/ Technology

Has a printer update rendered your cartridges redundant?

Printer software update

You fire up your PC, turn on your printer and send a file to print and then… ‘cartridge not recognised’. The printer won’t print. So what’s changed since yesterday? You may be the latest victim of a printer update.

Third-party ink cartridges are generally a fraction of the price of printer-branded inks, but we’ve heard reports of printer updates rendering these cartridges unusable.

We asked Which? members to share their printing problems and a number of them sounded like they related to software updates. However, with some printers set to automatically update, it can be hard to pin a specific problem to a specific update. Ian C told us:

‘I bought compatible inks. After a few weeks they suddenly stopped working, with a message saying they were incompatible. Replaced them with new ones but had the same problem.’

Tony G had a similar experience:

‘Lo and behold, my printer has started rejecting – that is, not printing when I use third-party cartridges – but when I then replace them with printer-branded ones it seems to work fine.’

We tried updating the firmware on three second-hand printers in our lab and the printers worked just as well with third-party ink before updating as they did afterwards. So updates won’t always stop your cartridges from being recognised.

HP printers rejecting ink cartridges

However, there have been some very recent victims. Just last week we heard a number of reports from members whose HP printers have stopped working with the third-party inks.

Mr White’s printer ink cartridges have been affected by the latest update:

‘I own an HP 3055A printer which uses the popular 301 cartridge, today I changed the cartridges and find that the printer will no longer print as it detects that a non-HP cartridge has been installed. A printer update was reported as being available from HP when I turned the printer on – on the 7 March – and I updated prior to installing the new cartridges. After installing the new cartridge the information screen on the printer showed the message “incompatible cartridge detected”.’

Rob Stone has also suffered at the hands of a recent update to his HP Officejet 6600 and said:

‘I’ve been using third-party inks with no issues for several months. It was when I accidentally ran an HP update from my PC that the problem occurred. The error message said “There is a problem with the printer ink or system. Turn printer off, then on. If problem persists, contact HP”. It prevents me from moving to any other menu on the printer.’

Your right to use third-party printer inks

As iPhone 6 users suffering at the hands of the ‘Error 53’ message know only too well, update issues aren’t only a problem for printers. But, fortunately for affected phone users, Apple released a fix.

It may not be quite so simple to roll back a printer update. We’ve previously spoken to printer manufacturers about software updates, with Brother, Canon and Epson telling us that reverting to a previous firmware version wasn’t usually possible at all. HP stood out from the crowd by saying that you could roll ball its updates, but it’s not an obvious or simple process.

In light of this latest glut of update issues, we’ve approached HP to find out what’s causing the problem and whether it’ll be possible for those affected to get their printers working with their inks again.

You absolutely should be able to choose to use third-party ink in your printer. The big consumer printer brands have all signed up to a voluntary agreement which includes a provision around not preventing third-party ink from being used in their printers.

If you’ve suffered a ‘printerruption’ as result of a printer software update – or which you suspect is as a result of a recent update – we want to hear about it.

Susan says:
11 January 2020

Thanks for explanation! At least i found solution for my problem.

Never thought i will use any other cartridges except original ones. But since i tried one of the compatible cartridges from another manufacturer, now i will never return to original ones:) And it is really a blessing that there are a lot of good cartridge providers (if you are interested i’m using this one https://smartink.pro/uk/) so you will always could find the best option for your printer.

By the way, i think, compatible cartridges sometimes even last longer. But it is only my opinion…

Rose White says:
13 January 2020

I just had my Epson Xp245 refuse to recognise compatible.
Ink company sending another pack so I’ll try them tomorrrow.
Then I was horrified to check latest genuine Epson cartriges and £45.
We need the Trade Authorities to check why we are paying through the nose and how cost can be reduced.

Ralph says:
21 January 2020

My Epson XP-235 just stopped accepting compatible cartridges (now incompatibles).
I moved to the Philippines last year from the UK. Epson don’t even sell original cartridges here – for any model so it’s not even like they are trying to compete with my (in)compatibles.
So I moved here with a supply for a couple of years. Now none of them work.

Thanks Epson. Won’t be buying your products again ever.

julia says:
24 January 2020

my XP-640 started telling me the ink was incompatable

28 January 2020

update on my epson 440 xp, had no problem with ink that was 3rd party, after update it refuses to use the same ink it was using the day before that i just bought it printed 20 pages just fine until their update

Ron Brown says:
6 February 2020

I have had Epson and Canon printers that worked fine, until I put 3rd party ink cartridges in, then they either worked for a few days and quit, or just right after the ink change, I get an Out of Paper message, that couldn’t be cleared even after putting back the original manufacture ink cartridges.. This can’t be a coincidence . Obviously this was done to prevent you from buying other than the manufacture ink which is way over priced.. Evidently price gouging is ok in the printer world..

Steve BEESLEY says:
16 February 2020

My Epson Workforce Pro WF 51-90 is refusing to work with what it calls ‘incompatible cartridges’ despite the fact that it was working with the same cartridges before Epson updated the drivers (I had prevented this from happening but either Epson forced the update or someone here at home accidently allowed it).

Having avoided using expensive Epson in cartridges for years, without much problem, my printer has finally refused to let me print and I can find no way of clearing the ‘Cartridge Unknown’ message. I have tried everything including re-installing my printer, online advice on resetting and rebooting and going back to default. How do they get away with this, I am so angry and fed up I am off to see if I can buy any printer that doesn’t act like Big Brother and just does it’s job! I will never buy another Epson product.

Marcel says:
24 February 2020

Epson WF 3720. Stopped printing after firmware update last year.
Funny enough it kept on printing with the non-Epson ink, but when I replaced it with another non-Epson it stopped transferring ink.
It emptied out the ink still in the system and then went blank for the changed colour.
Having purchased other non-Epson ink but from another brand the problem remained.
Frustrated I purchased original Epson ink, to find the ink was getting to the print head again. Slowly but steadily the colour came back.

This has been a well thought off firmware update. Very deceiving. I was not informed that the update would limit the ability to use third party ink. Moreover, having cartridges no longer function only when replacing makes the relation between firmware update and non functioning new non-Epson ink less apparent. Making consumers think it must be a bad batch of non-Epson ink.

Poor deceptive behaviour and indicative of a purposeful action by the manufacturer to sneak a firmware update in and having me buy expensive ink again. Looking for another printer now, guess what brand it won’t be….

Basia says:
26 February 2020

I bought two Epson 342 printers more than year ago and after ink, which came with printers, has finished i bought compatible cartridges. Printerers rejected not geniue cartridges and refused printing unles orginal cartridges are inserted. I have now two usless printers coz i cant afford to buy epson cartridge to keep up with my printing needs. I bought it coz i had Xp 315 and it worked fine with nongeneric ink.