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Jess, Technician
Category: Printers
Satisfied Customers: 6964
Experience:  Fix laser, dot matrix and deskjet printers
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Before you can print, you need to select a printer is the

Customer Question

"Before you can print, you need to select a printer" is the message that I frequently get when trying to print an email or print a web page to a physical printer or to a PDF file. The dialog box displays all printers on the network, including the default printer. When I select the default printer, or any other one, the dialog box does not allow me to print: the only button that is active is "CANCEL."

This is recent behavior starting around the time I upgraded to IE 9. Before that, I have been printing without error for 10 years through various Windows versions. Current OS is Vista Business 64. I have tried various solutions from technet and gone through a number of articles in the MS KB, but none of those solutions seems to work for me (it does not seem to be an anti-virus, or anti-intrusion software issue, because when I have disabled that software, the problem persists.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Printers
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Hi, thank you for using JustAnswer. I am glad to assist you today.

Please try to RESET your IE settings to default.

1. Exit all open programs
2. Launch Internet explorer
3. Click on Tools menu
4. Click on Internet Options
5. Click the Advanced tab
6. Under Reset Internet Explorer settings, click Reset.
7. Then in the message that pops up, click Reset button again to confirm the action.
8. When Internet Explorer finishes resetting the settings, click Close in the Reset Internet Explorer Settings dialog box.
9. Start Internet Explorer again and test printing.

Another way to RESET the IE Settings is through Control Panel.

1. Click Start => Control Panel
2. Locate and click to open Internet Options (If you do not have the Internet Options listed, locate the "View by" selection and see if it is set to Category. Click on it then select SMALL ICONS.
3. When the Internet Options dialog box is shown, click on the ADVANCED tab
4. Look for the RESET button at the bottom part and then click on it.
5. Another window will pop out, click on RESET in that window.
6. Click on Apply
7. Click OK to close
8. Test printing with Internet Explorer again

I hope that helped.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Hi Jess,


This is a well-known IE strategy which does not cure the problem in my case.


A number of app vendors' tech supports have already been consulted to help determine whether this is an app problem or an OS problem. All agree it's an OS problem or IE problem, (which is consistent with my experience), and _may_ be tied to apps that use IE as a viewer and/or printing services provider.


It's almost as if the web content provider has figured out a way to prevent web visitors from printing, because it does _not_ happen with all sites. That is, the problem cuts across IE and applications, but does not happen all the time. Moreover, even on sites where "Printer Friendly version" is selected, this error will frequently occur.

Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
This usually happen when you upgrade from IE8 to IE9. As a workaround, please try another web browser and see if these problem sites will now be printed

Try Firefox browser. Click here to download Firefox:
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Will try, asap.



Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Yes please and let me know your results so that I can help you further.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Jess,

I have installed Mozilla FireFox and made it the default browser. The problem persists on the same emails and same websites as earlier today, etc., using FireFox. In addition, FireFox displays the message:
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
I cannot duplicate your issue here in my Firefox.

Is the page that you are trying to print a PDF document?

The problem could be with your printer setup. But if the printer works with other programs, then try a PDF converter.

A PDF converter converts anything that can be printed to a PDF file. You then print the PDF file, not the original file.

In your case, you print from Firefox and got an error. When you have a PDF converter, you print using the PDF converter named CurePDF Writer and not your physical printer. The result is a PDF file that open and prints using Adobe Reader.

Download CutePDF Writer from this link:

There in that page download the 3.83MB file "FREE Download" then install. You will then have a virtual printer named CutePDF Writer. So when you print, print to CutePDF Writer to convert a file to PDF and then print the PDF file.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Jess,

I use the Professional version of Acrobat 9 and the virtual printer it creates. I does not make a difference whether I use a real physical printer, or a virtual printer; nor whether the print spooler is local or one from the network. When this error type occurs, NO printing is possible. See list of printer from screen shot, below. Note also that I can display the html code of the pages I cannot print, when I cannot print them, and I can SAVE AS... the pages.

Also, I installed Firefox, as I mentioned. I tried disabling all the plug-ins, and for the couple of pages which produced "An Unknown Error occurred while printing", that error disappeared. However, the original error (subject of this question) still remained. Therefore, I think that the subject of this question is not related to any plugins. That might help you in finding the answer.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Jess,
Here's the list of printers, which I forgot to send.
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
How many physical printers do you have there? You might try uninstalling and re-installing those printers.

But I believe the virtual printers or PDF converter may have been associated to programs such as Quicken or Adobe Acrobat. Please retain those printers and you can uninstall the physical printers only then do the CCleaner cleanup: cleaner + registry.

Also, try to install CuteDPF Writer since it is solely a PDF converter and not associated to any program. Make it a default and then try printing to PDF again.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Jess,

We have 7 physical printers in service, including label makers, and medium and large format printers. Of those, I use two on a regular basis: the large format DJ800, and the laser HP4650. These work without glitch or hiccup for all typical applications all the time. Each of these two come in the PCL5 and PCL6 flavors and the PS flavor, as reflected in the screenshot I sent you.

