/ 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.


Surely this practice by manufacturers to limit whats works /doesn’t work should breach any /all competition laws/rules. If not isn’t there a big hole in the legislation(s)?

damago1 says:
29 January 2017

HP is not only cheating on 3rd party inks but also on it’s own:
– if you have HP officejet pro the printer reports low ink level very quickly after installing new ink.
– the user is buying the new ink to have it ‘just in case’ because the previous one is low according to printer
– in reality the ink lasts quite long time after the printer reported ‘low ink level’
– the brand new original ink gets … obsolete because the ‘best before date’ for ink cartridges is …. smaller than UHT milk you drink every day (YES!!!! UNBELIEVABLE BUT TRUE)
– the printer reports obsolete cartridge (even though it got unpacked 3 minutes before)
yes you can override this in printer menu (it is hidden, there is no information that you need to press the right arrow to do this)
it does not work. HP has another secret weapon against you: there is a driver ‘bug’ which causes that when there is an obsolete cartridge in the printer installed – the printer accepts only one print job and then hangs the printer spooler queue.
I had to write a batch file that is restarting the printer spooler in windows and you have to run this batch before every single print job.

Amazing how much effort is placed to rip the customers who bought the product. I hope it will finally backfire in HP’s face. In my case – I am switching to another printer and will NEVER buy HP printer again before I will make full round around other manufacturers. But if I will find a single honest vendor I will stick with that brand.

The information above also applies to Canon printer TS8151

This comment was removed at the request of the user

First of all Lan /WIFI has nothing to do with auto updating. Thats justs wrong thinking. Auto updates is set in either the windows update or the printer driver software.
Second Tanks may not be the way to go. INk does have a expire date and if you don’t use all the ink by then you could cause head issues and if doing photo/archival prints they could fade due to the ink breakdown.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thank you for this information. I have same issue with Cannon PixmaTS8151. I have never been able to use compatible ink in it. I have tried several brands and had to return them all. It is so annoying because I do a lot of printing. I called Canon who said they do not know how their printers will respond to non canon inks but they have never heard of third party inks not working in their machine. Lie of course. I directed her to the internet. Any way her cue sheet did not give her any additional advise to offer. I had the option to raise a complaint and good bye. Can you recommend a tank printer that is not a horrendous size. Space is my problem.

This link should provide a list of ink tank printers reviewed by Which? https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/printers-and-ink/search?search%5Bdiscrete%5D%5Balternative_ink_solution%5D%5BRefillable_tanks%5D%5B%5D=true

The height, width and depth of each printer is listed in TECH SPECS

This comment was removed at the request of the user

J Clarke says:
20 March 2016

Exactly this happened with my HP printer. It had been happily printing with third party cartridges for a while, then just refused to print, with a nearly full cartridge. Of course I was trying to print something for next date, so had to make a midnight dash to the supermarket for cartridges. It’s lucky the printer didn’t end up in the bin.

I have a Officejet pro with third party inks and they have stopped working mid cartridge with a damaged warning message sign coming up on my printer.I have used these inks without a problem since I bought the printer in June 2015.I have done everything possible to try and fix it,I refuse to pay £ 60.00 to buy HP inks.
I would sooner go and buy a canon or epson best buy printer for under £ 60.00 than pay for new HP inks

David H says:
29 September 2016

The printer vendor told me that since my printer was wireless HP had sent a modification so it would report 3rd party inks as “damaged”. This made my ink supply useless and I had to invest additional money for the 4 new cartridges required. Does HP bear any financial responsibility?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It is high time that manufacturers stopped selling subsidised printers and making their money from very expensive ink.

It is reasonable to void a guarantee if a printer is damaged by use of third party ink but if the fault has nothing to do with the ink, it should not affect the guarantee or our statutory rights.

I have recently bought an A3 HP inkjet printer and will soon be replacing the original ink cartridges with cheaper ones. I’m not going to be very happy if I have problems, having used third party cartridges in another HP printer for the past three years or so.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Companies don’t make money from the printers; the ink is the major cost. Just another example of “it’s cheaper to replace than to fix.”

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Compatible inks are significantly cheaper. They don’t help the printer companies. So do they trade on some people’s ignorance or reluctance to use 3rd party products?

Inkjet printers often come with small capacity ink cartridges, so you may not be buying much ink with a new printer. When compatible ink cartridges were introduced, the quality was often mediocre, but in my experience they are perfectly adequate and trouble-free.

