HP PrintersI’ve had a few clients with HP Printers experience a problem where the printers just ‘disappear’ or drop offline and you cannot get them back online. The causes seem to vary, be it network ports that stop working, installed printers suddenly switching to USB, or general network connection errors.

HP has had a few tools to try and fix this so they’re clearly seeing a number of support calls related to printer connectivity. They’ve released a new tool called the HP Print and Scan Doctor, which is a swiss army knife of a tool designed to fix most common problems with network printers. This tool apparently supersedes all the others. It can even login to many common routers to understand your network and wireless configuration – allowing it to attempt even more repairs. It’s worked for me a few times quite nicely. So certainly try this first – though it seems to start based of the currently installed printer – which can be corrupted already.

Sometimes it simply cannot get the printer working again. In this case, uninstalling the HP print driver suite and reinstalling will usually help. But more often than not, you get stuck in an endless loop of install errors. To counter these situations, HP also has a cleanup tool, but finding the right one you need can be difficult as they are customized to each printer, family, and/or version (not sure which exact combo it is – but there is no universal removal tool that I know of). Instead, it is usually included in the print driver suites. Here is how you can utilize it to get your printer working again…

An HP Support Tech published a useful set of instructions that will allow you to clean things up on their forums. Here are the steps in a nutshell:

1. Download the full feature software and drivers for your printer from http://support.hp.com
2. Once the download is finished double click on the file to extract the software.
3. After it extracts the files and the installation window opens press the cancel button to stop the installation. This keeps the unzipped files on your hard drive.
4. Type %temp% in the run or search field of your Start Menu
5. Look for, and open, the folder starting with 7z (Example: 7zS2356) that has a recent timestamp
6. Right click on the folder, and select Copy
7. Close that window, and all your open windows, and then in the middle of the desktop right click your mouse, and select Paste. This will move the 7z folder to your desktop.
8. Open the 7z folder you just copied to your desktop
9. Open folder Util
10. Open folder CCC
11. Run the uninstall_L4 (.bat or .exe). This is the cleanup utility for your printer. [Note I’ve sometimes had to run this from an admin level command window]
12. When the uninstall has completed restart the computer
13. Run Disk cleanup from Accessories\ System Tools folder under All Programs in your Start Menu
14. Download and install the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (UNCHECK whatever junkware they try to include with the download like McAfee Scan)
15. Open the 7z folder, and then double click on the Setup.exe file which will be toward the bottom of the open window.
16. Follow the on screen instructions to reinstall your printer.

For most people, this SHOULD work. But I’ve encountered a few driver packages where you get the following error: ‘System cannot find the file’. Apparently when the installer is unzipped into the 7zXXXXX folder, the installer doesn’t save what the new folder is called and looks in the WRONG PLACE. I’ve seen this a few times – really bizarre. But there is a way around it – as it seems to always look in the same place. In the error window, you’ll see the 7z folder it’s trying to use. In the %TEMP% directory you opened above in step 4, *rename* the 7z folder to the one in the error message and run the Setup.exe program again from there. This *should* allow the installer to complete. However, on a few systems there has been a problem trying to check for updates. Since you’ve got the latest version anyway, be sure to UNCHECK the automatic check for updates under ‘Internet Connection Settings’ (It may say ‘I will do this manually’). Also be sure to uncheck most of the ridiculous software HP tries to install under ‘Software To Be Installed’. I usually only install the drivers (no choice), Imaging, HP Update, and Solution Center. That’s it. Now the install should work fine.

Run HP Update! – There is a critical Windows 7 network patch that resolves connectivity issues! You should run HP Update after any HP Printer install, but especially Windows 7 since this seems to be a major patch.

Good luck! HP makes some excellent printers and their software, though bloated if you install everything, has gotten MUCH better than it was in terms of network printing and ease of setup. But I’ve also encountered dead ends that seem impossible to get out of if you don’t know how to use their Level 4 cleanup scripts.