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PARALLEL-PORT

(CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

CONTENTS AT A GLANCE

Understanding the Parallel Port

Troubleshooting the Parallel Port

Addresses and interrupts Parallel-port signals

Tips to fix parallel ports Symptoms

Port operation Advanced parallel ports IEEE 1284 modes ECP/EPP cable quality IEEE 1284 issues

Further Study

 

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Even after more than a decade of intense computer development, the parallel port (also called the LPT port or printer port) remains the fastest and most reliable printer-con- nection technique in the computer industry. By sending an entire byte of data from com- puter to printer simultaneously, and managing the flow of data with discrete handshaking signals, the circuitry required to bundle and decode data and control signals (such as that needed by serial ports) is virtually eliminated. The longevity of parallel ports has been largely because of their simplicity and good overall performance, but to- day’s parallel ports are not invulnerable to failure. Cable problems, static discharge damage, and spontaneous IC faults can easily disable printer communication. Addi- tional parallel-port problems can arise from the new generation of high-performance printers and other parallel-port devices. This chapter explains the pinout and operation

997

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

of conventional parallel ports, explains the advances that have occurred, and present a se- ries of troubleshooting procedures intended to help you isolate and correct port problems.

Understanding the Parallel Port

The parallel-port interface is one of the simplest and most straightforward circuits that you will encounter in a PC. Figure 31-1 illustrates a typical bi-directional port. A parallel port is composed of three separate registers: the data register, the status register, and the con- trol register. Address bits A0 to A9 are decoded to determine which of the three registers are active. The use of –I/OR (–I/O Read) and –I/OW (–I/O Write) lines determine whether signals on the data bus (D0 to D7) are being read from or written to the respective register. When the port is ready to accept another character, handshaking line conditions will trig- ger an interrupt to request a new character. The heart of a parallel port is the data register. In older PCs, the data register could only be written to (which renders the port unidirectional). But virtually all PCs since the release of i386 systems provide data registers that can be read and written (which makes the port bi-directional). To access a printer, the system CPU simply loads the port data register with the value to be passed. The bi-directional control register man- ages the behavior of the port, and affects the conditions under which new characters are requested from the CPU. For example, the control register is typically set up to gener- ate an interrupt whenever the printer is ready to accept another character (i.e., IRQ7 for LPT1, and IRQ5 for LPT2). Finally, the status register is read to determine the printer’s status (extracted from the logic conditions of several printer handshaking lines). All that remains is the port connector itself, which is a female 25-pin sub-minia- ture D-type connector.

Bus DSL IRQ5/7 IRQ logic INI AF Data STR Control register ERROR Data D0–D7 register D0–D7
Bus
DSL
IRQ5/7
IRQ logic
INI
AF
Data
STR
Control
register
ERROR
Data
D0–D7
register
D0–D7
Status
register
ACK
BSY
Address
PAPER
decoder
SEL
FIGURE 31-1
FIGURE 31-1

Block diagram of a bi-directional parallel port.

UNDERSTANDING THE PARALLEL PORT

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ADDRESSES AND INTERRUPTS

As you saw above, the conventional parallel port in a PC is implemented through a series of three registers—one register simply buffers the 8 data bits while the other two registers han- dle the port’s handshaking lines. Although older BIOS versions only supported two or three parallel ports, today’s PCs use BIOS written to support up to four complete parallel ports designated: LPT1, LPT2, LPT3, and LPT4. The base addresses allocated for each port are 0378h (LPT1), 0278h (LPT2), 03BCh (LPT3), and 02BCh (LPT4). The base address of each port corresponds to the data register. The status register of a respective port is accessed from the base address with an offset of 01h (i.e., 0379h, 0279h, 03BDh, and 02BDh), and the control register is accessed with an offset of 02h (i.e., 037Ah, 027Ah, 03BEh, and 02BEh).

