/ 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.


This happened to me just this week with my HP OfficeJet Pro 8610. I’ve had it for 6 years and have used a mix of HP and compatible cartridges. Over last weekend I had to swap out two colours and only had compatibles available. I had all manner of errors on the screen and flashing lights.
Two semi-full resets later and I was able to print an image with the compatibles from a USB device, but I could not send a file from the PC – initially the printer shows idle in the management interface but as soon as you try to print it goes to an error state. Even HP Print and Scan and Doctor would not proceed once it determined non-HP cartridges were present.
Suffice to say I’ve just swapped in two genuine HP cartridges and full functions have been restored.

I’m disgusted with HP. Imagine having your car serviced with non-dealer parts and then the car refusing to start because you have not used original spark plugs or the air con not working because you don’t have an original pollen filter installed. There would be uproar. Right now I’ve got my printer working but I’ll never buy another HP product as long as I live.

This is the case still with my HP envy printer recently- I have tried everything to get it to accept Tesco replacement ink cartridges and nothing worked. In the end I was forced to go by exploitive HP ink cartridges

I’m one of a number of people who sell compatible ink cartridges and I’ve had a few customers report the compatible ink cartridges they’ve bought from me for some time have suddenly stopped working and the cause has been a recent software update from Epson. Therefore as it is clearly illegal for printer companies to release software which breaches competition laws and could put me and a number of other people out of business by forcing customers to use genuine and expensive ink cartridges then where do I stand from a legal point of view and is there anything I can do to stop this happening and force printer manufacturers to release another update to reverse this change to allow compatible ink cartridges to work again? Any views on this would be appreciated as I’m sure I’m not the only one caught up in this issue and I am advising all of my customers to not install any software updates because of this potential issue.

Peter – It would be interesting to have a legal opinion on whether printer manufacturers are in breach of existing competition laws if their software updates prevent the use of third party inks. I am sure their lawyers will have explored that argument and concluded that, when printers with an internet updating capability are bought, the owner has implicitly accepted the validity of any updates received by the printer. Makers of third party inks will also need to avoid being accused of ‘passing off’ which is another element of fair trading legislation.

I expect the Competition & Markets Authority are pondering whether the existence of several different printer manufacturers, each with their own specified inks, satisfies competition requirements. The manufacturers don’t seem to be interested in slashing their ink prices to neutralise the third-party competition, preferring to rely on a technological solution instead. There is no doubt that the manufacturers’ practices amount to a restriction of trade so a report from the CMA would be very welcome.

Hi Peter – Thanks for posting.

As you may know, there was a voluntary agreement between major manufacturers to deal with the problem but that has obviously been forgotten. In the short term it’s important that owners know not to install firmware updates on their printers. A few people have managed to obtain old software and get their printers working again but I doubt that most people would know what to do or where to obtain the software.

As you can read in earlier posts the problem now affects some laser printers, meaning that third party cartridges that stop working could be very expensive. I had hoped that this might mean that business users would become vocal but my enquiries suggest that business users often buy original cartridges at an affordable price, an option not available to the small user.

After encouraging a few people to contact the Competition and Markets Authority about this uncompetitive practice I did so myself and received a very unhelpful reply. They are the organisation with the clout to take action, so the more complaints the better.

Collective action may be a possibility if third party manufacturers are prepared to work together and get some legal advice.

What I don’t know is the scale of the problem and you might have some information, Peter.

Peter, the 3rd party ink cartridge industry seems pretty big and should have an agreed view on this. Is there not a trade association that deals with this?

Which? could approach either such an association or all the major suppliers to see what that view is, the legal situation, restrictive practices for example.

Ranjit says:
6 May 2021

My printer EPSOn XP 8600 – I’m reading this post and frankly am most annoyed… this is like purchasing a car and the manufacturer telling you that “you can only put (for example) BP’s fuel in the tank…. anything else will render your new car undriveable”.
So to this end, I’ve just called EPSON on their UK customer helpline and spoken with one of their support people.
He tells me that EPSON certainly does not have any policy or software that would stop the printer from operating should 3rd party ink cartridges be installed.
All the same I am going to ensure that I do not install any software or firmware updates… I like my printer just the way it is…
This whole matter needs to be brought out into the open…
Maybe a TV documentary or something along those lines…

Gillian Webster says:
10 March 2021

Ive just had a similar problem with my Deskjet D1530. Suddenly stopped working printing black ink. So changed two cartridges with no improvment. Ordered a couple of new ones and again it didnt work so i got a brand new Deskjet D1530 bought at the same time and set that up and that doesnt work either. When i tried with both to align the cartridges it doesnt print out any alignment choices in black just a black line across the top of the page. Basically both printers are no useless and one is absolutely brand new never had a cartridge in it as id literally taken it out of its original packaging. I am seriously annoyed. I think a software update has forced the printer to not accept third party cartridges although these were recycled originals.
In future i will be buying a non HP laser printer as my work one is still functioning well after 15 years.
How can these companies do this to us. The original cartridges cost twice the cost of the printer…..

