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How to revert HP printer’s ban on 3rd-party ink cartridges (deldycke.com)
415 points by kdeldycke on Nov 10, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 255 comments

I can understand HP wanting to prevent their customers from being conned into buying false cartridges, or wanting to ensure the best possible experience for customers. But. Is it not enough to bring up a dialogue or warning telling the user it's false and they are breaking warranty, rather than outright disabling the cartridge?

This seems like HP is acting anti-competitively, such that a third party would struggle to feasibly make a part for the printer. Reasons that a third party may make a non-official part:

* It's cheaper

* It improves on HP design (flaws)

* It offers some additional functionality not provided by standard parts

* They offer support past HPs official support, preventing contribution of e-waste

> But. Is it not enough to bring up a dialogue or warning telling the user it's false and they are breaking warranty, rather than outright disabling the cartridge?

Nope; their business model is cartridges and ink, not so much printers. 3rd party cartridges impacts their bottom line. There's a few companies who have consumables as their business model, Keurig is another that added "DRM"-like features to their stuff. Juicero tried it with an extremely overbuilt, but ultimately stupid device with overpriced bags of fruit as the consumables.

Your willingness to entertain the thought that HP may be acting on behalf of their customer's best interests is certainly commendable, but I don't think HP deserves it.

It's common knowledge that ink cartridges are a racket and the real money maker for printer manufacturers. I have absolutely zero doubt that this move was only done in order to coerce their users into buying ridiculously overpriced first-party cartridges.

I don't want to give them any tips but they could allow 3rd party ink but then intentionally make the printer spew the ink around in smudges and with color streaks etc when it think the ink is 3rd party. This would ruin the reputation of 3rd party ink and make people "learn" that they have to buy branded ink to get acceptable prints.

> This seems like HP is acting anti-competitively

I believe that they are and that it's not just a feeling. Some of their printers also used to tell your cartridges were empty before they were.

Printer breaks very fast and support don't really help you: https://sebsauvage.net/streisand.me/matronix/index.php?20200... (french).

Their policy on recurring payment is also pretty damning: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2020/11/ink-stained-wretches-b...

> I can understand HP wanting to prevent their customers from being conned into buying false cartridges, or wanting to ensure the best possible experience for customers.

Nah, that's just the marketing PR blurb they attach to this stuff.

The real reason is $$$, nothing else.

Sometimes I think "but won't this hurt them in the long term? After dealing with HP printers I get nautious when looking at an HP logo, I get this bracing defensive adversarial feeling, this can't be good for a brand".

But then I realize I'm not a typical consumer, and most of us aren't, here on HN.

Do typical consumers even have the vocabulary and mental concepts in place (the basics you learn in e.g. free software philosophy, right to repair movement, etc).

I think most people don't. They just see that "Hm, the machine says this ink is bad. Damn those guys who sold it to me! I guess I can only trust genuine HP products." I don't think normal people's reaction is to suspect malevolent marketing and updates. I think when people don't have a good mental model of what is going on they will just take it at face value and therefore the HP brand won't suffer much damage even in the long term.

Another possibility is they're trapped by other agreements that prevent them from voting with their wallet.

The obvious example is predatory MSPs where they talk their customers into certain printers and sell them ink. A 10% commission on a $600 set of toners is easy money compared to a $150 set of toners where a 10% ($15) commission isn't even possible.

The other less obvious one is franchises. Part of the franchise agreement will include having corporate be the supplier for all the lease hold improvements, all the furnishing, office supplies, etc., plus all of the ongoing consumables. It's sold as consistency to protect the brand, but a lot of it is about increasing profits for the corporate side at the expense of their franchisees. I've seen it first hand.

In the case I saw, I knew someone who bought into a franchise and asked me about some of the tech stuff. The franchise sold them cheap products with too much markup, but the most egregious was the printer. They were sold a cheap inkjet printer and they were buying 2-3 sets of cartridges per month. That's $3000-4000 per year (CAD) for printing. It may not sound like much, but this was a small business where they were hoping for $30k-$60k of (owner absent) annual profit.

The reason behind that is twofold. First, the franchises are easier to sell because the upfront costs are lower and the purchaser usually doesn't realize the trade-off is higher ongoing and total (lifetime) operating costs. The second is because the franchise supplier is making money off of those higher ongoing costs. It's awful for the franchisees and many of them don't realize what's happening until they're all-in.