UNDERSTANDING THE PARALLEL PORT 999 ADDRESSES AND INTERRUPTS As you saw above, the conventional parallel port

Although a typical PC can theoretically support four LPT ports, it is extremely rare for a

PC to offer more than two ports. Even then, the IRQ for LPT2 (IRQ5) often conflicts with

the IRQ assigned to Sound Blaster-type sound boards.

During initialization, ports are checked in the following order: 03BCh, 0378h, 0278h, and 02BCh, and LPT designations are assigned depending on what ports are found, so LPT ad- dresses might be exchanged, depending on your particular system. The specific I/O addresses for each port are kept in the BIOS data area of RAM starting at 0408h (see Table 23-8). As you might expect, only one LPT port can be assigned to a base address. If more than one par- allel port is assigned to the same address, system problems will almost certainly occur. The use of interrupts gets a bit complicated. There are basically two modes of requesting new characters for the printer: polling and interrupt-driven. Polling is the most popular method where BIOS “polls” (or checks) the respective port’s status register to see if it is ready to accept another character—no interrupts are generated. An interrupt-driven inter- face is much more efficient, but can bog down other important operations during printing. For technicians who work on older machines, remember that address 03BCh was origi- nally reserved for a parallel port located on the IBM Monochrome Display Adapter (MDA). If you are servicing an older system with no video support on the motherboard, the address 03BCh might be reserved in the event you (for some reason) want to install an IBM MDA card. For newer systems with video support located on the motherboard, ad- dress 03BCh might be the first parallel port address. Always begin your service examination by checking the number of parallel ports in your system. Parallel ports are so simple and easy to add to various expansion cards, you can exceed the limit of four parallel ports without even knowing it. If more than four ports are active, a hardware conflict can result and crash the system—you will have to remove or disable the extra ports.

PARALLEL-PORT SIGNALS

 

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IBM and compatible PCs implement a parallel port as a 25 pin sub-miniature D-type female connector, similar to the one shown in Fig. 31-2. The parallel connection at the printer uses a 36-pin “Centronics-type” connector (Amphenol type 57-30360). The exact reasoning for this rather specialized connector is not clear because 11 pins of the Centronics connector

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

1 18 19 36 1 13 Centronics connector 14 25 Subminiature D-type connector
1
18
19
36
1
13
Centronics
connector
14
25
Subminiature
D-type
connector
FIGURE 31-2
FIGURE 31-2

A typical parallel cable assembly.

 

TABLE 31-1

PINOUTS FOR A CENTRONICS-TYPE PARALLEL CABLE

   

COMPUTER

PRINTER

END

END

DESIGNATION

DESCRIPTION

1

1

–STR

–Strobe

(send character)

2

2

D0

Data bit 0

3

3

D1

Data bit 1

4

4

D2

Data bit 2

5

5

D3

Data bit 3

6

6

D4

Data bit 4

7

7

D5

Data bit 5

8

8

D6

Data bit 6

9

9

D7

Data bit 7

10

10

–ACK

–Acknowledge

(character received)

11

11

BSY

Busy

(processing character)

12

12

PAPER

Paper out

(out of paper)

13

13

SEL

Select

(printer is on/off line)

14

14

–AF

–Auto feed

(line feed manual/automatic)

15

32

–ERROR

–Error

(printer error)

16

31

–INI

–Initialize

(reset the printer)

17

36

–DSL

–Device select

(master printer control)

18–25

19–30, 33

Ground

Common electrical ground

n/a

16

0 V

Open

n/a

17

Frame

Frame electrical ground

n/a

18

+5 Vdc

Remote voltage source

n/a

34, 35

n/a

Unused

will remain unused. Be concerned with three types of signals in parallel connections: data lines, control (or handshaking) lines, and ground lines. Table 31-1 identifies the name and description of each pin. The following section describes each signal. The pin numbers at both the PC and printer ends are listed for your reference. Also remember that all signals on the parallel port are compatible with TTL signal levels.

