/ 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.


I have an HP Deskjet 3050A, my third-party ink cartridges worked great yesterday, but today they are incompatible . I’ve tried every reset and work-a-around I could find online, nothing has worked.

Third party cartridge has worked in Canon printer since 08/07/21 but has stopped working today with message saying ‘wrong cartridge’.

Did this happen after a firmware update, Brian? If not it might be worth checking that the cartridge is securely in position and that the ‘chip’ has not become detached from the cartridge.

Yesterday our HP Color Laserjet m281fdw suddenly refused to accept the cartridges ‘because no HP chip can be detected’. This is after more than a year working perfectly fine with 3rd party cartridges I bought on Amazon – and not exactly the super cheap ones – they are well-reviewed high quality ones, just roughly half the of HP’s originals. This bricking of our family printer happened after an automated firmware update that I never agreed to. The whole device is now dead. £200 worth of perfectly fine toner cartridges unusable. The display of the printer just guides us to a link, where HP tells us in some rather weasly language that cartridges with an HP chip are a required security feature, so interrupting our use of them is presumably in my interest? Does anyone believe that? How can it be a security or any other technical fault issue or risk if the printer worked perfectly fine for more than a year? I believe this is HP’s weasly getaround argument that enables them to claim they still allow third party inks, that is, just as long they use HP’s own technology. Even if it was, just disrupting the end-user with no notice is simply not acceptable. This is n attempt to blackmail panicked users who need to have their printer functional into ordering expensive HP cartridges. This is nothing else but the equivalent of a cold phone call with an extortion demand. Note that there is not just the material damage of having a printer/cartridges combination worth £500 blocked by the manufacturer, who acts as if they still own the printer! It is the time wasted to remedy the situation, starting with having to deal with that link to HPs website in the first place, which is not exactly instilling trust why this blockage of cartridges is necessary, and the impact on the lives of everyone in the household. I had to travel to France today and could not print out my flight ticket, my Covid certificate and the mandatory entry declaration. I had to waste time going elsewhere to print them out. My children cannot print out their homework or the files sent by teachers for self study. How can such a far reach into the private lives of consumers be legal? I daresay it also, in effect, discriminates against less wealthy groups in society. When I bought the printer HP never got me to sign an agreement to use HP cartridges only. They tolerated dozens of third party ink manufacturers whose cartridges clearly work and then decide on a whim to make all their products worthless? Surely this cannot be legal.

Please contact our Competition and Markets Authority, which is responsible for policing anticompetitive behaviour by businesses: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tell-the-cma-about-a-competition-or-market-problem They will not provide direct help but if enough of us get in touch some action might be taken.

I am disappointed that Which? has reported on the problem but seems to have taken little action.

I agree. This anti-competitive behaviour needs to be tested in the courts but no single consumer could stand up against the power and resources of HP. It’s time for a consumer champion to step up to the plate.

What might be interesting would be to consider whether sellers of HP printers [and those of other manufacturers who restrict the use of non-OEM consumables] are under an obligation to declare the restriction in their sales literature, and whether third-party sellers of computer inks are making false claims if they say they will work in ‘manufacturer-protected’ equipment.

Making a claim against a retailer might be a good approach, John. If I asked a retailer whether a printer could be used with third party cartridges and they said that this was possible it would form part of the contract, providing the opportunity to make a claim in future. Obviously I would be best to have the information in writing. I suspect that the retailer would suggest that I find out from the manufacturer so I would be no further forward.

As ‘H. P. Neveragain’ has said, the cost of replacing a set of toner cartridges in a colour laser printer is high and possibly in excess of the cost of the printer. I wondered why businesses and other large users are not taking on HP but it appears that they have negotiated much cheaper prices than are available to the public. A friend who worked for the DWP in procurement of IT equipment explained this to me. Even though we are no longer in the EU, that does not prevent a joint approach.

Since I have never had any problem with third party cartridges in either of my printers I have not investigated whether the seller will help. It’s hardly their fault if a printer stops working after a firmware upgrade.

Mr. Joseph B says:
15 February 2022

Canon Sabotaged our MG5350 printer after an update. The printer displayed “Turn off printer and call service B200 Error” . I played with it a bit more and it turned off all together and I couldn’t turn it back on. I tried again after couple of hours, this time it turned on with error 5100 I turned it off and on and now I see Error 6A81 and the carriage started knocking very hard from left to right, right to left and so on as if it’s going to break the printers walls. I’m reflecting of suing Canon as I don’t feel it’s fair or legal,

Have you any evidence that Canon sabotaged the printer? Perhaps it just broke.

If you wanted to take legal action you would need reasonable evidence to support your case.

I’ve an MG5750 that has stopped working a couple of times and given an error message such as contact Canon. I found instructions online to reset it and it then worked perfectly. For example https://www.coolblue.be/en/advice/solve-error-codes-canon-printers.html. It is really not worth considering suing for such a cheap device but, if it is out of warranty but not old, tackle the retailer and copy Canon, I suggest.

WC says:
1 May 2022

I’ve read that B200 means the sponges absorbing the excess ink is full. You can read some tutorial in YouTube about how to replace the sponges, but if you cannot replace them, at least drain the ink from the sponge.

And for 6A81 there’s another YouTube video demonstrating how to fix it. Looks like quite difficult anyway.

Looks like sloppy manufacturing for me. Ditch Canon, buy a Epson Ecotank instead.

Epson XP225 printer worked great with compatible carts. After a recent update to “software” that was downloaded automatically, the printer now will not print anything except for pink.The monitor also reports that the carts are empty.

Jonathan Campbell says:
21 March 2022

I have followed this issue for a long time, since it happened to my HP OfficeJet Pro 8710 months ago. Here in the US there was a class action lawsuit and huge public outcry (I was part of the latter) against HP that a judge allowed to go forward. It looks like (cross your fingers) that HP has RELENTED as a result. I had installed a “downgrade” copy of the firmware that allowed third party (re-manufactured) cartridges. One morning a few weeks ago I was horrified to see a notice on my printer LCD that it was getting a new version of the firmware (version 2204A), and after it was done my printer still worked (I have all third party ink, made by Valuetoner or LD)!!! And since then I have checked the HP website for new firmware (versions 2204 and greater) and it looks like they are systematically installing and publishing firmware that allows third party ink. A huge success! See my article about this at my website: https://www.healthy-computers.com/firmware_downgrades.htm which give guidance as to what to do if HP has not yet updated the firmware for your printer.

John says:
29 March 2022

I had an Epson Printer and used compatible cartridges but made the mistake of updating the firmware. I purchased some Epson ink cartridges as I had something urgent to print… It would no longer work, even with those cartridges. When I called them, they were less than sympathetic. I went out and bought a Brother laser printer instead. The Epson is sitting in my basement as I didn’t have the heart to just throw out an almost new device.

However, I am now nervous of updating the firmware on my L2550DW…