TLDR; It's predators all the way down :-(

I really doubt that... In my environment (from helping people with their computers) I regularly hear things like "Damn HP, wanting €80 for a set of tiny ink cartridges".

And most people know very well how to find their aftermarket ink, either in the shop or online. None of them think what they're buying is official. Sometimes (but rarely) really cheap ink does cause printer problems, but even then it's worth the risk. An Inkjet is pretty much "total loss" after the first ink change anyway (a full cartridge set costs close to what the printer is worth).

I always advise Epson EcoTank ones for inkjet use (though these are pretty pricey) and Brother for laser (which besides not being bound to expensive toners are actually some of the cheapest printers around too). For most people a simple B/W laser is sufficient anyway (and just to order photos online).

But they often end up falling for Canon, Lexmark or HP again because they're just cheap and fall for their marketing even though they were bitten by extremely overpriced cartridges before... <facepalm>

I think most people are perfectly capable of understanding the idea of low upfront costs and high maintenance costs. But if you're not expecting to print a lot, the payback time for a more expensive printer with cheaper ink/toner could easily be several years. People are used to replacing consumer electronics every few years anyway, and the 1 or 2 year guarantees reinforce that.

In the US, I believe the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prevents HP from voiding your warranty for using third party cartridges.

A VP at HP once told me they make 3/4 of their profits from selling inks (I am sure he exaggerated but still).

You can buy original laserjet cartridges for $150 or third party cartridges for $40-60 (or $25 if you are happy with noname Chinese cartridges). So there is big money involved.

That number could make sense if 'toner' counts as ink. And TBF, a lot of the nice multifunction printers of the 2000s were sold at a pretty decent loss.

> (or $25 if you are happy with noname Chinese cartridges).

Okay so I'm not one of those '3rd party evil' people. But speaking as someone who has had to repair multiple large format Inkjet and Laser printers, I would have at least a few concerns about Hazmat; even first party toner is pretty nasty stuff.

When a set of 4 toner cartridges is $800 from HP for a $600 printer and the high-quality, I’ve used before, 3rd party toners are $120 for the set, let’s just say that HP won’t be getting that purchase.

What's weird to me is big enough offices tend to switch to a subscription paid by the page, where the maker is engaged in doing reasonably whatever it takes (ink replacement, parts replacement etc.) to keep the machine printing.

I heard of such arrangements with Canon, I heard for Xerox, and it seemed to be pretty standard. As long as there was no manipulation errors the company had no need to care about durability, maintenance etc.

Greed should be the downfall of their printer business. Using technical measures to artificially limit consumer choice should be illegal.

In Canada we have 123ink.ca. For my Brother printer a set of genuine high yield cartridges is $520. A completely generic set is $105. However, they also have their own (Moustache) branded set that's $130.

I suspect their branded version is just a different sticker on the generic, but I buy the branded version. If they're willing to stamp their name on it and stand behind it that's worth $25 (+24%) to me. A brand name isn't worth $415 (+495%) though.

These companies have ignored the risk of cheating their customers for a long time and now that customers are getting more informed the same companies think they should be able to force customers keep buying their garbage. No thanks. Their downfall should be swift and spectacular (in my dreams -lol).

That is funny we heard the same thing from a high up at HP

Oh, HP and their black magic "prints". Back when I had to restore a Z2100 plotter for my employer, I found out that all the "clean printhead", "print test plots" and other commands - including when you launch them from the printer buttons instead from the web interface - are just ordinary print jobs under the hood.

If you ask me, this is one huge security hole waiting to be exploited.

And if anyone ever wants to play around with the Z2100 or the formatter (HP50XI/SCR or HP50XISCR)... they're x86 Linux based!

Reboot the printer in Service mode, navigate to "Service Utility", then "Enable/Disable Firewall" and upon a reboot you get a SSH root shell. Kill all processes, sync the disk, and dd it out to your computer, as the laptop PATA disk on the formatter is encrypted. If you're afraid of the PATA disk ever failing, take a CF card, a CF to 2.5in mini IDE adapter, dd the image from the previos step and replace the old disk.