UNDERSTANDING THE PARALLEL PORT

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Data lines The data lines are conductors that carry information from the parallel port to (or from) the printer (or other peripheral). The eight data lines (D0 to D7) are located on pins 2 through 9. To reduce the effects of signal noise on parallel cables, each data line is given a corresponding data ground line (pins 18 to 25). Ground lines also provide a com- mon electrical reference between the computer and peripheral. The remainder of a paral- lel port is devoted to handshaking.

Initialize and select To ensure that the printer starts in a known initialized state, an –Initialize signal (–INI on pin 16) sent from the computer is used to reset a printer to the state it powered up in. Initializing the peripheral has the same effect as turning it off, then turning it on again. The –Initialize line is active-low, so the printer must apply a logic 0 to trigger an initialization. The select line (SEL on pin 13) tells the waiting computer that the peripheral is “on-line” and ready to receive data. Select is an active-high logic signal, so a logic 1 indicates that a device is on-line and ready, and a logic 0 indicates that the printer is not ready to receive data. The computer will not send data when the select line is logic 0. You can usually de- termine the select line’s general condition from the printer’s front-panel “on-line” light.

Strobe, busy, and acknowledge Once a computer has placed eight valid bits on the parallel data lines, the peripheral must be told that the data is ready. A –Strobe signal (–STR on pin 1) is applied to the peripheral from the computer just after data is valid. The brief –Strobe signal causes the peripheral to accept the byte and store it in the printer’s in- ternal buffer for processing. Under ideal circumstances, parallel ports can achieve data rates of up to 500,000 charac- ters per second. With such a tremendous throughput, the printer needs some method of co- ordinating data transfer—the computer must wait between characters until the printer is ready to resume accepting new characters. Printers use the Busy signal (BSY on pin 11) to delay the computer until the printer is ready. Peripherals drive the Busy line to logic 1 any time a –Strobe signal is received. The Busy signal remains logic 1 for as long as it takes the peripheral to prepare for the next byte. Notice that a Busy signal can delay the computer in- definitely if a serious peripheral error has occurred (e.g., paper exhausted or ribbon jammed). When the peripheral has received a byte and dealt with it, the peripheral must then request another character from the waiting computer. The printer drops the Busy line and initiates a brief –Acknowledge pulse (–ACK on pin 10). –Acknowledge signals are always active-low logic signals, and a typical acknowledge pulse lasts about 8 seconds. This interaction of data, –Strobe, Busy, and –Acknowledge signals handles the bulk of data transfer in a parallel port.

 

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Auto feed Some printers make the assumption that a carriage return signal (<CR>) will automatically advance the paper to the next line, while other printers simply return the car- riage to the beginning of the existing line without advancing the paper. Many printers make this feature selectable through the use of a DIP switch in the printer, but an –Auto Feed signal (–AF on pin 14) from the computer can control that feature. A TTL logic 0 from the computer causes the printer to feed one line of paper automatically when a car- riage return command is detected. A TTL logic 1 from the computer allows only a car- riage return (paper would have to be fed manually). Most computer parallel ports keep this line at logic 0.

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

Device select The –Device Select line (–DSL on pin 17) allows the computer to bring the peripheral on and off-line remotely. Many parallel ports leave this signal as a logic 0 so that peripherals will automatically accept data. A logic 1 on this line would inhibit printer operation.

Error The –Error signal (–Error on pin 15) generated by a printer (or other peripheral) tells the computer that trouble has occurred, but is not specific about the exact problem. A variety of problems can cause an error—it depends on your particular peripheral and what it is capable of detecting. The error line uses active-low logic, so it is normally logic 1 un- til an error has occurred. An –Error signal can typically indicate an “out of paper,” “printer offline,” or “general printer fault” error condition.

