How to Cancel a Windows Print Job

May 6, 2011, By Christian Cawley

There are two types of printer: those that will let you cancel print jobs, and those that won’t.

The former group is one that you would expect to be burgeoning, but sadly after 30 years of desktop printing, there remain considerable problems effectively cancelling a print job, regardless of the manufacturer of the device in question.

Meanwhile printers that will let you cancel print jobs are rare, and differ from operating system to operating system.

How to Cancel a Windows Print Job

This isn’t to say that it is an OS issue; largely printers fail to work as instructed thanks to driver issues. For instance HP uses largely the same core device drivers for their printers, with various additional software bundled in to differentiate between printers. Often you will find that a basic PCL driver can be used for a HP printer rather than the one included on the disk (although this is purely an illustration and shouldn’t be used a way to gain more control over the device).

So how exactly do you force cancel a print job in Windows?

Cancelling Print Jobs in the Operating System

There are many reasons for wanting to cancel a print job, from noticing an error on the page that previously missed proofing to realising you have the wrong type of paper loaded.

In Windows 7, when a print job begins, you should see a notification in the System Tray, and it is via this that you should be able to cancel the print job. Right-clicking the printer icon should reveal a menu upon which you can select a print job and choose Restart or Cancel.

You can also open this screen via Start > Devices and printers > select your printer > See what’s printing.

If you select Cancel you will be asked to confirm the action, while Restart is intended to stop and restart the print job.

Disabling the Hardware to Cancel a Print Job

Despite these functions, the cancel print job button doesn’t always have the intended effect. There are various reasons for this, mainly related to the fact that bandwidth on a modern PC and across a USB cable is so high that the document has spooled and is ready to print before you even notice the error.

As such you might prefer to use a hardware method for cancelling the print job. For this you will need to consult your printer documentation in order to find the best way to send your printer offline, which is typically done by pressing the main green-illuminated button.

If this doesn’t work, one alternative is to switch the printer off completely, and wait. This is a particularly good option if Windows says it is cancelling the print job, but the device keeps on outputting paper. Rather than wait and waste paper, you can switch off the printer and wait until the job has been deleted.

When you switch the printer on, the job might try to resume from the printer itself. In this case use the device to clear the print job, or switch off at the mains for around 30 minutes in order to restart the printer with a cleared memory.

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