I used manufacturer’s cartridges for years but on learning that they were chipping cartridges and taking other measures to prevent use of compatible cartridges I have no intention of buying original cartridges again. I have no problem with paying more for a printer but I am strongly opposed to anti-competitive practices and it is high time that the CMA took action to prevent them.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m aware of the reports of printers not accepting 3rd party cartridges. i’d like to see some evidence of just how widespread this is. Which? say “ 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.

My Canon printers have always produced excellent results with OEM ink for documents and photos. As I do not use a great deal of ink in my PIXMA 600s I have not bothered to try 3rd party inks. I’ve recently bought a new Canon printer and will see how rapidly that consumes ink and may then change my mind.

Duncan – You have often warned us that allowing printers to do updates (presumably of firmware) could result in failure to accept supposedly compatible cartridges. I always use my newer printer wirelessly, and cannot see how updates could take place. Is that right or could wireless connection to a computer that is online result in updates being installed?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

We are all allowed time off and I will send my apologies for tomorrow. As you know, I’m not a Windows user so cannot make useful comment. Obviously some people are having a problem but I assume that the majority of users of compatible cartridges are not, on the basis that these are still widely available.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

“Contrary to what malcolm said”……. What are you contradicting, duncan? I simply asked about how widespread this problem was, and reproduced the statement Which? hosted about a voluntary agreement.

duncan, you say – “if HP/Epson state publicly that they block non-propitiatory inks”. Can you provide a link to the relevant HP and Epson statements please.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks duncan, I was simply trying to establish the (current) scale of the problem. and, of course, whether manufacturers impede the use of 3rd party inks. There are so many companies selling “compatible” inks that I imagine most people have no problems – but I could be wrong.

Duncan – I do use Apple Macs. I have not been following this subject but I thought that HP had released a firmware update to reverse blocking third party cartridges. There was a link in an earlier Convo. I was interested because I have HP printers, but I no nothing about the situation with Epson.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

What about Epson, duncan? You mentioned them.
I don’t expect to receive full cartridges when I buy a new, cheap, printer. Mine was £49.99 and even decent compatible cartridges are £21 a set. I have had the printer for a couple on months, never power down and am still using the original cartridges so don’t know when I’ll need to replace them. If it is like my 600 series, I’ll override the “ink out” and carry on until it physically runs out of a colour – lots of copies later. We’ll see.

I’d never buy a printer with combined ink cartridges; that just seems very wasteful to replace the lot when only one runs out.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks Duncan. I will have a look at this.

Certainly the correct page address but your link didn’t take me there. This link seems to.

It is old news, isn’t it? And applied to certain printers only (still bad). Perhaps Which? would tell us whether this is all in the past and 3rd party inks should work in all printers.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

It’s high time that printer manufacturers were given a deadline to remove the chips that determine whether or not a cartridge will work on printers. Last year I had a message warning me that a third-party cartridge would not work but fortunately that was because the chip had fallen off and was still in the bag.

Our world is increasingly run to suit the wishes of companies rather than consumers and it is time to apply a little common sense.

It would be interesting to know, even roughly, how many people have problems with third party cartridges. I suspect it is a small percentage, if only because it is not a problem mentioned by friends and family, but I don’t really know.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thanks again. It’s a real help to have links to back up claims, so that the rest of us have the opportunity to evaluate claims that any of us make.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I have a H.P. Photosmart 5510D which has suddenly rejected 3rd party ink (black and yellow) from a third part source. I don’t know whether this is because of a software update but it happened suddenly and it’s quite apparent that the cartridges are still full of ink.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Having used compatible cartridges without problems for some years, I suddenly got a message saying that cartridges needed to be replaced though they had hardly been used. I thought the ink must have dried out through lack of use so ordered more. When I installed them on my HP officejet 6310, a message came up saying that the cartridge on the left was not suitable for this printer and needed to be replaced. I complained to the supplier who said it was probably due to an update, and offered to refund the cost of the compatible and supply a (much more expensive) genuine HPcolour cartridge. I fitted this today and it confirmed that it was an original HP and did the alignment and printout and then told me that the cartridge on the right (which was a brand new compatible which it had not mentioned before) also needed to be replaced so I have now had to order a black HP cartridge as well and still cannot do my urgent printing.