PORT OPERATION

This part of the chapter describes a standard sequence of events in a parallel port. The par- allel data transfer begins by placing the printer on-line. –Strobe and –Acknowledge must be TTL logic 1, while Busy must be logic 0. In this state, the peripheral can now accept a byte of data. When printing is attempted, the CPU polls the desired LPT port and checks its status register. If the post is ready, a byte is written to the data register, and passed to the peripheral. Data must be valid for at least 0.5 seconds before the computer initiates a logic 0 –Strobe. The printer responds by returning a logic 1 Busy signal, which changes the port’s status. Subsequent polling of the status register will indicate that the port is unavailable. The –Strobe pulse must last at least 1.0 s. Data must be held valid at least 0.5 s after the –Strobe pulse passes. This timing ensures that the peripheral has enough time to receive the data. Because Busy is now logic 1, communication stops until the data byte has been processed. Processing can take 1 ms if the printer’s buffer is not full. If the printer’s buffer is full, communication might be halted for one second or longer. After the data byte has been processed, Busy is dropped to logic 0 and the printer sends a 5.0-s logic 0 –Ac- knowledge pulse to request another data byte from the waiting computer. Once the –Ac- knowledge line returns to a TTL logic 1 condition, the interface is ready to begin a new transfer. The status register then indicates the port is ready. When the port is next polled, a new byte can be written. Figure 31-3 illustrates this relationship—one complete cycle can take a bit longer than 1 ms.

ADVANCED PARALLEL PORTS

The appeal of a parallel port is easy to understand—it is simple. While serial devices struggle with baud rates, stop bits, and parity (problems that continue to this day), parallel devices just plug into the 25-pin D-type connector, and away you go. The parallel port of- fered “Plug-and-Play” capability before the term ever became vogue. Although the paral- lel port has been a staple of PC communication, it certainly has not gone unchanged over the last 15 years. If you’ve been shopping for new computers or I/O boards over the last year or two, you’ve probably noticed the terms Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP) or En- hanced Capabilities Port (ECP) associated with the parallel port. With a recent IEEE 1284 parallel-port standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engi-

UNDERSTANDING THE PARALLEL PORT

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Select Initialize signals Busy Acknowledge Ptr selected New data request Data (D0–D8) Data Strobe transfer signals
Select
Initialize
signals
Busy
Acknowledge
Ptr selected
New data request
Data (D0–D8)
Data Strobe
transfer
signals
Busy
Acknowledge
Processing data
Old data processed
New data request
New data loaded
New data available
Paper replaced
Paper out
Paper out
Error
On-line or
Select
signals
select key
pressed
Busy
FIGURE 31-3
FIGURE 31-3

Typical parallel-port timing diagram.

neers (IEEE), the PC industry has finally moved past the parallel-port architecture, and embraced a truly improved parallel port. This part of the chapter compares the various parallel port “modes.”

Unidirectional ports The original PC utilized a unidirectional parallel port. That is, the port sent data only one way (from the PC to the peripheral device, which was almost always a printer). For the time, unidirectional communication was adequate for general- purpose PCs, and the parallel port became synonymous with “printer port.” Unidirectional ports reigned in the PC market until 1987 (around the time of the i386).

 

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“Type 1” bi-directional ports By 1987, IBM had launched its PS/2 line. Among the other technological advances in the PS/2, IBM incorporated a bi-directional parallel port. Now, bi-directional ports were hardly a breakthrough (older hobby-type PCs had used similar ports), but IBM was really the first to use a bi-directional port in a commercial PC. The bi-directional port was really not any faster or better than a uni-directional port, but the ability to send data back to the PC opened up the parallel port to other devices besides printers. Clone PC manufacturers jumped on the improvement, and bi-directional ports became common in almost all subsequent clones.