My HP Officejet 7510 has just stopped working, reporting a “Print Head Problem”, I believe the firmware was updated automatically just before this happened. I’ve been using compatible 3rd party cartdiges for a long time without issues. Trying to find a replacement print head is impossible, if indeed there really is an error….

Dominique Jones says:
15 March 2021

This has just happened to me this morning with my HP printer – I have been using 3rd party inks for years and no problem. I am outraged that this is happening – please can someone tell me how you complain about this? Or is it worth a Go Fund Page to take legal action – its a monopoly.

Cyndi Muhlbauer says:
16 March 2021

My 1 year old printer started telling me it wouldn’t print in January 2021 shortly after I installed new ink cartridges that were HP compatible. I can get it to print in black and white but it won’t print in color. This week I started getting a message that I needed to agree to HP’s terms of use before I can scan anything. But there’s no way, no matter what buttons I click on, to get to a screen that lets me agree. So I’m buying a new printer and donating this one. Will not buy HP again.

The intro days “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.

@kwaller, Katie, this issue about 3rd party refills not working has been going on for years. Just what is Which? doing to investigate whether printer manufacturers actually do block them, what the 3rd party industry has to say, and what action Which? has taken to put a stop to any perceived malpractice? Or is there actually no problem, just some unfortunates who have had problems with their printers and refills that are peculiar to them? It seems that it mainly becomes a Convo topic among commenters with no input or updates from Which? Perhaps something has been done, or is in progress, that I have missed?

I have ab Epsom printer that has been using 3rd party cartridges for years without any problem but about 3 weeks ago it stopped printing properly. I tried several maintenance operations plus replaced the generic black ink cartridge with another one. I foolishly updated the printer software a few weeks ago, and I suspect that this is why the printer is malfunctioning. I’m going to buy an Epsom black inkjet cartridge, install it, and if the printer then functions properly, it will prove that Epsom is continuing to obstruct the use of generic cartridges on their printers.

Marty – I expect that will make the printer work properly and then once you have used up the new black ink cartridge it might be worth buying a new printer that will work on generic inks. Printers are cheap, ink is dear especially when you have to use the printer manufacturer’s products.

It’s about time all ink cartridges were standardised into two or three sizes/capacities with universal slots in the machines. There has been enough exclusivity for many years paying back the development and manufacturing set-up costs many times over.

Since the Competition and Markets Authority seems to have no intention of taking action on the uncompetitive practice of blocking third party cartridges the way forward could be to buy ink tank printers. They cost more but the running costs can be relatively low.

Ink tank printers? I am not sure whether they are really suitable for those with low printing needs.
I have asked Which? more than once if they would investigate this, find out whether there is an Epson (and other) conspiracy, ask the third party ink suppliers for their input and knowledge, and discuss with their European and other consumer association colleagues whether they have the same problems and whether collective action is required. Maybe they are working behind the scenes but they have never responded.

Ink tank printers are not intended for those who do little printing. Their options are either to buy third party cartridges and avoid firmware updates or just pay for expensive original ink.

I have asked CMA and asked Which? about the anticompetitive action of the printer manufacturers but failed to achieve anything. There has been at least one successful class action (Australia?) but for some reason there seems little enthusiasm for this approach in the UK.

I learned about cartridge blocking from contributions on Which? Conversation and both my HP printers continue to work well on inexpensive third party ink. Thank you for your subsidised printers, HP.

I was assuming you meant ink tank printers, wavechange, but “tank” was missing.
Maybe the number of owners affected is regarded as insignificant and not an issue worth exploring? Have Which? ever done a survey to find out? I wonder if the third party suppliers have significant numbers of faults reported.

I have always used OEM ink because I do relatively little printing and because photos I printed years ago (Canon printer and ink) have not deteriorated. Why take the risk.

Phil says:
23 May 2021

I bought an ink tank printer about six months ago. It doesn’t get a lot of use but hasn’t thrown up any problems.

At least you have the option of doing more printing at an affordable price if the need arises, Phil.

Looking back, I have owned only four inkjet printers since 1992 and two of them are still in good working order. The first one was replaced because it used only black ink and the second one was replaced after ten years with a multi-function printer. The first printer came ‘free’ with a computer and I used to fill the ink cartridge with ink from a bottle I bought in Canada after discovering the cost of replacement cartridges.

