I suppose I’m kind of selling my soul with the above sort of title – never one for directness in my headlines, generally preferring the tangential allusion. But tangential allusions don’t get hits. And I’d quite like other people to avoid the sleepless night I had last night.
If you Google “OfficeJet 6500a Plus wireless network problems”, I guess you’ll come up with plenty of links – just as you’ll probably come up with plenty of others for any other wireless printers. From my relatively short experience with wireless connectivity, first with the non-wireless Epson DX4200, set up via USB to my computer in order to allow other PCs on the network to wirelessly connect up and print, and latterly with the above-mentioned HP printer, which I’ve had for three days now, wireless definitely seems the kind of bleeding-edge technology you’d probably want to stay clear of.
If, that is, bleeding isn’t your thing.
When you see the troubleshooting pages warn you against things like cordless phones, metal objects, other radio emitting devices, firewalls and energy-saving “features” being the potential cause of anything useful which these printers end up not doing (ie like printing), you might begin to quiver.
Anyhow. I decided – despite all of this – that if my current setup didn’t work properly (from the amount of ink the printer required me to throw away unconsumed to the fact that more and more the connection from my computer to the rest of the network wasn’t allowing people to print predictably), anything would have to be an improvement on the current situation.
(I am reminded of Iraq here, for some tangential reason. And a battle of sorts, it was going to turn out to be – I can assure you.)
So it was that I alighted on the printer you can see in the link. I followed all install instructions to the letter and all I got was a couple of documents printed OK, and then an awful instability with the printer going to sleep, going offline, not being discovered – and generally acting as a massively sleek paperweight. I spent hours digging around Windows settings of all kinds; downloaded the latest default installation software from HP, even though I think it was the same version as the one on CD; downloaded four HP utilities to check out my network, printer and assorted matters; amended firewall settings as per the instructions of HP and my anti-virus provider (separate instructions for each); and downloaded a program called Multi Tray Ping – which seems basically to be a virtual taser to keep printers and other network devices from going to sleep … but whilst most of the above “solutions” seemed to resolve things for a short while, none of them provided consistently reliable performance. Apart from anything else, the printer would make all kinds of weird and wonderful noises between pages, randomly cancel printing mid-document and even simply lose into a deep black hole documents which had been sent from family members’ computers.
This, as you might imagine, if you know what a slightly obsessive soul I can be, was a most distressing set of circumstances. Because the printer itself is a joy to behold. It has a lovely little screen on it to control its functions without the need to have a PC switched on (just as well, you might be acidly inclined to say). It has two-sided printing. It has a fax facility. It looks very sexy – and even promises (as potential lovers would) the cheapest maintenance costs in its class. But – despite all manner of installations, uninstallations and reinstallations – it wouldn’t consistently print. And I’m not the only poor soul out there having this problem.
So then I wondered if there were any generic network discovery utilities out there which could resolve what seemed to me something that might reside somewhere at a deeper and darker operating system level. I even began to wonder if the fact that I was running my previous Epson off my computer so that other PCs on the network could print to it wirelessly might have affected fundamental settings which caused the problems I – and many other people – were getting.
Which is when I stumbled across this Install Network Printer Wizard (INPW), also from HP, and to be found – at least at the time of downloading – on one of their business support websites.
I uninstalled the printer for the millionth time, downloaded the above utility, installed it – and began to pray.
It couldn’t actually find the printer at first – as had happened on a multitude of previous occasions. I’d already given it a static IP, using the printer’s own onboard configuration utility – so I used this to allow the utility to find the blessed beast. I then manually chose the driver, which the printer’s default software had already installed on my PC, and modified an option to make the printer shareable.
A couple of other things which I had already done and left in place were Multi Tray Ping – the virtual taser I mentioned above – and the firewall settings for wireless printing, which you should be able to obtain online from either HP itself or, probably more appropriately, from your firewall provider. The former allegedly stops the printer from going offline – I’m not sure since running INPW that it’s necessary, but I am unwilling to change anything which seems to work. (It also allows me to easily check its taskbar icon to see whether the printer is still online or not.) The latter is probably unnecessary too – but, as I say, after hours spent trying to sort the issue, I’m extremely unlikely to fiddle with anything which now appears to deliver.
One proviso, of course, before you rush off to sort out any issues you may have. Please remember that I’m not an expert, this solution has worked for me today, it may not work for you – or me – tomorrow; and there may be unforeseen consequences of having done all of this which I may yet live to regret. So, as always, before you make changes to your computer’s configuration, back up any data you don’t want to lose – and remember, if you’re unsure of anything, I strongly suggest you consult an expert first.
My ability to advise is Heath Robinsonian at best.
But at least – for the moment – I seem to have managed to substitute what was looking to be a marvellous paperweight with a damn good and feature-filled multi-function printer.
I do, however, ask myself the question that if HP already has a utility online which resolves the many issues people seem to be having with wireless printers in general – and this one in particular – why don’t they supply it in their default retail software packages?
What value are they trying to add to retail products which business people are less inclined to suffer?