“Type 3” bi-directional ports One of the problems with bi-directional parallel ports is that they are CPU-intensive, requiring relatively large amounts of CPU attention to manage the transfer of data. Later models of the PS/2 (the 57, 90, and 95) made an attempt to in- crease the throughput of a parallel port by using Direct Memory Access (DMA) techniques. The DMA approach allows the CPU to define a block of memory (e.g., printer ASCII char-

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

acters) to be sent. A DMA controller takes over control from the CPU and transfers the data without CPU intervention—generally resulting in faster data transfer. This approach also worked when receiving data. Currently, Type 3 bi-directional ports are rarely used because today’s high-performance CPUs can transfer data much faster than a DMA process.

IEEE 1284 MODES

By the end of the 1980s, it was becoming clear that “conventional” bi-directional parallel ports were simply not adequate to handle the new generations of faster peripherals that were appearing for the parallel port (e.g., CD-ROMs, tape drives, and laser printers). The 150KB/s parallel transfer rates that were once considered speedy were now severely lim- iting the new peripherals. In 1991, a group of major PC manufacturers (including IBM, Lexmark, and Texas Instruments) formed the Network Printing Alliance (NPA) in an at- tempt to develop a new parallel-port architecture. In 1994, the IEEE (in conjunction with the NPA) released the Standard Signaling Method for a Bi-Directional Parallel Periph- eral Interface, also known as IEEE standard 1284. The IEEE 1284 does not define a single parallel approach, but instead outlines five dif- ferent operational modes for the parallel port: compatibility mode, nibble mode, byte mode, ECP mode, and EPP mode. All four modes offer some amount of bi-directional ca- pability (known under IEEE 1284 as back channel communication). When the 1284-com- pliant parallel port is initialized, it checks to see which operating mode is most appropriate.

Compatibility mode IEEE 1284 is fully backward-compatible with conventional par- allel-port technologies, where data is sent along eight data lines, the status lines are checked for errors and to see that the device is not busy, then a Strobe signal is generated to “push” the data into the device. As with ordinary parallel ports, the output of a single byte requires at least four I/O instructions. Data bandwidth is limited to 150KB/s.

1004 PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING acters) to be sent. A DMA controller takes over control from the

Whenever problems are encountered operating parallel-port devices, try setting the par-

allel port to Compatibility Mode in the CMOS setup.

Nibble mode The nibble mode (four bits at a time) is a simple means of receiving data back from a peripheral device in fewer I/O instructions, although it is very inefficient. When used by itself, the nibble mode is limited to about 50KB/s. In most practical imple- mentations of IEEE 1284, the nibble mode will rarely be used for more than gathering brief diagnostic or status information about the peripheral.

Byte mode The byte mode allows the PC to disable the hardware drivers normally used to operate parallel data lines, which allows the data lines to be used as an input port to the PC. When in the byte mode, a peripheral can send a full byte to the PC in only one I/O cy- cle. Thus, it is possible to acquire data from a peripheral much faster than would be pos- sible in the nibble mode.

ECP mode The Enhanced Capabilities Port (ECP) allows bi-directional data transfer within a single I/O cycle. When a transfer is requested, the port’s hardware will automat- ically perform all of the port synchronization and handshaking operations formally handled

TROUBLESHOOTING THE PARALLEL PORT

1005

by software-driven I/O cycles in the compatibility mode. When properly implemented, an ECP port can run from 800KB/s to 2MB/s, depending on the device at the port and the ca- ble quality between them.

EPP mode The Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP) is the apex of IEEE standard 1284. Like the ECP mode, EPP operation facilitated bi-directional data transfer in a single I/O cycle with the port hardware itself handling all synchronization and handshaking. EPP opera- tion also can run from 800KB/s to 2MB/s. However, EPP operation takes another step for- ward by treating the parallel port as an extension of the system bus—this allows multiple EPP devices to exist on the same port, while still remaining uniquely addressable (similar to a SCSI bus, where multiple devices can exist on the same bus).

