/ 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.

Shelly Cribbin says:
28 May 2020

Ink Cartridge not recognised Epson! they were working fine until I got a message to update! b******s.

Tee A says:
11 June 2020

i have used Tesco ink in my HP 3050 for some time now, but last wk I put in a fresh new cartiridge and it wont accept it.

Hi Tee – It’s always possible that the Tesco cartridge was faulty or the ‘chip’ is not in place. Unless the problem happened when you did a firmware update I suggest you ask Tesco if they will replace it.

Daniel Tan says:
28 June 2020

it should be made illegal!!

James says:
29 June 2020

Canon are now creating problems with their Pixma series printers. If you are using non OEM ink cartridges, or even originals but refilled, you may get a message from Canon stating your ink cartridge is not a genuine cartridge, and you’ll have to go thru the process of turning off the ‘ink low’ warning for that cartridge(or all of them if it ID’s all). On my TS8052 PIXMA it identified a non original Black cartridge – but in fact they were all refilled originals. I went thru the process wherein I end up with a white blank box for that cartridge so have to check as and when I think it may be low. But worse to come, now I had the warning from Canon again, suggesting I report counterfeit cartridge suppliers to them, . . . . and now my printer will only print in Black . . . . ironic, since that’s the one they didn’t like. So now I can’t print in colour, am trying to find ways around it, but proving difficult if not impossible!
Will never buy Canon or HP(they’re doing the same tricks) again!

Hi James – The problem you have described existed long before manufacturers’ software updates first blocked use non-original cartridges. I presume that the ‘chip’ on the cartridge tells the printer how much ink remains, and this information can usually be seen both on the printer and the computer it is linked to, either wirelessly or by cable. Obviously the system does not detect when cartridges are refilled.

It’s so unfair on consumers.

I have only used original Canon cartridges in my MG5750. Both PC and printer tell me when ink levels are low, and then when “ink has tun out”. There still is ink left and I can print quite happily by overriding the ink out message. Printing can go on for a long time thus, but you need to watch the output for when the ink is actually used up. No harm seems to come to the printer.

My printers do the same and I assume it is there to warn you to have another cartridge to hand before doing a long print run, or to buy one if you are an occasional user.

Rachael Hutchings says:
3 July 2020

I’ve been using the Tesco own brand hp364 cartridge for years probably now and never had a problem. I bought a new the other day and now it’s saying that it’s a protected ink cartridge! I’m so annoyed. I’ve googled it and followed the steps I’ve found but it’s still saying no. Going to have to take it back tomorrow and get a new one. Now I’ve disabled the protection function hopefully a new one will work

Hope it is just that cartridge – HP has disabled any compatible cartridge for me

TMJ Graham says:
4 July 2020

HP officejet Pro 6830 Started throwing error messages left right and centre. Paper jam no paper jam anywhere to be seen, Carriage jam as the carriage whizzes back and forth. HP video suggested remove and refit ink cartridges I did now a ink cartridge error message as well. aaaah! I believe it is all down to software and there is nothing wrong with the printer. And yes I do use generic ink cartridge.

I have not had much problem with inkjet printers but with laser printers, the tiniest piece of paper could be responsible for a ‘paper jam’ and sometimes these could be very difficult to clear.

In the days when print cartridges incorporated a print head they could be removed and replaced easily. Nowadays, most cartridges are just ink tanks and they have to be primed if removed and replaced. That wastes ink and may cause problems, in my experience. The problem with firmware updates blocking use of third party cartridges is well understood but I doubt that your problem is caused by software. I suggest having another go at removing and refitting the cartridges.

According to the July issue of Which? magazine, the August issue will be looking at a new problem:

“We reveal why third-party inks trump most original-brand cartridges, plus we explore the controversy around HP’s dynamic security feature that’s blocking compatible inks”

Stephanie says:
7 July 2020

My HP 4524 has stopped taking Tesco own brand cartridges. I’m a private tutor and this is an affordable way for me to print resources for my pupils. Shame on HP.

Did this happen after a printer update, Stephanie? If not you might just have a problem with the new cartridges, in which case it would be worth contacting Tesco.

Bon says:
7 July 2020

Epson XP 440
Wasn’t aware of bricking until I accepted Epson’s update and was no longer able to print with my third-party ink. I contacted Epson and they’re only reply was they recommend I use THEIR ink. I am furious. This is illegal! What agency do I report this to?

Hi Bon – I suggest that you contact the Competition and Markets Authority and would be grateful if you can tell us whether this is helpful: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tell-the-cma-about-a-competition-or-market-problem

Claude Lawrenson says:
11 July 2020

Canon Image class MF642cdw – purchased 3rd party printer ink, now it notes “a non-Canon counterfeit cartridge may be installed”. It also indicates “cannot use print function”. This basically leaves me without a printer. I have to question why we are being held “hostage” to this type of lack of use? Frustrated w/ Canon….

Thanks for this, Claude. This is the first time I can recall a message about a ‘counterfeit’ cartridge, which suggests a deliberate action to block the use of third party cartridges. I suggest contacting the CMA, using the link I have provided above.

Perhaps when Which? test printers they should check whether they work with the popular 3rd party cartridges as well as OEM’s and include that in the features? Or, as with some other products, add a yellow warning. I was going to suggest a “don’t buy” but I’d rather just be given the information and make up my own mind. I don’t do much printing theses days and am more than happy with my Canon printer and the results, particularly photos, with the little OEM ink I need to buy.

I would rather pay the real cost of the printer then reasonably priced OEM ink in. Have printer companies tried it? I would print a lot more if ink wasn’t so ridiculously expensive.

I would also like to see it mandatory that inks state their contents in m(iniscu)l(e)s. Sheets printed is meaningless and will depend entirely on the type of printing you do. My old HP ink stated large size, but that was probably half the size of the original large size some years later.

Testing should also include how often printers go through ‘cleaning the printheads.’ I’m pretty sure that is another ruse to make us get through more ink.

I agree with you Alfa. Ink tank printers show what is more likely the real hardware cost. My excellent Canon printer was £59.99 and not the cheapest around. A full set of inks costs around the same. I don’t do enough printing for that to be a financial issue. However, I have the option of a cheap printer then 3rd part cartridges (providing they are not blocked). Best of both worlds, but a bit silly.

I, too, agree Alfa. When my current vintage printers fail I shall be looking at Ink tanks as a sensible replacement. Fortunately my aged HP printer is too old to be updated by HP and I am left alone. Like Malcolm I don’t print enough to warrant buying another one just yet, but each black cartridge is £50 and is unavailable as a third party. That does include a print head though.

Alfa – The Which? tests compare the amount of ink used in continuous and occasional printing, which provides the best indication of the amount of ink ‘wasted’ in cleaning print heads. The amount of ink in cartridges is stated by the manufacturer and third party supplier (at least the ones I have used have given this information). Turning a printer off after use will usually mean that it goes through a cleaning cycle after it is switched on again, even if this is not necessary. We often have brief power cuts and I can hear my printer going through a cleaning cycle. 🙁

Ink tank printers are a worthwhile option for those who use printers frequently but many of us would like to pay a non-subsidised price for a smaller printer.