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  Okidata Dot Matrix Printer Frequently Asked Questions

We often have customers that ask the following questions so we have compiled this list for your benefit.

1. Why should I use a dot matrix printer instead of an inkjet printer or laser printer?
Answer:  Dot matrix printers are impact printers meaning that they have a number of pins that actually strike the paper (hitting the ribbon first of course).  This allows the use of carbon or carbonless paper copies to be made at the time of printing.  If you were to use a nonimpact printer such as an inkjet printer or laser printer then you would have to make a photocopy if copies are needed - not a very professional or time saving task.

Dot matrix printers are typically used for Point of Sale (POS) printing, barcode and other label printing, to printer invoices, statements, reports, logs, and other general purpose printer uses. Dot Matrix Printers are extremely cheap to operate only requiring a routine low cost ribbon change from time to time.

Note that some people call dot matrix printers line printers.  This is not strictly correct as dot matrix printers don't print a line at a time - they print a character at a time. Dot matrix printers are also called impact printers for obvious reasons.

2. Is a 24 pin dot matrix printer better than a 9 pin dot matrix printer?
Answer:  24 pin dot matrix printers generally have the ability to print more detailed copy than 9 pin printers but not to a great degree.  Before the days of cheap laser printers, having a 24 pin printer for finely detailed work was important - things have changed now.  If you are considering a 9 pin or 24 pin printer, the most important and first consideration should be whether your software requires a 9 pin or 24 pin printer.  If your software will work with both types of printers, then the next most important considerations are the features that you need like printer speed, feed path, automatic paper tear capability, wide or narrow carriage, and whether you have other similar printers (for consumables).  It is our opinion that 9 pin printers offer the best bang for the buck in most cases.  One obvious exception is the Pacemark 3410 and Pacemark 4410 printers.  If high speed, heavy duty printing is required, these printers can not be beat.

3. I use tractor paper that is 9 inches wide but your printers are not rated for 9 inches. Why?
Answer:  Tractor paper has a perforated border on the left and right sides of the printable portion of the paper.  This border is 1/4 inch on each side - hence the 1/2 inch difference.  Printers are rated for the printable area only so for a typical narrow carriage dot matrix printer which prints 8 1/2 by 11, you will buy 9 by 11 tractor feed paper.

4. I need a serial interface card for my Okidata dot matrix printer.  Can you provide it?
Answer:  Yes!  We have the serial interfaces for several Okidata dot matrix printers and laser printers.  To find it, scroll to the bottom of the dot matrix page under the title of "Accessories and Options for Dot Matrix Printers". Serial interfaces are available for the ML184, ML320, ML320T, ML321, ML321T, ML390T, ML391T, ML420, ML421, ML490, ML491, ML520, ML521, ML590, and ML591.  The PM 3410 and PM 4410 come standard with both serial and parallel interfaces.  The ML184Turbo can be bought as a serial printer if desired.  We also have serial interfaces for several Okidata laser (LED) printers. You will find those at the bottom of the Laser Printer Page.  See below for comments about serial cables.

5. Do you have the serial cable for my Okidata printer?
Answer:  Yes! We have a serial cable that will work on most serial dot matrix and laser printers.  It is a DB9 to DB25 null modem cable.  If the communications port on your computer has a DB25 connector, you will also need the 9 to 25 adapter for this cable.  We can also provide a DB25 to RJ45 serial adapter if necessary.  To find these items, place the word "cable" in the search window (located at the top right side of each web page).

Please note that these cables and adapters are shipped out of our Myrtle Beach warehouse and will arrive separately from any other items you order.

6. Do you have printheads for Okidata dot matrix printers?
Answer:  Yes! Although printheads are never cheap, we have the best prices possible.  You can find the printheads on the menu located on the top left side of each page.  Look under Dot Matrix Printers. Please note that the pictures that you see of printheads on this site are generic pictures and your printhead will probably look somewhat different - order the correct part number and you'll get the correct item.

7. Do you know where we can find a sound enclosure for our printer?
Answer:  No.  We no longer have a source to sound enclosures.  If you are a sound enclosure manufacturer, please contact us.

8. I ordered an ML-184Turbo and it will not work with my software.  What is wrong?
Answer:  You probably ordered the wrong printer!  Almost everyone needs the ML-184Turbo IBM not the one that says "Standard".  This refers to the software emulation or printer language that the printer expects to see coming from your software.  Okidata has several printers that can cause this confusion.  Make sure you have contacted your software support folks before deciding which printer to order.  The ML-320Turbo DEC and ML-321 DEC printers can also cause this confusion. DEC refers to Digital Equipment Corporation.  Printers marked as "DEC" will work on DEC computers only.

9. I need a ribbon but because of your minimum order requirement I'll have to order several printer ribbons.  Will they go bad?
Answer:  Our ribbons are genuine Okidata ribbons and they are in sealed packaging but if you order several ribbons, we recommend that you place your spare ribbons, packaging and all, in a zip-lock bag until needed.  This will help to insure that your ribbons are fresh even after months on the shelf.  Do not open sealed ribbons until needed.  Please read the following note about printheads and clone ribbons!

