How to speed up your printer

Tips and tricks to get pages out sooner

Raw printer speeds keep improving each year, but we always seem to want documents to come out just a little bit faster. Thankfully, you can use a few tricks to boost printer performance. Whether you got a bargain inkjet in a bundle with your home PC or you charged a thousand-dollar laser printer to your expense account, these suggestions will kick up your print speeds.

Reduce Print Quality

Often the devil is in the details--with printers, that means detailed prints take longer to produce. If you reduce the quality a little, you can churn out faster prints and save ink.

In any application, choose Print and select Properties. Printer settings will vary, depending on your model; in our case, we found the necessary settings under the Main tab for one printer and the Paper/Output tab for another. Reduce the print quality--try draft mode--and see if the quicker results are good enough.

Fit More on One Page

Print speed mostly depends on the amount of graphics and text on each page, but page quantity also matters. You can slice the time to print in half by formatting two document pages to a single sheet. This method works best for retaining pages of receipts, spreadsheets, or other documents that you'll reference only occasionally, since everything will be smaller.

Choose Print, and then Properties. Your next step might vary with your specific printer. For our test printer, we clicked the Layout/Watermark tab and picked 2 pages per sheet.

Pick a Fast Interface

The kind of connection you use to hook your printer to the PC directly affects its speed. If you have an inkjet, you probably connected it with USB 2.0, which should be about as fast as possible. But if you have a network printer--or if a networked PC acts as a print server for a USB printer--select the fastest available network connection.

We recommend connecting your network printer to your router with an ethernet cable rather than depending on a wireless signal. A wired connection is more reliable, and it's almost always faster. Wi-Fi speeds deteriorate with distance, so if you have to use a wireless signal, try to place your printer close to your router. If you must go with a wireless printer, be sure that either the printer itself or any wireless print server you may connect it to supports 802.11n, which is the fastest wireless standard available.

With a wired connection, see if your printer supports 100Base-T or gigabit ethernet. If so, verify that your router and network can handle those speeds--if they can't, you're creating a bottleneck, especially when sending graphics-heavy files to the printer. For a complete guide to gigabit ethernet, see "Upgrade to Gigabit Networking for Better Performance."

Print Websites Without Images

When you're printing information from the Web, ads and graphics will slow down the process. If you need to print a page, first look for a Print link; clicking on one will typically reformat the page without extras. Otherwise, you can manually disable the graphics.

In Internet Explorer, pick Tools, Internet Options. Click the Advanced tab, and scroll to the Multimedia section. Uncheck the box to Show pictures.

In Firefox, choose Tools, Options, and click the Content tab. Uncheck the box to Load images automatically.

In either browser, click the refresh button to reload the page without the images, and then choose Print. Afterward, toggle the Tools settings to restore the graphics.

Add RAM to Your Printer

High-end printers have shared design concepts with PCs for decades. You'll find a CPU, a networking interface, RAM, and other parts in laser printers starting at about $400. And just as with a PC, ample RAM can boost a printer's performance, so you should see if you can add more.

First, look up your printer's specs at the manufacturer's Website or through a Web search. If you want to download a PDF manual, search for something like "specific printer name manual", which will often lead you to the company's site. Note that some companies refer to "memory" instead of "RAM."

Now that you know whether your printer can take additional RAM and its maximum capacity, determine how much it currently has. Open the printer driver. In Windows 7, pick Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, Devices and Printers. Right-click your printer, and pick Printer Properties.

You might have to dig around to get the details--various printer manufacturers provide this information in different locations in the software. If you don't see it in the driver software, check back in the manual.

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