I’m really enjoying my Canon Mx475 which cost me £3.99 secondhand just before lockdown. So far, I’ve been too cowardly to try it with 3rd party ink. With genuine Canon it does produce very nice photos.

Same here – my Epson XP-520 decided the black cartridge was empty which it wasn’t, then the magenta and yellow. Then it said the replacements were not recognised. It was happy once I replaced all the cartridges (with non-genuine ones). The partly used ones had to go in the bin but I didn’t give Epson the pleasure of selling me their ink. That was over half an hour wasted and when this ink is exhausted the Epson will be going to the tip and replaced with a Brother.

Same here. My XP-520 decided my black ink was empty which it wasn’t, then the magenta, then the yellow. Replaced them and the printer said they weren’t recognised. I had to replace all of them before it would work. (I fitted 3rd party ones).
Having wasted half an hour trying to make the printer work, it will be going to the tip when these run out and replaced with a Brother (which hopefully will be better).

When my twenty year old HP printer began to make broken noises last month I bought an Epson Ink Tank from Amazon. Other ink tanks are available but Epson seem to have got more of the basics right than other makes. The correct printer arrived and was paid for, but Amazon believe I bought something else. That’s not particularly important since I have the relevant paperwork for this one. The printer works well and swiftly produces good copy and colour prints. In a few months I shall forget about the initial cost and be thankful that I can just print what I want, when I want. Even though it will be some time before I recoup the extra cost, I think of the mathematics as an abstract thing and the advantage of unlimited printing as a concrete advantage worth more than its monetary value.
Finding cartridges was always a chore in shops where they were mostly unavailable when I wanted them.
Third party inks (though no longer a problem for me) must still be doing a good trade, because despite being targeted by updated printer software for many years, they are still in business selling ink. This would suggest that not all printers reject them. Nevertheless HP, Epson and others have seriously annoyed many of their customers by this tactic. No one has yet found an effective way of dealing with it and no legislation has been introduced to stop it. These firms really should be called out and sanctioned for their covert ink actions. Why should they dictate with impunity? If they have a gripe about copyright or infringement of patent they should take action against the third party ink firms and not take it out on the public who need ink and look to buy it at a reasonable cost. I have always hated the idea that the printer subsidises the ink. Both should be fairly priced. Enter the ink tank!

I presume it is difficult for printer manufacturers to take action against the third party manufacturers because they know about anti-competition law. Here is a recent report about a successful action against Canon: https://www.therecycler.com/posts/canon-to-be-sued/

I presume that the increasing number of ink tank printers will reduce the number of complaints by users.

Jim Quinn says:
2 October 2021

Could not agree more. Nobody could rationally disagree with paying a fair price for a printer and a fair price for ink. We should all get a fair deal. I once used an Epson printer with reset codes in excess of 12 years reasonably heavy domestic use and got perfectly acceptable results until it was physically damaged and unrepairable. Therefore world requires many less printers to be made surely recycling and eco rules should be able to make this so? How do we put pressure on manufacturers – get to it governments!!

Our Competition and Markets Authority is supposed to act in cases of anticompetitive practices, Jim. I believe that if enough people contact CMA they might take action, which has occasionally been successful in other countries. I have tried despite not having a problem. I’m not sure how much the eco argument has been used. It certainly makes no sense that users are scrapping printers because they no longer work with third party ink and toner cartridges.

Stan Judd says:
18 June 2021

I have a Epson Stylus OfficeBX625FWD. Had for some time been using compatible inks but then it would not accept them, I feel that if I hadn’t downloaded information from Epson this would not have happened.

Shauna says:
11 July 2021

EPSON XP-352. Half way through a compatible ink cartridge and now suddenly not accepted. Can’t use any of the scanning functions now either until the cartridges are replaced.

Hi Shauna – Is there a message that suggests that use of compatible cartridges is the problem? Did the fault coincided with a firmware update?

The 20201021 version of my HP LaserJet M254dw firmware made all my generic laser toner cartridges incompatible. I would get a “hp supply memory error”. It was a long adn involved process to roll back the firmware to an earlier version, and lo and behold the cartridges worked again.

This cannot possibly be legal. Now I have a laser printer that I cannot update to the latest drivers and firmware (as we are always advised) because it is rendered inoperable by HPs greed. If they want us to buy genuine printer cartridges, they should make them affordable.

You did well to roll it back. Most fail.

Provided your printer is USB and plugged into a PC with full protection, you shouldn’t have a security issue. If it is straight into the router or wifi… just might be an issue if the low life find a clever way to access your network via a weak entry through the printer.