10. I replaced my printhead not long ago but it has gone bad again.  Why?
Answer:  The most likely cause is that you are not replacing your ribbons until the print quality is very poor.  In other words, you are probably letting the printouts get real light.  This is one of the worse things you can do to a dot matrix printer.  Most people don't know this but the ribbon serves a dual purpose:  it transfers ink onto the paper and it lubricates the pins on the printhead.  When you let the ink on the ribbon nearly dry out, there is no lubrication of the printhead and it burns out.  Change your ribbon fairly regularly - it's much cheaper than a new printhead!

Another thing to consider is "Are my clone ribbons lubricating the printhead properly?" 
Any money you save on clone ribbons could very well cost you a very expensive printhead!

11. Can I use an Okidata dot matrix printer to print a book (or recipes, etc, etc)?
Yes you can, BUT... Although dot matrix printers can print almost anything, they are best suited for certain tasks and less suited for others. You must understand, that under Windows, dot matrix printers will default to printing in "graphics mode". In this mode, the computer sends information to the printer dot by dot (pin by pin in other words) and makes the printer print extremely slow but the resulting printout will be very nice and things like pictures and logos will print.  In this mode, the time to print even one page will be extreme!  There is a way to configure Windows to send just characters to the printer and in this mode the printer will be much, much faster but then you loose the capability to print graphics. To print in this mode, choose "Generic Text Only Printer" as your printer driver in Windows for this dot matrix printer.

What does all this mean?  It boils down to this: if you need multiple copies (carbon copy) or need to use tractor paper then a dot matrix printer probably is the way to go.  If you just need one copy and if you need to print fast then we recommend that you invest in an LED page printer, commonly called a laser printer. 

No dot matrix printer on the planet has the print quality and speed of a laser printer.  No laser printer can print carbon copies or use tractor paper.

So, what do you do?  Most companies have multiple printers with each performing the tasks they were designed to do.

12. I have a GE (General Electric) printer and need a replacement. I'm pretty sure it is really an Okidata printer but what model is it and what model do I need for replacement?
You're right, it probably is an Okidata printer. See:
GE to Okidata Printer Conversions

13. What is the warranty on the Okidata printer parts that you sell?
We sell genuine Okidata items and they have a complete manufacturer's warranty. The printers are warrantied for one year or more. Replacement parts such as gears, levers, etc, are warrantied by Okidata for 90 days in most cases.

14. I use my dot matrix printer in a program that operates under Microsoft Windows and the printer is extremely slow. What's wrong?
This is NOT a problem with your printer. It's a problem with your choice of printer drivers.

Under Windows, dot matrix printers will default to printing in "graphics mode". In this mode, the computer sends information to the printer dot by dot (pin by pin in other words) and makes the printer print extremely slow but the resulting printout will be very nice and things like pictures and logos will print.  In this mode, the time to print even one page will be extreme!  There is a way to configure Windows to send just characters to the printer and in this mode the printer will be much, much faster but then you loose the capability to print graphics.

So, the solution to your problem is to choose "Generic Text Only Printer" as your printer driver in Windows for this dot matrix printer. You will find it listed in My Computer/Printers then Add New Printer or Properties for an existing printer. Ask your computer support people to help - if they have been in the business more than a day, they should know how to fix this problem.

Note that ALL dot matrix printers will exhibit this "symptom" - not just Oki dot matrix printers.

15. I had to replace my carriage motor and my printer is not that old. What caused it to fail so soon?
Answer:  The ribbon cartridge on Oki dot matrix printers use the carriage motor to turn the ribbon. What we have found is that people want to save a $1 on the ribbon so they buy clone ribbons and those ribbons put a strain on the carriage motor. After a short time, the motor gives out. It's not a defect in the motor or the design of the printer - it's the use of defective clone ribbons that has probably caused your problem.

Remember. If you find a Oki dot matrix printer ribbon cheaper than on our site then it has to be a clone ribbon. You risk damaging your carriage motor and your printhead by using these inferior ribbons! You've been warned.

16. I need a printer driver for my Okidata printer. Where can I get it?
Answer:  If you are operating your printer under the Windows operating system, you probably already have the driver but in case you can not find it or if you would like a newer driver,
That page will link you to drivers, operator manuals, technical tips, and much more.

17. I see that you now offer a new ML420 printer. Can I use it instead of the ML320 turbo?
Answer:  Absolutely and we recommend that you do so. The ML320 Turbo printer is a workhorse printer for sure but it is starting to show its age. The new microline 400 series printers are exceptional printers and were designed to replace the ML300 and ML500 series printers without any problem at all. They have been named in such a manner that lets you know which one is correct for you. For instance:

ML320 --> ML420
ML520 --> ML420
ML321 --> ML421
ML521 --> ML421
ML390 --> ML490
ML590 --> ML490
ML391 --> ML491
ML591 --> ML491

Don't forget, in addition to the decreased down-time and longer ribbon life, you will get a 3 year warranty as standard - something no other printer manufacturer offers to our knowledge.

18. What are the power requirements for Oki Data dot matrix printers?
See chart below for specific models and ratings:

Oki Printer Product
Idle Mode Power Consumption
Typical Print Mode Power Consumption
ML184 Turbo
120VAC +/- 10%
120VAC +6 / -15%
ML320/1 Turbo
120VAC +/- 10%
ML390/1 Turbo
120VAC +5.5 / -10%
120VAC +6 / -15%
120VAC +6 / -15%
ML520/1 ML590/1
120VAC +5.5% / -15%
120VAC +10% / -15%
120VAC +5.5% / -15%
120VAC +5.5% / -15%


OKI® - The Official Printer of Small Business™.

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