Sometimes called "Xerox copies," photocopies are produced by machines made by many different manufacturers. Xerox is a brand name; others include IBM, Toshiba, Kyocera, Hewlett-Packard, Canon, Brother, Fujitsu and Epson. No matter the manufacturer, photocopier functions are essentially the same.

Making Copies From an Original

Instructions on how to use a photocopy machine can be straightforward. The simplest machines allow you to make copies by placing the original on the flat platen glass beneath the copier lid. Markings on the machine guide you in positioning your document. Manual placement of the item to be copied is useful for single copies, odd-sized originals and when copying from pages of a catalog or book. Press the "Start" button after loading your document.

Using the Automated Document Feeder

Many copiers have an automated document feeder (ADF) that allows you to load multiple originals at the same time. Depending on your machine, you place documents in a top- or side-loading feeder, typically face up. Before loading the documents, remove any staples, paper clips or binder clips. Fan the pages to discharge any static electricity. Smooth any pages that are wrinkled or bent.

Photocopier Functions and Options

Before pressing the "Start" button, select the options you want to apply to your copying job. Options are displayed in drop-down menus or by icons or in a combination of the two. Depending on your machine, you may be able to choose from the following:

  • Number of copies: Using the numeric keypad, select the number of copies you want to make of the original document.

  • Reduce/enlarge: Select from automatically formatted sizes or, if available, use the numeric keypad to specify the percentage by which you want the document reduced or enlarged.

  • Color or monochrome: Most machines default to monochrome (black, white and shades of gray) because it is the least expensive option. You may have to select color printing manually.

  • Single or double-sided: Some copiers can flip a two-sided document or take two single sheets and print them as one double-sided sheet. 

  • Finishing: Stapling, hole-punching and collating are typical finishing options when printing multiple copies of originals that have many pages.

Operating a Multifunction Printer

A multifunction printer (MFP) combines a printer with a color copier. Besides copying and printing, MFPs can fax and scan to email, USB and cloud-based services. Options are usually selected by touching icons or using drop-down menus on the top of the machine.

Copier Troubleshooting

It's frustrating when a copier isn't working, but sometimes a simple fix is all that's required. Before calling a repair technician, check the following:

  • Is the machine plugged in? It seems obvious, but it's the first thing a tech asks when you call for service. If a copier is moved, especially if it's moved accidentally, the plug can become partially or fully disengaged from the socket. Check to see that the plug is firmly seated in the outlet holes.

  • Is the machine turned on? Again, an obvious solution, but one that bears mentioning. Most copiers need a warm-up period when they are initially turned on for the day. Some go into a power-saving mode if the machine is idle for a specified period. All you may need to do is press "Start" and wait a few minutes for the machine to power up.

  • Is the paper tray empty? Do you need to replace ink or toner cartridges? Most machines have indicators that let you know when the printer has run out of paper or ink.

  • Is there a paper jam? If the paper is slightly wrinkled or has a bent corner, it could feed improperly through the machine, causing a paper jam. Static electricity can sometimes cause several sheets to stick together, which can also result in a jam. Again, an indicator light usually tells you when this occurs. Some copiers even have icons that show you where the jam is located and what steps you need to take to dislodge the paper and restart the copy process.

If you have questions about photocopier functions or troubleshooting, consult instructions on how to use a photocopy machine. You may have a printed manual that came with your machine. If not, manufacturers usually have a manual and some form of support on their websites.