I find it hard to believe that this is legal but the HP rep I spoke to said it wd have been cleared with their legal advisers. What is even more reprehensible is the sneaky way they have done this, without warning, which has left me in a hole. He said that if I uninstalled the HP software and reinstalled the printer using windows, it might enable me to print though the results would not be so good and he couldn’t guarantee that it would work. Being an 80 yr old grandma who doesn’t understand computers, I wouldn’t know how to do that and anyway wouldn’t the next update just make it happen all over again?

I spoke to Citizens Advice and they suggested I contact the Competition & Markets Authority who said I should write in or email. They seemed to be unaware of the issue though Cartridge People said a lot of people had written to their MP and joined petitions and been in touch with which. Doesn’t seem to have achieved anything however. Does Which take any action or just allow us to vent our feelings on their board? I’d like to see some action against this anti-competitive activity which CP told me all the printer manufacturers are now up to. I gather it is now cheaper to replace one’s printer when it runs out of ink than to buy more ink. How environmentally friendly is that?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan – I don’t have much time for printer manufacturers for various reasons but I do understand the reasoning for them being wary about third party inks. Why should a manufacturer be responsible for repairs if the print head was blocked by unsuitable inks?
I would like to see an end to manufacturers selling cheap printers but charging a fortune for ink. If it was made illegal for manufacturers to force owners to use their ink we might put an end to this.

I have been happily using cheap ink in my HP printer without problems apart from the fact that it was not available for at least a year after I bought the printer. I’ve made a mental note to check that cheap ink is available before buying a new printer in future.

It is a disgrace that HP is using the excuse “It stops people stealing ink cartridges if they are “locked” to a computer”. It is blackmail to ONLY use their own cartridges. I will NEVER purchase anything HP again. If Ford Motors ‘updated’ a car to ONLY run on Ford Brand petrol or diesel it would cause an outcry, it is unfair and anti-consumer that try to recycle rather than be blackmailed into purchasing HP branded inks.
HP should be forced to allow my computer to be updated with software that doesn’t blackmail me.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I had to buy original ink for my HP printer until third party ink became available. I have now bought a new HP printer – this time after checking that cheaper ink is available. I’m still using the original manufacturer’s cartridges but will be annoyed if the compatible cartridges that I have purchased do not work.


Yesterday the message in the window of my HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdw told me there was a printer update and after doing so, the printer stopped working with the after market toner I was using. The difference in price from what I was using (which worked perfectly well before the update) was $185 versus $685 for HP toner. Do i have any recourse?

Rick B
Scarsdale, NY

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’ve experienced another unacceptable and annoying issue with HP recently. Although not quite the same problem being described in this thread it is closely allied to it.
I moved from South Africa to the UK and brought my quite new HP Deskjet 5525 with my household goods and I removed the half-used ink cartridges as advised by the removal company. I cannot get HP brand or any 3rd party brand cartridges which will work in the UK. The same HP cartridge number in the UK will not work in my printer.
HP “regionalises” their printers – because, in their words, they have to “accommodate various needs in different markets” – in normal language that translates to price differentiation in different markets with some regions paying much higher prices.
I have established that many people who’ve relocated globally have had this problem. HP – (have you ever tried to find a phone number for technical service when your query doesn’t fit in with their “self help” loops on their web pages?) – told me that they can reset the software, but I will need a full set of South African chipped cartridges and a full set of UK cartridges to do so. That would require my importing by courier, possibly paying customs duties and incurring expenses far exceeding the cost of a new printer. Not from HP of course.
I’m trashing a perfectly good printer and will never buy anything with an HP logo on it again – and that goes for my future laptop replacement – I purchased my current one at the same time as the printer.

Helen says:
11 August 2016

I contacted Epson, regarding an agreement not to prevent third party inks being used, they said this:
Agent (John): “There has never been an agreement in regards to third party cartridges, or the prevention of there use. We do not support the use of non genuine cartridges however you are free to do so if you wish, however we can not guarantee compatibility or print results.
08/11/2016 04:07:56PM helen: “I have always used refillable ones and never had a problem with them. But recently there are printers refusing to work if other cartridges are used. This is *preventing* them being used – one is not “free to use them if one so wishes””
08/11/2016 04:08:22PM helen: “they worked before a firmware update”
08/11/2016 04:09:00PM Agent (John): “I can assure you that there are no preventative measures in place to stop you using non genuine cartridges, a firmware update would have no impact on cartridge recognition.”

