How to cancel a print job that hangs under Windows Vista and XP

Michael PietroforteMVP By Michael Pietroforte - Tue, December 2, 2008 - 20 comments google+ icon

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor of 4sysops. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) with more than 30 years of experience in system administration.

Have you ever had a local print job hang and were not able to cancel it in the print job queue? I have experienced this problem several times recently. It is quite annoying because usually one can’t print as long as the erroneous job is in the queue. I am guessing that your helpdesk often receives similar requests about this issue.

print-spooler

I never understood why Windows won’t allow me to remove a hanging print job. I understand that the operating system has to wait for the confirmation from the printer. But if the printer also hangs, the print job is stuck in the queue. In my opinion, this is a bug. It is an old Windows XP problem and it still hasn’t been resolved in Windows Vista. I haven’t experienced it yet in Windows 7 though.

One way to solve the problem is to reboot. In most cases the undeletable print job will disappear after the restart. But, I have also experienced cases when even a reboot wouldn’t remove the erroneous print job from the queue. However, there is a way that always works and is also faster.

First, you have to stop the Print Spooler Service, then you have to delete all files under C:\WINDOWS\System32\spool\PRINTERS. Once you’ve restarted the Spooler Service, you might have to press F5 in the print queue applet to make the hanging print job disappear. Of course, you will need admin’s rights for this procedure. If you require more detailed instructions, you should take a look at this post from the help desk geek.

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20 Comments- Leave a Reply

  1. I hate this thing too, I’ll try this trick with Print Spooler Service next time. Thanks for this instruction.

  2. Tony says:

    This works when you need that print job straight away but sometimes at the end of the day there are still jobs hanging that we dont know about. They end up annoying people the next day.

    so…

    I use “psservice.exe” from sysinternals and schedule it in the middle of the night to restart the print spooler service three times (every 10 minutes, because once is sometimes not enought to clear the hangs). When staff come to work the next day the spooler is clean and ready.

  3. nev says:

    Last time this happened to me was over a network print. Rebooted a few times but didn’t work, but oddly, restarting the Print Spooler I was able to delete the job from the queue.

  4. pete says:

    when this happens, i always turn off my printer and then turn it on again, works all the time..

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here is what I do:
    1. Cancel the job (it then hangs at the ‘Deleting – Printing’ stage)
    2. At the command prompt, enter: net stop spooler
    3. Then enter: net start spooler
    4. Bref F5 to refresh the status of the print queue

  6. Michael Pietroforte Michael says:

    Ilija, I hope you’ll have the chance to try it soon ;-) By the way, nice blog.

    Tony, that’s why I am always deleting all the files in the spooler directory before I restart the service. Thanks for mentioning psservice. It is a nice tool.

    Nev, rebooting is pretty much the same as restarting the spooler service. If there are no print jobs in the queue that you want to keep, then you can delete all the files in the spooler directory. This always works.

    Pete, you are right, this usually works if the printer is directly connected to the computer. However, if you print via network restarting the printer probably won’t help.

    Anonymous, thanks for the tip. The advantage of net start over psservice is that is available on every computer.

  7. Tony says:

    You have to be real careful restarting the spooler service on a network during the day when you have lots of printers on the domain. If you restart the spooler you are effectively killing off all jobs from all printers. You’ll have staff queing up at the printers wondering where their print jobs are.

  8. Actually, I hope I will never have to cancel print job :-)

  9. Rxt says:

    Thanks for the tip. I was unable to delete a printer because of these jobs. I had to stop the spool service first, but then could remove all print jobs, and remove the printer.

  10. richard says:

    I just had the problem on windows 7. Simple file delete from the spooler after shutting down the service worked great. It didn’t event prompt to ask are you sure, are you really sure, didn’t ask me if I was happy for the experience, or if I wanted to send feedback. It just worked!

    thanks for the tip.

  11. frank says:

    This solution worked for me – I had tried all MS fix it and other solutions, both from the MS web sites and from within VIsta, with out success.

  12. Mike McLaughlin says:

    Thanks it worked a treat.

  13. Andy says:

    Thanks, hope canceling a print job never come…

  14. Jim says:

    For those who might not know how to turn off the Windows spooler service, just click on the start menu, type services.msc in the run field and hit enter. Then find a service named Print Spooler and stop it and then delete the Printers files. Hope it helps.

  15. Michael says:

    Ran into same problem trying to print odd size document, which hung the printer and could not be removed on Win Vista. Before I had to delete the printer and reinstall, but even that hung in permanent delete mode. This trick worked and I have isolated a bug when printing odd size docs out of Word that hang everything related to printing. Thanks for the info.

  16. Richard says:

    Brilliant !!

    Thank you very much for helping me with a very annoying problem.

  17. Tamma says:

    Thanks

  18. Spencer says:

    We get this problem a lot. I work in a college, we have both network printers and local USB printers. There seems to be no specific reason why this happens. But we have to clear the print server spooler at least 3 times a day – net stop spooler && net start spooler put into a .bat file makes the process quick.

    It gets a bit annoying when we have to do this on a local printer, as the logged in user does not have the permissions to run the CMD, so we have to change user or use a hack to get the CMD up. I would like to know what actually causes this document “hang”.

  19. TheOddStrange says:

    This happens EVERY TIME the accursed printer has an error. EVERY TIME. Why in the world did Microsoft never fix this stupid, stupid print bug? I’ve had it happen to me on 7 just as much as Vista.

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