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February 25, 2011

The Most Irritating Error Ever

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Earlier this week one of my computers refused to print. The error was that the Spooler Service had stopped. Not a single printer was recognized. No new printer could be installed. The Spooler Service would stop and stop and stop and nothing could print. Ever.

Having written the Troubleshooting & Maintaining Your PC For Dummies All-In-One Desktop Reference For The Rest of Us, I figured I’d have a good shot at fixing the problem. I just didn’t figure that it would take me five days to do it.

I started, as I recommend in my book, with a System Restore. The problem: System Restore failed.

Certainly it’s odd that System Restore fails. That generally means, as far as I’m concerned, that there is something more seriously wrong with the computer than the Spooler Service error.

Next I ran the System File Checker. It found no problems.

Being suspicious, I ran the SFC in Safe Mode. Still, no problems. So I restarted and tried a System Restore again. Failed.

I figured the problem might be with the printer itself. All my printers are HP so I tried connecting an old Epson I had. Same problem.

Now generally I like HP stuff. I have lots of HP printers here. I’m not entirely happy with them. And I absolutely detest using HP’s tech support. Face it: I didn’t want to talk for 45 minutes with someone from India who is merely reading “solutions” from a manual.

Thus ended the First Day.

On the Second Day, I went to the store and bought a Windows 7 upgrade. After researching the Spooler Service problem on the Internet, I discovered that it seemed to be primarily a problem with Windows XP and Windows Vista. Perhaps the upgrade would fix things.

Long story short: It didn’t. The problem I had with the Spooler Service in Windows Vista was inherited with Windows 7.

Thus ended the Second Day.

On the Third Day I discovered that Windows 7 had 60 updates pending. I tried to install them for about three hours. (Now that’s not all I did; I was bouncing back and forth between the problem PC and my other computers.) After a while, I checked the logs. Sure enough: All 60 upgrades failed.

So I sat at the computer and manually installed each update. Eventually I installed them in batches. All told, it took me about six hours to successfully install all the Windows 7 updates and patches.

Thus ended the Third Day.

On the Fourth Day, I broke down, swallowed my pride, and called the PC Live help line. Rather than overpay for the Geek Squad, I recommend PC Live because you don’t pay unless they find a solution. I figured that it would be worth the money to fix the problem. And if they couldn’t fix it, then I wouldn’t be out the money and could keep my dignity.

Long story short: They couldn’t fix it. They did, however, remark that HP printers are trouble. Like I didn’t know that.

On the Fifth day (yesterday), I started the PC using the Windows 7 installation disc so that I could run the Repair utility. I used the SFC from that disc to scan my Windows installation. It checked out.

Then I figured that HP was the problem.

Booting from the Windows 7 installation disc again, I logged into my C drive and found every file starting with HP* in the Windows directory and subdirectories. I renamed each one. Further, I renamed the system32\spool directory. Then I ran SFC with this command:


Finally, errors were found, errors were fixed. The log file was endless; I didn’t even bother reading it.

I restarted the computer and, to my surprise, it booted right up. Carefully , I ran the Add A Printer wizard.

It worked! The network printer was found, added, and it printed a sample page.

Next I powered-on the HP Color LaserJet that’s connected to the PC using a USB cable. It installed okay, but it doesn’t print in color all the time. Excel prints in monochrome. Paint prints in color. I’ll have to figure that out eventually.

There’s more detail to what happened, but I don’t want to make this a blogopotomus post. Suffice it to say, I spent more time trying to solve this annoying problem than any other computer problem ever. I don’t consider the issue fully resolved until I can get the color printer to print in color. But for now, I’m pleased. And relieved.


  1. I’m glad I’ve only got one printer! I recently had a problem with my PC that required me to take it to a shop like you they couldn’t fix it, I eventually figured it out but it took about five days as well. It’s nice to know that sometimes you can sort problems out your self.

    Comment by chiefnoobie — February 25, 2011 @ 3:09 am

  2. What shocked me is the dearth of information regarding the printing subsystem in Windows. There’s nothing out there. So no guide as to where to find printers, where to find the drivers. I suppose Microsoft expects you to do everything via the GUI. That’s not good enough for troubleshooting.

    Comment by admin — February 25, 2011 @ 4:41 pm

  3. The trouble shooter very rarely works for me, the only thing it does it connect to the internet when occasionally I boot up and it doesn’t do it. If a problem comes up I almost always end up looking on google because the help from Microsoft is so bad, and at the end it asks you if this helped? Always makes me laugh. Come to think of it when I got my Epson printer the GUI did recognise it but it didn’t work, I then I had to install the software from the CD which is full of junk mostly but that made it work. That’s another thing about the software that comes with my printer is that it is constantly trying to sell you ink even if you know there is quite a lot left in the cartridge. It annoys me when you have to install ‘bloatware’ that you get with a bit of hardware because your product won’t work otherwise.

    Comment by chiefnoobie — February 26, 2011 @ 4:24 am

  4. I avoided installing the printers with the HP install CD. As you point out, chief, the disc is mostly full of junk and crap and other useless things. The HP printer monitor? Who needs it? Especially when the software won’t install properly on Windows 7 (still?) and the printer installs and works just find without it. Good point.

    Comment by admin — February 26, 2011 @ 7:23 am

  5. A couple months ago my grandmother bought an HP inkjet printer. I tried installing just the printer driver from the CD and it wouldn’t print or scan. A re-install would make it print but not scan or vice versa.
    The only way I could get it to install correctly was install every last bit of bloatware including all the toolbars and trial programs.
    I hate modern HP printers.
    I had an old Deskjet printer from 1993. All that I had to do was install the driver and it was time to print which was nothing like this printer.

    Shiny on the outside but it’s an absolute nightmare to work with on the inside. I’ve also heard HP’s customer support isn’t very good.

    Going further away from the topic of printers, I’ve got an HP Vectra system in my room acting as a server. It’s an older Pentium III based computer but it does the job well and the only problem I’ve had with it was not pushing the ZIF socket closed — caused the PC speaker to beep and buzz like mad when it was powered on.
    Nowadays HP is just a brand full of shiny and no real quality. I don’t really want to have anything to do with them as I’ve had firsthand experience with their printers and I hear way too many stories of HP/Compaq laptops breaking under normal use.

    [end rant]

    Comment by linuxlove — February 26, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  6. I didn’t use the HP Install disc because it doesn’t work with Windows 7. Also, it just seems so superfluous.

    HP stuff was once very good. It’s gone downhill since they acquired Compaq.

    Comment by admin — February 26, 2011 @ 3:54 pm

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