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Very Strange Printer Driver Problem

by charmedlife417 / January 7, 2011 9:34 PM PST

Hello, I have a strange but simple problem. For over ten years I have owned the world's most reliable computer printer: a heavy-duty HP LaserJet 5N. It never breaks. This is the Maytag of printers. All the sudden it cannot be recognized by my laptop. I replaced the cable and tried again. Same issue. I also attached it to two other fully functioning laptops: same error message: "Windows couldn't find software driver for your device."

Someone told me to throw it away and buy a new one, but I don't think that's the point. The printer works perfectly; it just cannot be seen by the laptop.

Has anyone encountered this, or does anyone with an electrical background at least have an idea what this might be? I am not highly technical, but my suspicion is that there is an output voltage issue with the printer through the printer cable.

Please respond if you have any ideas. I love this printer, and it's a real workhorse.

I'm new here, so thanks.

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by pgc3 / January 7, 2011 11:27 PM PST

And this is with the same computer(s) that it has always worked with?

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clarification on the printer issue
by charmedlife417 / January 8, 2011 1:22 AM PST
In reply to: Printer

Yes, it has worked on this laptop -- and the other two laptops -- for more than ten years. Someone in another Forum recommended uninstalling and reinstalling the driver, but you can't do that because it is a really old printer and the driver comes directly from the OS. I just went on the HP website searching for the driver, and they refer you back to Microsoft, telling you that it is part of their operating system.

Yes, I've used this same printer with this same laptop every day for more than two years, plus a long list of other computers. It's ALWAYS worked.

Is it possible that Microsoft someone corrupted the driver in a recent update? That's the only way I could think of it, except that two of the laptops are XP and one is Vista.

Very puzzling.

Anyway, thank you. Any other thoughts? Thanks, Scott.

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If it is not seen by any PC
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 8, 2011 1:29 AM PST

Then it sounds like the printer port died (in the printer.)

But the 5N is the networking model. Did you try putting it on a network?

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by pgc3 / January 8, 2011 1:32 AM PST

Good thinking! Leave it to Bob, DEFINITELY try that!

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by charmedlife417 / January 8, 2011 1:39 AM PST

I don't work in a corporate environment, so I've never had the opportunity to network it. The unit is pre-USB, so it is hooked to the computer via a USB cable out that converts to a parallel printer cable.

Your theory definitely sounds plausible. Is this something I could fix myself by removing the parallel port and putting in a new one, or would it be something more internal that a tech would need to do?

My other thought was perhaps that there was some sort of voltage regulation issue inside the unit, that a "voltage regulator" -- if there is such a component in a computer printer -- was the problem.

Should I just throw in the towel and take it to a repair facility? I'm willing to spend the money.

Thanks again...

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It's more than a theory.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 8, 2011 3:21 AM PST
In reply to: possible...

One of my old computer repair shops (I used to run such) had a maker service center for printers. That's why I know this.

You would be some electronics engineer to go any deeper than replacing the board but I don't understand your comment about the corporate environment. Today most of us have routers and the printer could go on that ethernet.

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more info on printer setup
by charmedlife417 / January 8, 2011 8:10 AM PST

Sorry for my ignorance about networking and such, Bob. Just trying to figure this out. As far as I can tell, this printer was manufactured in 1994 and is pre-USB. It has three connectors on the back: a parallel printer port, a serial port, and a 10BaseT connector. I have been using it for 10+ years through the parallel connector.

A couple of questions:
1. Does the serial connector run off the same board, or is it possible it would still work, even though the parallel port is out?
2. Would parts still be available for this unit, if I tried to find that board somewhere?
3. As far as networking, is 10BaseT compatible with Ethernet, or is it something completely different?

I sincerely appreciate your continued help.


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Can I guess?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 8, 2011 8:26 AM PST

1. I would be guessing but a good designer would keep all I/O and in fact the entire electronics on one board. So I'm going with yes. I did not try to find a schematic but feel free to find and supply one and I'll look at it.

2. Doubtful. Makers are loathe to carry spares past the warranty periods.

3. We would have to convert from 10base2 to 10baseT. These are less rare than your printer parts. Example at

To connect that we'll need:

1 - RG58 cable.
2 - BNC Tees.
2 - 50 Ohm terminators.
1 - 10BT cable to connect to our LAN

Figure about 40 bucks.

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Thanks, Bob, I'll keep you posted
by charmedlife417 / January 8, 2011 10:42 AM PST
In reply to: Can I guess?

Bob, this is absolutely terrific information. I can't thank you enough. I will write back more later. I'm running out the door to dinner with my wife.

Thanks Again, I'll write more within 24 hours.


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Bob, here's an update on LJ 5N
by charmedlife417 / January 10, 2011 6:03 AM PST
In reply to: Can I guess?

It gets weirder and weirder. Yesterday I bought a second running HP LJ 5N for parts, brought it home, same problem, which now leads me back to driver issue. This second printer also came with an HP JetDirect box, so I'm going to see if that will solve my problem.

Is there any possibility that MS put out a recent update with corrupted LJ driver files? What else would explain three different laptops running on two different operating systems (Vista & XP) not being able to recognize a printer they worked with a week ago.

Any more thoughts?

Thank You,

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Sorry but
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 10, 2011 6:55 AM PST

The LJ, even the five only had one issue I know of and that had to do with printer port speeds. I can't guess if you have a real PC with a real parallel port.

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Another thought
by charmedlife417 / January 10, 2011 8:44 AM PST
In reply to: Sorry but

Bob, actually, I have a laptop with USB. The cable is parallel on the printer end and USB on the laptop end. I have always run it this way and never had a problem.

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To test this port
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / January 10, 2011 1:05 PM PST
In reply to: Another thought

I'd have to move back to an old standard port.

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