionally, Angulo says higher quality paper is a better option, since it won't leave residue like some cheaper options do.

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