Can barcode scanners read all barcodes?

In this generation, barcode scanners and barcodes are two essential things we come across often in our daily life activities. And from these day-to-day uses, a powerful query may arise that whether all barcode scanners can read and process all types of barcodes or not. There are numerous types of barcode scanners that can scan specific kinds of barcodes.

Can barcode scanners read all barcodes?

Also, the barcode must possess some criteria to become readable by a scanner. This article will be solely dedicated to answering this query regarding barcode scanners and the types of barcodes that you can scan with them. 

Can Barcode Scanners Read all Barcodes?

The shortest and simplest answer to this question is no. Not all barcode scanners can read all barcodes. However, this is not that simple. Let us discuss, in detail, which barcode scanners can properly read a specific kind of barcodes. 

Generally, you’ll see two kinds of barcodes: the 1D barcodes and the 2D barcodes. The most commonly used variant of barcodes is the 1D ones, such as UPC. These are the ones with black widths and spaces of white between them running horizontally. 

The 2D variant is a bit more complex than this. Some examples of the 2D variant of barcodes are the Data Matrix and QR codes. You can see QR codes on your phone while purchasing something online or while transferring WhatsApp data. This 2D variant uses complex structures like hexagons and squares to store information or data. 

As already mentioned before, you can read specific barcodes by only using the applicable barcode scanner. The laser barcode scanners (commonly seen in shopping malls) use laser technology and can read only 1D barcodes. The imagers or camera-based ones are the 2D barcode scanners and the most advanced type.

They can easily read both 1D and 2D barcodes and can transfer data to the required computer. So, the simplest conclusion is 1D laser scanners read only 1D barcodes, but the 2D camera-based scanners can read both 1D and 2D barcodes. 

Can Barcode Scanners Read all Barcodes 2
Can barcode scanners read all barcodes?

Will I be able to access barcode scanners through tape?

Tape is no big deal for barcode scanners. It can read fine through tape. Supposedly, there is a wrapping of tape around the barcode scanner or wrapping over a product covering the barcode. There should not be any problem for the barcode scanners to read data from the barcodes in both cases.

However, it is always preferred without any tape as it works as an extra barrier and makes it tough for barcode scanners to function properly. But anyway, a good-quality barcode scanner can do this job with ease. 

Which barcode scanners can read QR codes?

Now you know that there are typically two kinds of barcodes 1D and 2D. QR codes belong to the latter one, the 2D barcodes. The 1D barcodes are simple and have black and white bars that go straight from right to left, storing information. In comparison, the 2D barcodes are more complex in structure and contain black dots and squares in a square or hexagonal boundary to store the required data.

Only imager barcode scanners (camera-based) or simply 2D barcode scanners can read these kinds of 2D barcodes. Firstly, we require the take a full image of the 2D barcode and then, with the help of the decoding algorithms, the information that the 2D barcode (QR code) becomes extractable.

If you have a 2D scanner, you can use it for QR codes and for reading 1D barcodes, Aztec codes, and Data Matrix.

Reading Phone Screens With barcode scanners

In this modern age, when making online payments with the help of your phone is a trend, it is undoubtedly important that phone screens should be able to read and process different kinds of barcodes. To make your phone function as a barcode scanner, a 2D barcode imaging scanner should be there on your phone. And you can do it the other way around also. A 2D image scanner can read barcodes from your mobile screen easily.

Many factors can affect the 2D image-based barcode scanner from reading the barcodes from your phone’s screen properly. Some of them can be your lack of experience in using 2D image scanners, abrupt levels of screen brightness, the polarization of screen, extensive surface gloss, etc.

Proper angles for barcode scanners to read barcodes

For 1D barcode scanners to function properly, the angle you hold it to read the barcode is crucial. We can see the best results when we hold it precisely perpendicular to the horizontal series of black and white lines forming the 1D barcode. 

2D barcodes are quite flexible when it comes to angles. With any angle whatsoever, it can give a quick reading of both 1D and 2D barcodes. 

Colors of barcode which a barcode scanner can read

Barcode scanners can’t read all kinds of colors or color combinations. For barcode scanners to read properly, the contrast between the two colors of barcodes must be dominant. That is why in most of the barcodes, you will notice only black and white color combinations. Black and white together make a great contrast, and it becomes easy for barcode scanners to read it properly.

With white in the background, other than black, dark colors like dark blue, dark brown, dark green can be appropriate. To mention some good color combinations of barcode colors, they can be black with red, white, or yellow in the background, blue or white, with yellow or red in the background, white or green, with light red or yellow in the background.

Some color combinations that can create problems for barcode scanners to read are red and green, black and brown, red and green, black and blue, etc.

Some common issues in barcode scanners 

There can be various reasons for which barcode scanners won’t work properly. 
Some of them we can mention are:

Low contrast: makes barcodes almost unreadable. For barcode scanners to read properly, the difference between the light and dark colors in the barcode must be prominent.

Improper angle: This especially happens in 1D barcodes. Hold the scanners perpendicularly upright to the horizontal barcode for normal functioning. 

Printing problems: Inconsistent distribution of ink on the barcodes can cause trouble reading it. With inconsistent ink, the contrast of the barcode becomes disrupted. 

Poor Printing Quality or Damage: If the printing quality of the barcode is poor, high chance that it will be often unreadable. For example, if the distance between the dark and light colors is inappropriate, the bar code scanner will not work properly. (Inadequate quiet zone). 

Another common problem can be inappropriate color combinations of the barcode. We discussed the applicable color combinations of barcodes above. 


We hope to answer all your queries related to the significant question “Can all barcode scanners read all barcodes?”. According to the types of barcodes and barcode scanners, the readability factor depends. We, in detail, discussed what kind of barcode scanners you require to scan a particular type of barcode.

Sometimes, it can be possible that you try to scan a barcode with a suitable barcode scanner, and it still does not work. In that case, the problem is not compatibility but something other than that. 

Avatar for Jaren Helms

Jaren worked for over a decade in the industry as a Package Handler. He started his career with FedEx but he later also worked with companies like USPS and Deutsche Post.

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