ECP/EPP CABLE QUALITY

Conventional parallel ports are limited to cable lengths of about 10 feet (about 3 me- ters). Beyond that, cross-talk in the parallel cable can result in data errors. Ideally, high-quality, well-shielded cable assemblies can extend that range even more, but the cheap, mass-produced cable assemblies that you often find in stores are rarely suited to support communication over more than six feet (about two meters). To support the high-speed communication promised by IEEE 1284, a new cable specification also had to be devised. This is hardly a trivial concern—especially considering that IEEE 1284 seeks to extend parallel-port operation to as much as 30 feet (about 10 meters). Be sure to use an appropriate cable when configuring a parallel port in ECP or EPP modes.

IEEE 1284 ISSUES

Unfortunately, although the potential and promise of IEEE 1284 offers a lot of appeal, some serious considerations are involved in configuring an enhanced port arrangement. Specifically, you will need an IEEE 1284-compliant parallel port, cable, and peripheral (e.g., printer, tape drive, hard drive, etc.) to take full advantage of enhanced capabilities. Installing an IEEE 1284 parallel port is certainly not a problem—most current multi-I/O boards and late-model motherboards are now providing IEEE 1284-compliant ports. The trouble is that using a $5 printer cable with your old Panasonic KX-P1124 dot-matrix printer will just not provide any advantages. To start benefiting from an IEEE 1284 port, you will need at least an IEEE 1284 cable and a device with significant memory capacity (such as a laser printer). At that point, you might start to see some speed improvements, but the additional speed will still fall far short of the projected figures. Ultimately, you will need to install IEEE 1284-compliant peripherals that will provide ID information to the port and allow optimum performance.

 

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Troubleshooting the Parallel Port

Although the typical parallel port is a rather simple I/O device, it presents some special challenges for the technician. Older PCs provided their parallel ports in the form of 8-bit expansion boards—when a port failed, it was a simple matter to replace the board outright.

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

Today, however, virtually all PCs provide at least one parallel port directly on the mother- board—the feature usually supported by an “I/O Controller” component of the mother- board’s main chipset. When a problem is detected with a motherboard parallel port, a technician often has three choices:

Replace the chipset IC that supports the parallel port(s). This requires access to sur- face-mount soldering tools and replacement ICs, and can be quite economical in vol- ume. But this is a totally impractical solution for end-user troubleshooting. Set the motherboard jumpers (if possible) to disable the defective parallel port and in- stall an expansion “multi-I/O” board to take the place of the defective port. This as- sumes there is an available expansion slot. This uses an expansion slot, but offers a cheap, fast fix for a defective parallel port. Remember to disable all other unused ports of the multi-I/O board. Replace the motherboard outright. This simple tactic requires little overhead equip- ment, but can be rather expensive—a general solution of last resort if you can confirm the parallel port to be defective.

1006 PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING Today, however, virtually all PCs provide at least one parallel port directly

If a diagnostic cannot identify the presence of a physical parallel port (a loopback plug

might need to be attached), chances are that the port is defective.

TIPS TO FIX PARALLEL PORTS

Parallel ports are generally not complex devices, but some common issues show up regu- larly. Before you check out the symptoms later in this chapter, take a look at some of these points:

Check the cable You’d be surprised how many LPT problems are caused by loose, cheap, or damaged printer cables. Be sure that the cable is 6' or less in length, see that it is secure at both ends, and try a different cable (or try the cable in place of a known- good one). Beware of the port mode Remember that modern parallel ports can operate in several different modes such as “compatibility,” “ECP,” or “EPP.” Not all devices work prop- erly with ECP or EPP modes. If you have trouble with a printer or other parallel-port device, try setting the parallel port to “compatibility mode” in the CMOS setup. Beware of hardware conflicts LPT ports use IRQ7 and IRQ5. For systems with a sec- ond LPT port (LPT2), it is common for IRQ5 to conflict with IRQ5, which is almost al- ways used by sound boards. It might be necessary to reconfigure the sound board to use another IRQ or remove the sound board entirely. Careful for printer-driver conflicts This problem often arises with parallel-port de- vices, such as Iomega Zip drives or SyQuest SyJet drives. The drive software sends special reserved non-printable characters to the parallel port—this signals the drive to know the next data being placed on the parallel-port cable is for that drive (not the printer). Color printers and multiple-font printers can also be using some of these spe- cial characters for their printer setups. This can cause conflicts between the two drivers and make each unit (the printer and the parallel-port drive) look defective to the system.