Phil says:
15 July 2021

I’ve long been of the opinion that these so called security updates are just a way of nobbling generic cartridges. I’ve had an ink-tank printer for seven months and not had any updates offered at all.

I have seen no reports of a problem with ink tank printers, Phil. Your printer has probably not been sold at a subsidised price, so there is no need for the manufacturer to sell ink at an inflated price.

Phil says:
5 August 2021

No I didn’t get the impression that the price was subsidised…

Thomas Harrop says:
19 July 2021

We had two Canon Pixma printers. We used them for a couple of years and I got tired of spending close to $100 every time we needed toner. I switched to aftermarket toner and within about two weeks they both stopped working. Both printers seem functional but they just produce an error message and refuse to print. We are switching to Epson Ecotank printers and will avoid Canon like the plague from now until the end of time.

I bought a Canon MG3650 printer – a Which? BB the ink that came with it has only just run out & I purchased replacements from Refresh Cartridges. However, having now inserted them a year after purchase (the original ink lasted much longer than I expected!) the flashing lights insist the cartridges are not correctly installed. As there’s little scope for incorrect installation I’ve removed & re-installed them several times to no avail. The warning lights are still flashing & I still can’t print.

I suggest you contact your supplier, Fiona. They might be unwilling to help more than a year after purchase but it is worth trying. I once had a similar experience and found that the ‘chip’ had become detached from a cartridge. It was in the packet and refitting it fixed the problem.

I too am a victim of this greed by HP.
I bought a Color Laser Jet Pro M254dw, and was always pleased with the results I got from it. I am using third party inks except for the black which is an HP original.
Earlier this week I could no longer print and got the message ‘Supply problem’ on the screen.
I took out all the third party ink cartridges and hey presto the message disappeared but of course the printer won’t print unless it has four cartridges installed.
I shall be writing to my MP about this as I believe it breaks competition law.
Perhaps if a few more of those affected did the same we might get somewhere.

Harvey says:
27 August 2021

HP M254dw refused to recognise a new set of third party print cartridges.
Turns out to be a known issue caused by a printer firmware update late last year.
The older firmware is no longer on the HP web site.

With much digging around I found it online.

Some tips.
You need to enable downgrades of the firmware via the printer touch screen.
It only seems to install with the USB connection, not a network connection.
You need to cold start the printer.
You need to run the installation .exe ‘as administrator’.
Web sites warn it can take several tries – it did, but succeeded at about the fourth try!
*Don’t forget to turn off automatic updates* or all your work will get wrecked!

I thought the manufacturers had agreed not to do this?
The printer had cartridge ‘protection’ turned off.

I bought a new Brother HL-L8260 CDW Laser printer this week to replace an identical model. It wouldn’t work with the existing driver so I downloaded the driver from the Brother website. The supplied cartridges quickly ran out and I replaced them with compatible cartridges I had in stock, but they were not recognised and I couldn’t clear the error message.
I contacted Brother support who just said they don’t guarantee non-genuine cartridges and couldn’t help. The agent I spoke to was unhelpful and dismissive, and just terminated the conversation when I tried to get an explanation as I understood that this practice is now not allowed.
I also spoke to the compatible cartridge supplier who told me the problem was the firmware which is automatically updated during the initial setup unless you prevent this by some method that is apparently buried in the small print, and advised to Google for a solution. However I have so far been unable to resolve the issue.
I had an urgent print job to complete and therefore had to purchase Brother cartridges which were more than twice the cost of the printer!
This is an intolerable situation and I would appreciate any comments, or indeed a solution.

I suggest you contact the Competition and Markets Authority. They are supposed to deal with companies that behave anti-competitively. As you have pointed out, toner cartridges are extremely expensive. I’m sure that Which? could help push the CMA into action but I am not aware that they have tried.

If you can manage to obtain an old printer driver you might be able to get your compatible cartridges working again. There are reports of people achieving this with HP and Epson printers (see posts in this Conversation) but I don’t recall Brother being mentioned.

Please report back if you find a solution.

K. Connors says:
7 October 2021

I have a Canon Pixma MG5750. Last week I started getting notice about 1 cartridge being incompatible but after fiddling a bit, it worked. Today I tried to change all of my ink cartridges out and I am now locked out and printer is displaying error code 1750 “Appropriate Ink Tank Is Not Installed”. There is no way to clear the error code rendering the printer useless.

It’s very clear that this is no coincidence, HP and other printer manufacturers are holding our printers hostage unless we purchase from them! Is this legal ?
Mighty suspicious that most of the best selling printers were locked out at about the same time in 2021.

Please could you say where you found out about printers being locked out at the same time, ACE? It might be helpful to anyone who wants to take action against a manufacturer.