Troubleshooting Label Printer Not Printing – Instructions

Article #: 10784
Intended Audience: Basic User, Advanced User, IT Manager

There are a number of situations that can cause a printer to fail to print. These problems occur regardless of make or model. Below are a series of troubleshooting steps that are applicable to most printers that you can follow to resolve the issue of why your label printer is not printing. We are presenting them in an “outside-in” sequential order that should assist you in getting to the root of the problem and solving it successfully.


Step 1: Checking Printer Status

This is on the physical printer, and the location varies by model. Some printers have an LCD or LED screen that provides information about the printer. Instead of a screen, smaller printers may use colored LEDs.

Below are two examples from popular label printer models:

Examples of printer status screens on a Zebra ZT620 series (top) and a SATO CLNX series (bottom).

The location, layout and functions of your printer’s status screen or LEDs may differ from those shown. Please consult your printer’s manual for guidance.

If your printer shows that it is online and ready, then you can go to Step 2. However, if your printer does not indicate that it is ready to print, stop and troubleshoot the printer power source or any errors that are displayed. Do not proceed to the next step until you are able to get a “Ready”, “On-Line” or similar status. If the printer will not indicate that it is ready, that may indicate a mechanical issue or another problem that has rendered it non-functional.

Step 2: Print a Test Label

All thermal printers have a feature that allows the user to print out a label without using software. This is usually done in order to check the print quality or see the settings.

Test label printed on a Zebra printer. It shows all of the printer’s current settings.

The test label not only proves that the printer is functional but it also proves that it is able to print labels on the existing label media.

If you do not know how to print a test label, consult your printer’s manual. If the label prints normally, you can proceed to Step 3. If, on the other hand, the label fails to print, whether failing to come out, comes out blank or hard to read, then stop and troubleshoot the printing process. Again, do not proceed onto the next step until you have successfully printed a test label.

Along with the printer itself, be sure to check that the ribbon (if present) is properly installed and the right label media is properly loaded and the printer is configured to use it (media settings).

Once you have successfully passed the first two steps, you can be confident that the printer is working correctly and that a mechanical issue is not behind the label printer not printing. Steps 3 and 4 look at the printer’s connections and the labeling software.

Step 3: Send a Test Print from the Windows Print Driver

In this step you use the Windows driver to send a test print from the PC or server to the printer without using the label software. This is identical to sending a test print to any laser or inkjet printer.

Most Windows 10 printer drivers allow a test print in the Printers & Scanners area of the Settings. It can also be done from the Devices and Printers area of the Control Panel. The former is demonstrated below, but procedure is same regardless of which method you choose.

Printers & Scanners window in Windows 10.

Once you have opened the window, select the desired printer.

The print driver window in Windows 10 (left) and an earlier version of Windows (right)

Please note that the window can look different from what is shown depending on the company that made the driver as well as the version of Windows that you are running.

Click on Print Test Page (or similar) to output a sample. While the label should have the Windows logo on it, it may not print the entire logo depending on the margin settings and size of the label media. This is not important. If it outputs a label without the logo, it may just be outside of the label margins or the heat setting may be off. If it prints any part of the test label successfully, then you may proceed to Step 4 knowing that the Windows print driver is working properly.

Step 4: Print from Label Software

If Steps 1-3 were successful, then the problem is likely the label design and/or with software settings. For Step 4, you will be focusing on printing from the label software itself.

A label in Label Matrix.

If possible, print a label that has printed successfully before. If it prints successfully, then you know that the software and settings are functioning properly and they are not the cause for the label printer not printing correctly.

The next step, if necessary, is to attempt to print the label that caused the problem. If it fails to print, then the issue is with the settings for that label or within its design and those issues should be corrected.


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