Documents Not Printing – Stuck In Print Queue

An easy fix for a document that will not print and status stays as ‘printing’. The most frequent problem with printers (apart from the ridiculous cost of ink!) is when documents are not printing because a document gets ‘stuck’ in the print queue – meaning that it won’t print out.

You will not receive an error message but the status of the document in the print queue will stay as ‘printing’ forever and never actually print.

Can’t I Just Delete The Document? You should certainly try this first but often it will not work – the ‘stuck’ document will change to ‘deleting in progress’ but never actually delete. Until it is deleted properly no further documents can be printed because they are in a queue (the first job submitted must be printed before any subsequent jobs can progress) – so if you keep on trying to print more documents to ‘test things’ you will just end up with loads of print jobs queued up…

How To Fix It – The fix is simple. You need to clear the print queue manually so that all the print jobs currently in the queue are deleted properly – once the queue is empty you should then be able to print new documents without problems. We will show you how below, depending on whether you use XP or Vista/7:

1. XP – click ‘Start’ then click ‘Run’ and in the Run window type CMD then press ‘OK’ – this opens a Command Prompt window. Now skip to Step 3.

2. Vista/7 – click ‘Start’ and type Command in the search box. Right click on the ‘Command Prompt’ result in the search results above it and select ‘Run As Administrator’ – this opens a Command Prompt window.

3. All version of Windows – in the Command Prompt window (these commands are also shown in the picture below):

4. Type net stop spooler then press the Enter key.

5. Type del %windir%\system32\spool\printers\*.* /q then press the Enter key (Note: the only spaces in this command are a single space between del and %, and a single space between * and /q)

6. Type net start spooler then press the Enter key.

7. Type exit then press the Enter key to exit the Command Prompt window.


Fixing the print queue

This should have cleared the print queue (i.e. all print jobs have been deleted) and you can now submit new jobs for printing :-)

What Do These Commands Do?

The Command Prompt is a throwback to the pre-Windows days of Microsoft DOS but is still a useful way to type and enter system commands. The print Spooler is basically the print ‘queue’ – we need to Stop it running before we can Delete documents stuck in it.

The Del command deletes everything currently held in the print queue, including the ‘stuck’ document(s). We then have to Start the Spooler (print queue) up again so that it can accept new print job requests in future.

What If It Keeps Happening?

If the problem only occurs occasionally it is likely just due to an incompatibility with the actual data being printed e.g. a webpage that has unusual fonts or some other format that the printer is unable to convert into printed output – run the above fix to resolve it.

However, if you find that almost all documents keep getting stuck in the print queue then Microsoft’s answer is that it is an issue with your printer drivers (software) – one solution may be to download and update new printer drivers from the manufacturer. You could also try the Microsoft automatic Fix It for printers – see our review here. This will repeat our fix above but may also flag up/fix any different Windows errors that stop printing.

Other causes may include a misconfigured printer e.g. network printing to an IP address that doesn’t exist – uninstalling and reinstalling the printer software from scratch should fix this.

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60 Responses to: "Documents Not Printing – Stuck In Print Queue"

  1. Ashley says:

    Thank you so much! That helped real quick! You’re a life saver!

  2. jessica says:

    any idea why i seem to need to do this all the time? every time i want to print i have to clear the spooler and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not.

    • Roy says:

      @Jessica – see my answer to comment 12 for Microsoft’s official explanation of why it happens. Most likely to be caused by an outdated or poorly written printer driver (software from printer manufacturer)

  3. Linda Clark says:

    I ran out of ink in the middle of printing a 232 page document—how do I start to print again without printing the entire document—-I have a MacBook and an Epsom printer

  4. Tim says:

    Hey guys, when I type and type in the demand it says, “Could Not Find C:\q” – What can I do?

    • Tim says:

      Or it also doesn’t even get to the the Y/N after typing that in and says system unrecognized or something

      • Roy says:

        I think you’ve missed out the space before /q which will produce an error – see step 5 and the note in it

  5. Annie says:

    My command box says access denied, system error 5 has occurred….what is that?

  6. Heather says:

    THANK YOU!! Worked great!!

  7. Blake Zimmerman says:

    Wow! Someone sent me a ridiculously huge Excel file which jammed up the priner queue. This cleared it out. Thanks!

    • Jared says:

      Did the steps and cleared the queue but still getting stuck in queue. Was working one minute than stopped and now doing this…

      • Roy says:

        You could try the Microsoft Fixit for printers – see my answer to comment 2 below.

        However, if you keep on getting docs stuck in the queue after that, Microsoft say that the problem is most likely your printer drivers – uninstalling the printer drivers and reinstalling the latest version may resolve

  8. Mark says:

    got a “System error 5 occured”

  9. Roy says:

    @Mark – in Windows 7 or Vista – you get that error 5 message if you aren’t running an elevated (admin level) Command Prompt prompt – see Step 2 again (must choose ‘Run as administrator’).

    If you still have problems, try running Microsoft’s automated Fixit tool –

  10. j a jones says:

    Thanks! have not used DOS in a long time!

  11. Spencer says:

    We keep getting this issue – I have tried all sorts to rectify it; including installing the driver from windows 7 cab, installing the latest driver from the manu website. It does not happen a lot, this is the thing. It happens about 10 times a day spread over 40 printers. Just clearing the print queue on the print server and doing “net stop spooler && net start spooler” works, without having to enter the del file command.

    I would like to know why this happens – the printers are fairly new, they will print one document fine, then stall on the next and there is no apparent difference in the documents – e.g, these are student documents and there work is mostly identical. We have tried un-ticking “Keep printed documents”, changing the default print processor. This didn’t seem to happen as often in XP,

  12. Jane says:

    Thank you! Helped me out after about 40 minutes of getting nowhere!

  13. Bob says:

    Tried instructions to delete stuck print file – net stop spooler. Received Accessed Denied. Now what can I do?

    • Roy says:

      @Bob – you most likely get that error message if you aren’t running an elevated (admin level) Command Prompt prompt – see Step 2 again (must choose ‘Run as administrator’).

      In Win 8 right click cmd and choose to run as admin. If you’re accessing it from the search charms, click run as admin – cmd window must be called “Administrator command prompt” and not just “command prompt”

  14. cecile mourie says:

    I cannot print any document and do not know how to clear the printing queue docuent

  15. PJW59 says:

    Others are also having this problem as well, this fixed it temporarily for me, but who wants to keep doing the cmd thing over and over. There is another solution I found although it has not worked for me it has worked for other and I will tell you why in a minute but for those of you running IE 11. Many people uninstalled the latest update for IE11 and it solved their problem, however all my IE updates failed so there is no update to uninstall and therefor did not work for me but it might for others.