This comment was removed at the request of the user

angelab says:
2 November 2016

I had the very same thing happen and have not used my Epson since. I was using compatables very happily and after a firmware update it was all over and my printer wont do anything until I buy Epson cartages and install them. I have not do it for 6months now and I dont plan to. I am surprised that thye do not admit to this pratice as it is very obvious that is exactly what they are doing. I am a tech support person and am determined to get around this or use a different brand of printer as the difference in price of the ink is $100 for one set!

I have been using non-approved cartridges for more than a year on my HP 6230 Officejet, and since my last software update, I can no longer print with them. I responded to a questionnaire about it and got NO response from HP. I have been using this brand for years, but this will be the last HP I ever buy.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

David Carter says:
13 September 2016

Thriving b’stards! My printer stopped working today for that very reason, an update had stopped my compatibles working…. My printer man said that I’d doesn’t happen with Brother printers… Anymore! Time to change brand

steve says:
18 December 2016

I have a brother MFCJ680DW and it won’t work with generic ink cartridges. The cartridge has a little chip on top and the one on the generic cartridge looks slightly different. I swapped the chips over sticking the ones from the genuine one onto my generic with bluetak and it has worked for the colour inks but won’t work for the Black. In Australia they charge $30 for the colour replacements and $45 for black but generics are about $5

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hambo Namsweet says:
14 September 2016

HP has twice (in June and September 2016) accessed and shut down our small-business printer when it detected third-party, non HP ink cartridges. This in spite of the fact that we have – as recommended by the third party ink cartridge supplier – disabled HP’s “automatic update” feature.

In June 2016, when HP shut down our printer for the first time, I contacted the office of HP’s President in North America. The President’s representative contacted me by both phone and e-mail. In our telephone conversation, he promised to bring this matter to the President’s attention. Despite this, the shutdown happened again this week – apparently after another update by HP.

How did HP regain access to our printer? Why did they shut it down – again?

One has to wonder: has HP programmed a “back door” to its printers, so that – even when the user shuts down the update feature – it can continue to deliver punishment for using third party ink cartridges?

Does HP want to supply printers, or does it seek to gain access to businesses by selling ink cartridges in a package that masquerades as a printer?

Even more disturbing, HP may partner with others corporations to have access to medical records, 3-D printers, cars, elevators and more. If HP willfully shuts down a small-business printer, what else would it do?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

You would think that Amazon would have something to say about being put into a position of selling useless products, Cant do their rep any good

Andrew says:
17 September 2016

HP have preprogrammed a range of their printers causing them to shutdown on the 13th September: http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/09/hp-pre-programmed-failure-date-unofficial-non-hp-ink-cartridges-printers/

Feel cheated my brand new HP Desktop 2540 bought from Staples will not accept 3rd party ink.
The price Hp charges for their 301 ink is huge and does less than a couple of hundred pages.Disgraceful.

Since Monday, I have spent hours cleaning heads, uninstalling and installing drivers, and 5(!) Original HP364 cartridges trying to get my Deskjet 3070A to print in black. I now realise from the various postings that this was always doomed. It has been done by HP in their firmware update (MUM1FN1117BR) that was installed on my machine by stealth.
I think Which should revisit their Best Buy recommendation for the Officejet 5740 in the October magazine. I WILL NEVER BUY ANOTHER HP PRODUCT.
I intend to send the cartridges back to HP and ask for a refund. I don’t hold the local print shop, that sold the cartridges to me in good faith, to be liable for a pre-programmed manufacturing fault.

I bought a HP Officejet Pro X551dw July 2015. I have always used third party ink cartridges with no problem. However my warranty ran out this July and low and behold when I installed new ink cartridges from Cartridge Save the printer has stopped working. I get the error message on the printer ‘One or more cartridges appear to be damaged. Remove them and replace with a new cartridge’. Then I get a pop up on the PC showing me a link to buy HP cartridges! This is fraud on a global scale. My cartridges have not failed so the printer message is a deception. What has happened is that the HP software has identified a non HP cartridge. The error message is a plant. This is not only a restrictive trade practice but my printer doesn’t work anymore due to a software implant. This is trying to get me to buy more expensive cartridges from HP. This is an attempted fraud in attempting to obtain money by deception under the Fraud Act 2006. I have written to HP but had no answer. I have writted to Trading Standards as well.

This comment was removed at the request of the user