Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. If you are using a later version (Word 2007 or later), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for later versions of Word, click here: Understanding Background Printing.

Understanding Background Printing

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated May 12, 2017)


Word includes a feature called background printing. When you use this feature, Word spools your document to disk, and then feeds it to the Windows printing system as fast as possible. When background printing is turned off, Word stops everything and sends your document to Windows right away.

If you are working with short documents, you will notice little difference in using background printing. If you are printing long documents, however, there can be quite a bit of difference. With background printing turned on, you can continue to work in Word even when the program is sending a long document to the printer. This can be a huge benefit. On the other hand, if you have background printing turned off, your long documents may print faster, but you will not be able to use Word while the printing is being done.

To control background printing, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Print tab is selected. (See Figure 1.)
  3. Figure 1. The Print tab of the Options dialog box.

  4. In the Printing Options area of the dialog box, note the setting of the Background Printing check box. If it is selected, background printing is enabled; if it is cleared, background printing is turned off.
  5. Click on OK when you are finished.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (1017) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003. You can find a version of this tip for the ribbon interface of Word (Word 2007 and later) here: Understanding Background Printing.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Multiple Line Headers and Footers

When working with headers and footers in a macro, you might find this tip helpful. It describes how you can create ...

Discover More

Booklet Printing in Word

Need to create a booklet with Word? Depending on your version, it could be as easy as changing how you print your final ...

Discover More

Underlining a Number in a Numbered List

Word allows you to format the numbers that appear in a numbered list, but what if you want to underline only a single ...

Discover More

Do More in Less Time! Are you ready to harness the full power of Word 2013 to create professional documents? In this comprehensive guide you'll learn the skills and techniques for efficiently building the documents you need for your professional and your personal life. Check out Word 2013 In Depth today!

More WordTips (menu)

Printing AutoCorrect Entries

If you want to print a list of all the AutoCorrect entries in your document, Word doesn't provide a method. You can use ...

Discover More

Controlling Where a Full-page Border is Printed

When you add full-page borders to your document, you may be bothered to find out that one or more sides of the border ...

Discover More

Printing Only Selected Pages

I often need to print only select pages of a document, rather than the whole thing. Word makes it easy to be judicious in ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is five less than 8?

2013-11-29 18:49:11

georgia wisbey

hello there. I am desperate! I tried to cancel background printing but my documents are still only printing images. I have windows 7. PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW TO CANCEL A BLANK PAGE FOR ALL MY DOCS THAT NEED PRINTING! PLEASE CALL ME, IF AT ALL POSSIBLE , 0777 994 8676/0208 502 2825 or advise! MANY THANKS esp as I have a university doc to print by sunday and have been trying to do this for two weeks and cannot afford anymore outside printint! xx

This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the menu interface (Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, or Word 2003)? This site is for you! If you use a later version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the ribbon interface.

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.