General Computing
pdf printing printer home-networking unicode
Updated Sat, 01 Oct 2022 05:26:54 GMT

Explanation of Bizarre Printer Behavior?

Today immediately before I closed my laptop, I had printed 2 copies of a PDF file. Then about 2 hours later, I opened my laptop again and the printer started to generate a large pile of mostly blank pages for no apparent reason. However, some of the pages had garbled UTF-8 characters all over them.

For what reason, if any, would my printer be doing this? I can provide specs on the printer, my laptop, or my home network configuration on request if necessary, though none of those have been customized in any special way that I think would be relevant to this.


This is quite easy - I bet this is a network attached printer: You closed your laptop while the print job (or some trailing data) was still being sent to the printer - this stopped the transmission.

When you reopened your laptop, it duly went on sending the remaining data, but the printer had in the meantime discarded the half-sent data because of a timeout or disconnection event, so the remainder (binary data) was completely out of context, prompting the printer to try and parse it, which it did with dire consequences.

Comments (3)

  • +0 – I've only ever seen this occur on non-networked printers. Granted, it can still happen on network printers. — Nov 22, 2015 at 22:30  
  • +0 – Thanks, this makes sense. Seems weird that there's nothing in the protocol dictating some sort of required pattern at the beginning of the transmission to confirm that it's actually the intended beginning of a stream of data. — Nov 23, 2015 at 00:22  
  • +0 – @PatrickRoberts, many printers still support an archaic "line printer" mode, where the data is treated as a literal stream of characters to print out. — Nov 23, 2015 at 01:41