TROUBLESHOOTING THE PARALLEL PORT

1007

Many printer companies, such as HP, are in the process of rewriting printer drivers to stay clear of these reserved non-printable characters, but some drivers still use these characters and will cause conflicts that cannot be resolved. The only way to correct this problem is to use one LPT port for the parallel-port drive and another LPT port for the printer. You should contact the printer manufacturer to see if they have updated drivers that will not interfere with the parallel-port device. Problems with printer-monitoring software Another form of driver conflicts happens with printer-monitoring software. Some companies, such as HP, have status drivers that monitor the printer’s status. If these printers are connected to the pass-through port of a parallel-port drive, the printer-monitoring drivers should be disabled. These drivers can also cause data corruption and system problems. Disabling status communications does not affect the printing.

SYMPTOMS

Symptom 31-1. You hear a beep code or see a POST error, indicating a

parallel-port error The system initialization might not halt, depending on how the BIOS is written. Low-level initialization problems generally indicate trouble in the com- puter’s hardware. If the computer’s beep-code sequence is indistinct, you could try re- booting the computer with a POST analyzer card installed. The BIOS POST code displayed on the card could be matched to a specific error explanation in the POST card’s documentation. Once you have clearly identified the error as a parallel-port fault, you can proceed with troubleshooting. Start with the system as a whole and remove any expansion boards that have parallel ports available. Retest the computer after removing each board. If the error disappears af- ter removing a particular card, then that card is likely at fault. You can simply replace the card with a new one, or attempt to repair the card to the component level. If there is only one parallel port in the system, it is most likely built into the motherboard. For older systems, the fault is probably in one or more of the discrete I/O ICs or latches directing the port’s operation. You will need to refer to the schematic(s) for your particu- lar system motherboard to determine exact signal flows and component locations. Newer system motherboards enjoy a far lower component count, so all parallel port circuitry is usually integrated onto the same application-specific IC (ASIC). A schematic would still be valuable to determine signal paths, but you could probably trace the parallel port con- nector directly to its controlling IC. Replace any defective components, or replace the motherboard outright.

 

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Symptom 31-2. A 9xx parallel adapter displayed on the XT or early AT sys-

tem BIOS has not located any parallel-circuit defects on initialization, but has been un- able to map LPT labels to the appropriate hardware-level ports. As in Symptom 31-1, the 9xx-series error codes usually indicate a hardware fault in the computer. Follow the pro- cedures in Symptom 31-1 to isolate and resolve the problem.

Symptom 31-3. The computer initializes properly, but the peripheral

(printer) does not work

Your applications software might indicate a “printer time-

out” or “general printer” error. Before you even open your tool kit, you must determine

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PARALLEL-PORT (CENTRONICS) TROUBLESHOOTING

whether the trouble lies in your computer or your peripheral. When your printer stops working, run a self test to ensure the device is at least operational. Check all cables and connectors (perhaps try a different cable). If the peripheral offers multiple interfaces, such as serial and parallel, be sure that the parallel interface is activated in the peripheral. Also be sure to check the software package being used (e.g., word processor, painting package, system diagnostic, etc.) to operate the printer. Ensure that the software is configured prop- erly to use the appropriate LPT port, and that any necessary printer driver is selected. If no software is available, you can try printing from the DOS command line using the <Shift> and <Print Screen> keys. This key sequence will dump the screen contents to a printer. Disconnect the printer at the computer and install a parallel loopback plug. Run a diag- nostic to inspect each available parallel port. Take note of any port(s) that register as de- fective. Locate the corresponding parallel port. If the port is installed as an expansion board, replace the defective expansion board. If the port is on the motherboard, you can replace the defective port-controller IC, install an alternate expansion board, or replace the motherboard outright.

