/ 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

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.

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.

Mark P says:
31 March 2020

I’ve had an XP-405 which I’ve had for a few years, I only really use it for scanning now. 2 weeks ago I printed 1 page and it was saying ink low. However had to start working form home and the printer was crying for 1 colour and would not print at all even though I wanted monochrome. So I ordered a full set of “compatible” inks and updated the software. D’oh!! Now none of it works and I’ve tried all the suggestions online even backdating the firmware to no use. It is such a pain. How do they get away with this?

Natasha says:
6 April 2020

Can you bypass the issue by going offline while you are printing? Just wondering… It is indeed very annoying…

Javin007 says:
6 April 2020

My Epson XP-640 just stopped working. What’s more, the latest firmware update has made it so we can no longer do firmware rollbacks. This is conscious, and on purpose. Not only will I NEVER purchase another Epson product, but I would LOVE to find someone who is organizing a class-action lawsuit.

Wouldn’t be a nice gesture from all these printer companies in these troubled times if they updated the software so we could use compatible cartridges. Then we could use up all the worthless cartridges and save going on unnecessary journeys.

Abdullah Hanoun says:
10 April 2020

Again the same problem with Epson WF-3620. Was working fine despite messages that I am not using genuine Epson ink cartridges until today when it decided to stop working all together. I have been using Epson printers for a very long time, having had at least 3 consecutive printers. Now I am thinking they are just too greedy. If the genuine cartridge price was set at a reasonable price people would naturally prefer to use them, but to set their price so high, and then stealthily force people to buy them is just unfair.

“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.”

can anyone provide a link or info on this agreement they supposedly signed? other than the Lexmark SCOTUS case, I hadn’t heard of that before.

I have never found a document of agreement, but here is a document from HP that admits to the company using firmware updates to effectively block use of other ink cartridges: https://www8.hp.com/us/en/hp-news/blog/Small-Business-Printing/best-possible-printing-experience2.html Perhaps there are similar documents produced by the other manufacturers.

John Montgomery says:
16 April 2020

Yes, like others I am having the 3rd party ink rejection problem. Can we take out a class action against HP for loss of business, and for breaking our hardware due to their hack? They really should be discouraged from this sort of cynical behaviour, and I suspect what would work best against this sort of greed would be hitting them in the wallet.

Graham Brennand says:
27 April 2020

Yes my Epson workforce 2650 printer stopped working after an update,because of third party ink,worked ok for 2 years.Now it’s useless,is there a answer to the problems please

Tom Lee says:
30 April 2020

I have a Canon MG6250. This printer worked fine with third party inks until I swithched to windows 10. It will now not work at all unless there is an internet connection. It is now an online printer only. Also when I try to adjust the paper settings to Canon photo paper glossy plus II which I use, the prints are printed without the black ink cartridge being used. So they are useless. When I go back to the settings and set standard plain paper the printer works. However the prints are not as good as they are with the photo paper setting when it worked.

gman says:
5 May 2020

Useless article. HP printers are still shutting out alternative ink cartridges and causing mahem and loss of business. Why write an article which has no solutions?!

If you read through this and other Conversations, there have been reports of cartridges failing to work after a firmware update, but I cannot recall Which? looking into this or offering any warning. Their surveys indicate that not many people have a problem which may be of little comfort to this that do.

I’ve tried to get Which? to take up the problem with the Competition and Markets Authority, to no avail.

I have two HP printers, on a few years old and one at least ten. Neither have had a firmware update and neither has seen an HP cartridge since the supplied ones expired.

NEIL says:
23 May 2020

Yes, I too am a victim of not being able to use ‘compatible’ inks in my EPSON Workforce WF2750!! I use a fair amount of ink in my position of a committee member of a veterans association and the high cost of Epson original ink cartridges is too expensive. Is there a well-meaning PCTechie-wise who can advise a silver surfer how to overcome this latest Epson ‘Dirty Trick’ please? Otherwise I have a reserve of ‘compatibles’ I will have to bin!