Your scanners not reading correctly?


Barcode scanner

Why Is My Barcode Scanner Not Reading Correctly? Troubleshooting Tips

For retailers, a properly functioning barcode scanner is essential. When your scanner starts having issues reading barcodes, it can really frustrate everyone struggling to get labels to scan. In a worst-case scenario, you may revert to tedious manual price and inventory lookups.

But before you panic and call for a scanner replacement, you can take several easy troubleshooting steps to get your existing unit back up and running. In this post, we'll explore why barcode scanners suddenly struggle to read labels. And we'll provide actionable tips to diagnose and resolve your scanner woes.

Common Causes of Scanning Difficulties

When a previously reliable barcode scanner goes haywire, the problem typically boils down to one of several factors:

Dirty Scan Window

The #1 issue is usually a dirty scanner window filled with dust, fingerprints, or other debris. The scan window is the glass area where the beam shines when reading barcodes. Even a small amount of smudging or particulates on this glass can interfere with the scanning process.

Scan windows get dirty for a couple of key reasons:

  • Touching: People touching the scanner window and inadvertently getting fingerprints on the glass.
  • Dust and dirt accumulation: Gradual buildup of dust. This is a typical problem in our dusty store environments.

If this is the problem, then cleaning scanners is straightforward. 

First, inspect the scan window glass for any obstruction or damage:

  • Does the window have smudges, fingerprints, dust, or debris that could interfere with barcode reading?
  • Are there any cracks, scratches or impacts on the glass that could cause problems?

If the window needs cleaning, follow these steps:

  • Unplug the scanner from the power and host device.
  • Gently wipe down the window using a microfiber designed to clean optical glass surfaces.
  • Avoid using liquids; dry dusting is usually sufficient to clean scan windows.
  • Use a tiny amount of isopropyl alcohol on the cloth to help cut through oils only if really needed.
  • Finish by using a dry microfiber.

A: Cleaning in 80% of the time fixes the problem.

Misaligned Window

Barcode scanners also rely on perfectly aligned scan windows to read labels. In shops today, scanners often get dropped. This drop can cause the barcode scanner window to be thrown off its proper alignment. What happens then is suddenly, your scanner has trouble sweeping across barcodes.

A: You must inspect your scanner to check for misalignment issues on the scan window. In some cases, you can do a realignment manually.

Failing Laser or Motor

Barcode scanners are mechanical devices; like any device, they eventually degrade over time. Components age, the scanner gets weaker, and sometimes the motor slows down. This hampers sweeping smooth and fast enough across barcodes.

Diagnosing weak lasers requires specialised scanner testing tools. If the problem is the motor, sometimes you can hear unusual noise. 

A: In my experience, these failures often mean replacing the scanner, as they are rarely worth fixing.

Damaged Cable Connections

Cable connections between the scanner and register can become damaged. This could be due to normal wear and tear, getting pulled too hard, or cable pinched or crimped. Bad connections cause scanning interruptions and error codes.

A: Carefully inspect cables and connections for any damage. Swap in new wires to isolate the problem. Damaged cables will need replacement, while loose connections just need to be pushed in.

Software Misconfiguration

Software settings related to barcode and scanner operation can also get misconfigured. Suddenly, the scanner may fail. 

A: Call us if you need to reset your scanner or review its settings.

Failing Commputer Connection

Scanners connect to POS registers, computers, or other host devices that relay barcode data. Sometimes the problem is in the computer ports.

A: I suggest you test the scanner on another computer.

Final Note:

Getting your barcode scanner back up and running can generally be resolved using the above troubleshooting techniques. The key is methodically going through the potential failure points above step by step. With a little diligence and patience, you'll likely have your scanner scanning again quickly. 


Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions. Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.