Samsung did similar thing with their S9 and probably other phones. You had perfectly working call recording functionality until it was blocked by software update that you cannot turn off - you can only postpone every day or so.

They also removed the photosphere feature from their phone's camera app when they released the Gear 360.

I'm not saying they're not allowed to do that, but it did make me want to never buy a Samsung phone again.

I have the same feeling about Samsung. I am shopping for a new phone, unfortunately I cannot find any review that would say whether call recording works on a particular phone.

Disgusting HP, I've actually liked them for their nice Linux support..

Does not matter though, I got a Ricoh MP C2500 for "picking" it up, the 4 toners ( CMYK ) cost around $320, then here's toner for the rest of my life, and I get to print and scan a4 and a3 in duplex. Really nice machine, has network support and trays for multiple paper sizes.. amazing what people throw out these days. I'd never go back, this machine is even well enough built that spare parts can be bought for it and it's well documented how to service it.

Brother has good Linux support from my experience. The drivers installed easily on my fedora machines and printed perfectly. When I installed the printer in windows it spit out 20 sheets of gibberish. Never thought I'd see the day when a printer worked better on Linux.

The first color laser printer I bought was a brother, the drivers were all but impossible to adjust, it'd put way too much toner on (but only when printing from linux), and the printer would seize up, jam paper and just flat out refuse to work most of the time, it had a service agreement on it, and I had a technician come to our house 3 times and he never managed to solve the problem either, so while I had a lot of respect for brother, that incident made me change my mind.

Interesting. I have the exact same printer (HP Color LaserJet M254dw) and was curious to see if it automatically updated itself. The firmware datecode on my printer, 20190807, is even older than what the author downgraded to.

I'm not sure if I turned auto updates off when I set the printer up. I did go through most of the configuration UI via a web browser and know that I switched it to "IT-managed" mode - maybe that turned off auto updates. The printer is on a VLAN that connects to the internet, but I've turned off every option that sounds like it reaches out to a cloud service.

Overall, this is a decent printer for me. It seems to meet all of my requirements - I can leave it unused for long periods and it will still wake up and print as soon as I tell it to. It's a laser printer, so no worries about clogged nozzles/dried up ink. There are four individual toner cartridges, so no need to a set of three colours because one ran out. Windows and MacOS both discovered the printer on the network and automatically figured out the drivers.

Printers generally suck, but this one doesn't seem to suck too badly.

HP printers do in-band firmware updates via print jobs?

Actually, yeah. It's actually a really great solution, because it means you don't have to write a complicated firmware update protocol for every platform; you just "print" the firmware upgrade, and it gets the job done for you.

Of course, it opens up the printer to some pretty serious security problems, but let's just ignore that...

An old Actiontec router I had actually used FTP to recover its firmware. I recall having to use a QUOTE FLASH command.

Instead of disabling auto-updates you can also clear the default gateway on the printer. No gateway = no Internet access, but it's still LAN addressable.

I have a Brother printer with wifi. The day it upgrades and block me from using reasonably priced toner, I'll set up to a Raspberry Pi as a print server and hook it up via USB.

I'm wondering how much of a market there's going to be for this and if cheaper devices could be used.

Assuming you can downgrade the firmware. The engineers probably thought of consumers trying to get rid of their malware, and design ways to make this difficult.

I know some products blow physical fuses when updating the firmware and if you go back to the old firmware it won't run when it detects the blown fuse.

You'd need significant electrical skills to restore/replace the fuse to the original state.

> The day it upgrades and block me from using reasonably priced toner, I'll set up to a Raspberry Pi as a print server and hook it up via USB.

By then it would be too late. Alas it seems Brother doesn't do these things. It's HP. People should stop buying their products.

Brother makes remarkably well-designed and BS-free products. From hardware to software. It's like a breath of fresh air, really.

E.g. - Had a paper jam at some point. The on-device screen said "Paper jam. Open the front panel." Opened it, the message changed to "Remove the toner cartridge." Removed it, and it kept on going to tell where to look, what to pull, etc. Ditto with the driver installation - downloaded, run, clicked OK, done. No junk to "manage my printing experience", just what's needed to control all printing options, all laid out clearly, and exactly where Microsoft says it should be. Beautiful. Almost shed a tear.

