/ 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.

Martin Atkinson says:
20 March 2018

I have just bought an Epson WorkForce WF-7720 all-in-one printer. As it took the same third party cartridges as my previous WF-7620, I just transferred them across to the new one. The printer is a couple of months old and appears to have a fault with the alignment of the cyan printhead which could well have been there from the start. All of the alignment procedures have failed. Get this…Epson will not advise me on this problem under warranty until I buy and fit their branded ink cartridges even though the problem would not seem to be related to the ink used!! A complete scam. There should be some consumer law against this surely.


I wish I could give you good news on that issue Martin but having checked up many times on the US headquarters website on the issue of third party cartridges, even me, who is quite sharp when it comes to the law couldn’t find a flaw in their lengthy disclaimer that under any circumstances , no matter what ( abbreviated ) they disclaim and rescind any warranty that applies to a customer using third party inks . In their eyes (legally ) you could be causing damage to the printer by not using the official inks . Not only that when several customers sent theirs back ( in America ) the company said they would not fix the faults due to the inks affecting the printers , in other words they lost their guarantee. Their high power corporate attorneys have went to great lengths to make sure the wording is legal. I am sorry , you will have to buy their inks . They have special electronic spectrograph equipment that can tell who,s ink it is as well as special chemical analysers.


Martin, as you bought the printer new I presume it came with a set of Epson starter ink cartridges. Did it work with those? If it did then replacing them with third party ones might be the cause. It is reasonable that Epsom design printers to use their own cartridges; it is for 3rd party suppliers to ensure that theirs are fully compatible. Assuming you haven’t damaged the printer I’d do what duncan suggests and replace them with OEMs and return the 3rd party ones for a refund.

Fitting non-approved parts to anything is likely to invalidate a guarantee.

Steve says:
5 April 2018

There is now. The Supreme Court in the US ruled against Lexmark in a decision on May 30, 2017 Here’s the link to the decision: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/supreme_court_decision_allows_resale_of_used_ink_cartridges_despite_patent


I agree Steve but Epson has countered that by saying – quote -use of third party ink can cause “damage” to our printers and invalidate our guarantee so for “safety ” reasons and to protect “good name ” we are forced to take action to “protect ” our business . The legal document must have been written by a Philadelphia Attorney.


That would, presumably, still not prevent a printer guarantee being invalidated by the use of unapproved 3rd party cartridges/ink? However, I agree that the choice of cartridge should be solely down to the consumer, who then accepts any risk of malfunction involved. They can complain to the 3rd party vendor if they are proven to cause damage or are incompatible in some way.

Hugh Fletcher says:
23 March 2018

Epson Expression Xp 820 complains when it detects 3rd. party cartridges and makes me spend a minute or so stepping through windows explaining why I am a terrible person before I can cancel or continue. Continue means print anyway. I have a suspicion that there is some loss of funtions in matching ink droplets to paper types too, but I cannot go back and compare. Some quality options are not available now on certain papers, and “Standard” can produce banding. I know newer models will not print properly with 3rd. party inks.
This is a bit like car manufacturers saying the owner must use their brand of petrol.


I see the XP 820 goes back to -2014 Hugh so the firmware is not the latest up to date version, hence they cannot completely block it, but they do their “best”.