Monday, July 14, 2008

Beat the Printer Scheme and Save a Ton of Money on Ink or Toner

by: David Picella

Before you buy another printer, make sure you read this article. The printing manufacturers actually don’t make any money on the printer itself. Instead, the real profits are made on the ink and toner. In general, the cheaper the printer, the more you will get gouged when it comes to replacing cartridges. But this is not always the case. The high end printer manufacturers are ready and willing to jump deep into your pocketbook. And if you let them, they will stay there for very long time.

-The Microchip Scheme -

The primary way in which the printing companies gouge your pocketbook is by placing a small microchip on the ink or toner cartridge. The cartridge will stop working when you print a fixed number of pages (usually around 5,000) even if you have plenty of supply remaining. Sometimes the chips are also programmed to stop working after a fixed period of time (e.g., six months) regardless of how many pages you have printed. The chips are usually patented so as to guarantee that you will always buy a new cartridge from the original manufacturer.

Just to illustrate how costly it can be to buy the wrong printer, here is a personal example. I fell for HP’s marketing scheme and bought a “low cost” HP 1500 Color Laser Jet two years ago for $499.00. I just checked with and the cost of replacing all the toner cartridges and drum including tax (free shipping) is $597.33.

-Is there a way around this? -

Yes! If you do not have a chip on the cartridge then you can simply look on the internet and find a refill kit. This will work quite well. However, as a general rule, printing quality will decrease after approximately five refills.

If you have a microchip on your cartridge, there are a couple of options. First, with many cartridges you will be able to find a “chip reset” kit on the internet. Buying ink or toner and a chip reset kit is usually much cheaper than replacing the cartridge. You will be able to use the reset kit over and over again, so it will pay for itself. If you can’t find a reset kit for your cartridge, you can probably find a replacement chip. The microchips are usually glued on the side of the cartridge, so you can just pry off the old chip and glue on a new one.

-The “Nuclear Option” -

I saved the best for last! If this works, it is your best option, but you might have to do a little bit of internet research on your specific printer. What the printing companies don’t want you to know is that there is usually a way to configure your printer such that you are able to reset the chip memory. In some cases, you can completely disable the printer’s use of the chip. Getting back to my HP 1500 Color LaserJet, I was able to do this by holding down the big green button for 20 seconds when the power is turned on. On this printer, this causes what is known as a “hard reset” of all internal memory settings. Whereas I should have been forced to replace all of my toner and the drum, I have now been printing for months in normal operation without a glitch and with no error messages!

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able reset, replace, or bypass the microchip on your printer’s cartridge. Every year, it seems that the printer manufacturers become more and more skilled at preventing you from taking charge of your machine. However, now you are armed with a little bit of knowledge—and knowledge is power. The next time your printer runs out of ink or toner, don’t be so eager to go out and buy a new cartridge. Remember, if there is a way around it, you can find it! The personal satisfaction you get in saving money and beating them at their own game will put a little bit of excitement in what might have been a depressing and costly situation.