Symptom 31-4. The peripheral (printer) will not go on-line Before data can be

transferred across a parallel port, proper handshaking conditions must exist: the Busy (pin 11) and Paper Out (pin 12) lines must be TTL logic 0, and the Select (pin 13) and –Error (pin 15) lines must be TTL logic 1. All four signals are outputs from the peripheral. You can examine these levels with an ordinary logic probe. If any of these signals is incorrect, the peripheral will not be on-line. First, try a new communication cable. An old or worn cable might have developed a fault in one or more connections. Next, try the computer with a different peripheral. If a new peripheral does come on-line, the error exists in the original peripheral’s parallel-port circuitry. If a different peripheral does not operate properly, the problem is with the computer’s parallel port. Examine and alter the computer configuration to ensure that there is no con- flict between multiple parallel ports. Disconnect the printer at the computer and install a parallel loopback plug. Run a diagnostic to inspect each available parallel port. Take note of any port(s) that register as defective. Locate the corresponding parallel port. If the port is installed as an expansion board, replace the defective expansion board. If the port is on the motherboard, you can replace the defective port-controller IC, install an alternate ex- pansion board, or replace the motherboard outright.

Symptom 31-5. Data is randomly lost or garbled Your first step should be to

check the communication cable. Be sure that the cable is intact and properly secured at both ends. The cable should also be less than six feet (about two meters) long. Very long cables can allow crosstalk to generate erroneous signals. If the cable checks properly, ei- ther the port or peripheral is at fault. Start by suspecting the parallel port. Disconnect the printer at the computer and install a parallel loopback plug. Run a diagnostic to inspect each available parallel port. Take note of any port(s) that register as defective. Locate the corresponding parallel port. If the port is installed as an expansion board, replace the de- fective expansion board. If the port is on the motherboard, you can replace the defective port controller IC, install an alternate expansion board, or replace the motherboard outright. If you cannot test the computer’s parallel port directly, test the port indirectly by trying the peripheral on another known-good computer. If the peripheral works properly on an-

FURTHER STUDY

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other computer, the trouble is probably in the original computer’s parallel-port circuitry. Replace any defective circuitry or replace the motherboard. If the peripheral remains de- fective on another computer, the peripheral itself is probably faulty.

Symptom 31-6. You see a continuous “paper out” error—even though pa- per is available and the printer’s paper sensor works properly Plenty of pa-

per is installed in the printer and you have already checked the paper sensor. Try another printer. If another printer works, the problem is in your original printer, not in the parallel port. Use a logic probe and check the Paper Out signal at the computer. Try removing and re-inserting paper while the printer is running. You should see the Paper Out signal vary between a TTL logic 0 (paper available) and a TTL logic 1 (paper missing). If the signal remains TTL logic 1, regardless of paper availability, the printer’s sensor or communica- tion circuits are probably defective. If the Paper Out signal correctly follows the paper availability, the trouble is probably in your computer’s communication circuitry. If you suspect that the problem is in the parallel port, disconnect the printer at the com- puter and install a parallel loopback plug. Run a diagnostic to inspect each available par- allel port. Take note of any port(s) that register as defective. Locate the corresponding parallel port. If the port is installed as an expansion board, replace the defective expansion board. If the port is on the motherboard, you can replace the defective port-controller IC, install an alternate expansion board, or replace the motherboard outright.

Further Study

That’s all for Chapter 31. Be sure to review the glossary and chapter questions on the ac- companying CD. If you have access to the Internet, take a look at some of these parallel- port resources:

LPT Ports and Parallel Drives: http://syquest.com/support/papers.html HP: http://www.hp.com

 

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SYSTEM DATA AND TROUBLESHOOTING