The 4650 in PCL6 (default printer) is the one which would be used to print web pages browsed on a typical day. As previously stated, it works just fine with all standard applications (MS Office, Open Office, various CAD programs, research software, etc.), _except_ IE9 and our contact management software.

The various PDF printers are self explanatory. Acrobat Pro Extended 9 obviously associates to its acrobat printer. Third party PDF printers like PDF Create! provide some additional capability we need. Uninstalling printers that work for everyone else all the time, and for me most of the time, seems to be a very time-consuming effort. I would sooner downgrade to IE8. (Remember that each critical application that uses these printers has to be retested. This is days of work, not a half hour here and there.)

Other users do not have these problems here, although two have similar machine configurations, and one has almost an identical config (make, model, processor, memory, applications, and the same printers as I am, BUT using IE8 not IE9.)
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Ok. First, please try the SFC method to check your system's file integrity. After the scan, restart the computer then test printing again.

Run the System File Checker

1. Click Start => Programs => Accessories => Locate Command Prompt
2. When located, right click on it then click Run as administrator
3. Provide your password if prompted or click OK in a prompt window
4. In the black command prompt window, type this command and press the ENTER key after: sfc /scannow (2-word, there is space between c and /)
5. Let the scan complete and restart your computer after the scan.

If the problem persists,try downgrading from IE9 to the original IE8 and see if the problem is gone.

To uninstall Internet Explorer

The following instructions apply to both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

  1. Click the Start button, type Programs and Features in the search box, and then click View installed updates in the left pane.
  2. Under Uninstall an update, scroll down to the Microsoft Windows section.
  3. Right-click Windows Internet Explorer 9, click Uninstall, and then, when prompted, click Yes.
  4. Click one of the following:
    • Restart now (to finish the process of uninstalling Internet Explorer 9, and restore the previous version of Internet Explorer).
    • Restart later (to wait until you shut down or restart your computer).

Keep me posted.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Hi Jess,

Will do.

Also, by the way, Firefox is producing many more printing errors than IE9. Frequently, when I receive the new error "An unknown error occurred while printing" from Firefox print efforts, I can copy/paste the offending url into IE9, and print it just fine, either to physical printer or to any of the .PDFs, and to the DocuCom "thing." Now, the errors are occurring even with add-ons disabled (Firefox "Safe Mode"). I deleted all the history that was imported from IE 9 to Firefox at the install. It did not help.

Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for that information.

Please try the SFC scan and see if the scan tool detects errors. And one more thing to try, is to disable all generic services and startup item when starting your system and see if the problem is resolved.

To disable some programs at startup, please do the following:

  1. Click on Start => RUN
  2. In the RUN box, type this command and click OK: msconfig
  3. You shall see then the System Configuration dialog window
  4. Click on the SERVICES tab
  5. Click to select the option "Hide Microsoft services"
  6. Then click DISABLE ALL button
  7. Then click the STARTUP tab
  8. Then click on DISABLE ALL button
  9. This should disable all listed startup programs at startup so all the checks there should disappear. However, please locate your Antivirus software there and click on it to restore the check mark.
  10. Then click APPLY
  11. Click OK to close the System Configuration window
  12. Restart your computer. Then test if the system is now gaining some speed and then test printing with your browser.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Will do, also.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
No errors on scans.

Disabling all non-MS services (except anti-virus, threat protection) and all startup items except for some antivirus stuff, did permit printing of previously unprintable stuff.

Now I still have to chase down the offending item(s). There are 100+

Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Ok. Are you saying these offending item are those pages that won't print even though you disabled startup programs?
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
No, the offending items are the startup program(s) which prevent printing. I have identified the offending startup program and documented it. Unfortunately, it is a core tool for us, so disabling it is not feasible. Therefore, I have upgraded my copy this morning, including uninstalling the older version. Again, unfortunately, the same result occurs with their very latest version.

I will be in touch with the vendor to seek a solution.
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
I am sorry but I am out of ideas. I will just opt out so that other experts can help you further. I am sorry if I was not able to help.

Thank you for using JustAnswer.

Best regards,
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I am willing to send you my troubleshooting log from msconfig.exe, so you can see what was tried and which offending application it is. I have forwarded it to the developer. Would you like that info? That knowledge will lead to future revenue for you, perhaps, ESPECIALLY since the current version of that application _still_ causes the problem. I appreciate your hanging in there with me.
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Yes please. You can send the log file in then paste here the download link so that I can get it.

Customer: replied 6 years ago. problem on M6400 - Before you can print, you need to select a printer 073111.rtf

Forum Link: URL= problem on M6400 - Before you can print, you need to select a printer 073111.rtf]Printing problem on M6400 - Before you can print, you need to select a printer 073111.rtf[/URL]
Expert:  Jess replied 6 years ago.
Ok. I will downlod it.