Avoiding Dreaded ‘Printer Offline’ Errors

I should tag a lot of my posts with “I’m an idiot, so you don’t need to be one, too”.

We’ve been having printing problems at Sympraxis Global Headquarters (aka “My House”) on and off for most of this year. Our devices have beenn seeing the printer as offline, even when it wasn’t. I’d racked my brain, read every darn helpful post out there. (My favorite solution, from some random site: buy another printer.) The most useful article I found from Microsoft is this one: Fix printer connection and printing problems in Windows 10

As with many things, it turned out to be my fault, but it wasn’t necessarily obvious – or I would have caught it sooner! (If you read this and think I’m an idiot, see the first paragraph.)

We have a cable modem from my nemeses at Comcast. They upgrade us every few years to some new black box, and this one is Star Wars-like – it’s definitely cool.

We also have 3 Google WiFi Mesh routers. Once The Dude got to about age 13 and needed reliable Internet access in his room upstairs, the single Comcast modem/router didn’t cut it.

From a WiFi perspective, everything has worked great. I have one of the Google WiFi routers in my office, The Dude has one in his bedroom, and the base unit sits next to the Comcast modem/router. We’ve got a strong signal throughout the house and everyone is happy.

Until they want to print. Do you see where this is going? If you do, refer to paragraph one.

No matter what I did on our individual devices or on our rather old and creaky Epson Workforce 840 printer, our devices saw the printer as offline. Standing in front of it, it was clearly online. To make it even more confusing, sometimes we could print – and it wasn’t predictable.

I figured: well this printer is very old, and Windows 10 keeps changing. Maybe the drivers simply don’t work anymore. We’ll buy a new printer, just like that silly article said. We decided on the HP OfficeJet Pro 9025, which arrived yesterday. I set it up, ran through the configuration steps, and…it showed offline on our devices.

I was about to give up and hire some tech service to fix this for me. It would be embarrassing (I’m the in-house IT department, dang it), but the “I can’t print!” shouts from around the house were getting on my nerves.

Sometimes solutions come to us at the strangest moments. I was in the car last night with The Dude, listening to some new Frank Ocean (yeah, we’re pretty cool), and I thought: “Dang it! I’ve got two devices on the same SSID!” Ok, I didn’t say “dang”.

I’ve had the Comcast modem/router broadcasting the same SSID as the Google WiFi. I changed the Google WiFi’s SSID, just adding a “G” at the end, and lo and behold, the printer was online! Because the two WiFi routers were broadcasting the same SSID, our other devices couldn’t get a firm hold on the printer. That made them see it as offline. So now our devices and the printer are connected to SSID+G, our printer is online, and it works!

Ok, two printers are online. Now we have an extra printer.

Moral of the story: make sure you don’t have multiple devices broadcasting the same SSID. (In this case, the 3 Google WiFi devices count as one, as they act in concert.) I may switch the Comcast modem/router to not broadcast at all, but the “G” solution is good for now.

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