My HP printer doesn't stay connected to the network and I need help
August 14, 2018 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I have an HP Deskjet 3050A J611 All-in-One series printer and a HP TouchSmart 610 PC connected over my Xfinity wireless router. They communicate OK for a day or 2 or 3 and then the connection gets dropped. Then when I try to print something I get an "Unable to Communicate with Printer" error. I have tried HP Scan Doctor and other HP webware products and nothing helps.

I have communicated with the HP Discussion Boards but the few suggestions don't work.

Quote Discussion Board suggestions:
In the router: (Refer to your router manual for information)
1. Use a fixed wireless channel like 1, 6 or 11, never 'auto', try channel 11 first then the rest.
2. Set router to 20Mhz only for 2.4Ghz
3. Always use WPA2-AES (Personal-PSK) encryption, but you can try ‘mixed’ mode.
4. Disable WPS and never use it and disable UPnP for the routers security.
5. If you have a dual band router (2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz bands), make sure the SSID’s are NOT
the same, they must be different for all bands, even for any Guest networks.
6. SSID broadcast must be enabled.
7. Always make sure your router is on the latest firmware.
8. Save all settings. Power off both, wait 2 mins. Power on router wait 2 mins.
9. Power on printer and verify it reconnects to router.

I don't want to go back to a wired connection.
Both the PC and the printer are about 6 years old.

Would a newer HP printer be any better?

What about another brand of cheap printer such as Lexmark?

The router is Xfinity's latest, but is their any sense looking in that direction? (Many difficulties working with Xfinity expected).

Any other suggestions?

Thanks for your help!
posted by Rad_Boy to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
That seems a common complaint on reviews for wireless printers of many brands unfortunately. Sometimes its that the printers have gone to sleep and need to be woken up manually with button presses etc before they work.

Have you considered wiring the printer to the router via Ethernet while keeping your computer wireless? That's the setup I have, and it's worked great.

(If you really need the wireless, you could try a wireless bridge to do the Xfinity wifi to wifi bridge-ethernet-printer connection instead but that seems like too much effort to put into a printer wifi problem).
posted by TheAdamist at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2018

I've done home-PC service for the past 10 years, and this happens ALL THE TIME with printers of that vintage. These are my tips:

1) Stop using the Comcast gateway's wireless capability. Disable wireless networking on the Comcast gateway and replace that with a Netgear router (Rangemax if you can get it. You should be able to find a good option at Best Buy for $50-$80) Join every network item to the Netgear. Comcast wireless hardware sucks as a rule.
2) Give the printer(s) static IP addresses instead of DHCP. Sometimes the printers will spontaneously get new addresses and the computer has trouble talking to them for that reason.
3) Replace your 6-year old printer with a new model - Yes, the new ones tend to be way more stable than devices from 2010-2013. You should be able to find a decent HP model of all-in-one for around $100 on sale. I recently bought an OfficeJet Pro 8600 for $100 and am very happy with it.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 11:18 AM on August 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The most common cause of issues I see with networked printers is wandering IP addresses. The printers are usually set to pick up an IP address via DHCP, and the Windows drivers are usually set to talk to the printer via whatever IP address it ended up with immediately after installation, but there is absolutely nothing in the DHCP spec that guarantees that a printer with a given MAC (Ethernet or low-level wifi) address will always end up with the same IP address it had last time you switched it on. In practice it usually does, because DHCP does allow devices to ask for an IP address they already know about, but there's no guarantee. In an environment where mobile devices come and go, each one with its own ideas about who e.g. really should belong to, it's pretty easy for a powered-down printer to have its former IP address leased to something else.

To work around this kind of issue, the old-school method is to set fixed IP addresses in devices like printers that have to provide services on your network via well-known addresses. You do that by using the printer's setup buttons to tell it to use a fixed IP address, address mask, gateway address and DNS server address instead of getting all that stuff via DHCP, then tell its Windows driver what IP address you fixed the printer to. This is an error-prone pain in the arse to set up because there are lots of interconnected settings that all have to be done properly, but it's reliable once it's done - at least until somebody messes it up again by carelessly or even inadvertently restoring the printer to factory settings. Some printers even have a glowing green WIFI button your five year old can press to mess these settings up for you.

An easier option, supported even by most consumer-grade routers, is to set up permanent DHCP reservations between specific IP addresses and specific MAC addresses inside the router, such that each of those IP addresses will only ever be DHCP-leased to the MAC address it's reserved for and never given out to any other device even if the reserved MAC isn't currently visible on the network.

Setting up a DHCP address reservation for your printer, and telling the Windows driver to use the IP address so reserved, should give you reliable printing without needing to mess with the printer's own settings. This is the way I usually set things up for customers, and it's robust and works well.

The easiest way to get it done if your printer is not currently working is to re-run the printer's setup program, which should be able to figure out the printer's current IP address, get the Windows driver talking to it again, and let you print a test page; once that works, then you log on to your Xfinity router, find the printer in its list of connected devices, and create a DHCP address reservation for it (poke around under LAN Settings and you should find the DHCP stuff without too much trouble).
posted by flabdablet at 11:36 AM on August 14, 2018

I have set up a reserved IP address and will report back soon on how that works. Thanks!
posted by Rad_Boy at 3:29 PM on August 14, 2018

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