I still have no idea why people don't buy printers by first looking at what refills cost. It is simply baffling. The only way to penalize manufacturers that practice this type of anti-consumerism is to stop buying their products, not coming up with work-arounds. The average toner cartridge replacement from HP is $150. My Ricoh C261SFWn's replacement cartridge from Ricoh is $50. The quality is just as good and the Ricoh machine itself was cheaper than an HP. No brainer.

Most people don't print much. For typical home use, a printer might last 5 years printing 10 pages a month.

That's 600 pages in the lifetime of the printer, which is less than a single cartridge.

The real mistake people make is they don't realise they'll have to buy a new cartridge every 6 months because the old one has dried out.

I was in that category once then I got kids. A cheap color laser serves me well, even if the colors are off key enough to change any photo to some halloweenish nightmare. Kids dont care. Neither do I.

Now the printer before that basically never printed. I used it to scan my (postal) mail. One day it decided to upgrade its firmware, then refused to scan without ink. What a waste.

If you're printing a lot, this kind of calculation makes sense. If you only print a couple of times a month, it gets swamped by uncertainty: will the ink dry up before I use it? will they still sell those cartridges in 5 years time? will it have broken anyway? Under these conditions, it's not that illogical to spend less on the printer.

It's also not always easy to compare. Maybe I can see that a HP cartridge holds more ink than the Epson one - but do they use ink at the same rate? How much do they use for cleaning the nozzles when you're not printing? Will I be able to get unofficial cartridges, and will they affect print quality?

It's getting easier to compare, because they're getting on the subscription bandwagon, based on pages per month. But the smallest plan I see is HP's 15 pages/month, which is probably at least 3x what I actually print.

it's a very old business model, the same way people don't buy 4/5 blade razor by first looking at what the ongoing blade purchases cost.

Don’t buy HP. Problem solved. Brother printers are great.

Don't print so damn much. Problem solved.

The printer companies are milking the vestigial cohort of people that just can't not use masses of paper for everything. I struggle to find a lot of sympathy for their self inflicted plight, and I'd really like to quit hearing about it.

I remember coming across forums long ago (at least 15+ years) where some friendly hackers had figured out how to patch out checks like these and posted modified firmware for various printers with features like "cartridge always full" and "automatic waste ink reset" (mostly applicable to inkjets with CIS instead of lasers), and this was at a time when it wasn't that easy to change the firmware of a printer (which is frankly quite scary). I have long lost the link, and I'm not sure how much of such communities exist anymore, but that was an interesting discovery that, for a few days, I spent many hours reading.

Are there any online resources on what is the most reliable and cheap printer to use long term? I'm thinking a BW or Color laser printer where the parts last a long time and accept cheap third party toner cartridges?

Common wisdom has been any Brother printer (for the past 20 years maybe). I have one and love it compared to my previous HPs.

I have an OKI C301dn.

What I like:

- Build quality and the low price, the thing is huge and weighs 22kg and I paid only 100 EUR for a new one

- Availability of cheap third party toner cartridges

What I do not like:

- Every toner cartridge must include a circuit board that needs to be replaced together with the cartridge. This increases toner cart replacement price by ~4 EUR

- Third party toner quality varies a lot even from the same seller it's hard to find a cheap supplier with constantly good quality

- After 7 years and about 3k pages printed, a white vertical line / streak started to show up on the printed pages

Based on recommendations here I guess my next printer will be from Brother.

I’ve had very good service from my HP3600N color laser. Economical, reliable, decent paper handling.

It was caught up in the HP driver security cert error of late last month (which makes me suspicious that it wasn’t an accident, but a reinstall of Apple drivers fixed it).

Economics here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24985405

I just ordered an HP laser printer since Wirecutter recommended it. Not used it yet. On HN I see people recommending Brother all the time though, so now I hope my HP is still ok :-)

FWIW, I've been using HP lasers for the last 12 years. The first one started getting a bit wonky after 9 years and I replaced it; the new one has been fine. We do a middling amount of printing (~10,000 pages over those 9 years, iirc).

I haven't tried non-first party toner; the B/W high-capacity HP toner cartridges for my current printer, for example, are ~$200 and last for ~10,000 pages, which works fine for me; my total cost of ownership ends up at $45/year or so, and there's zero hassle involved, which is worth a lot to me personally.

Good to know, thanks!

I made the mistake of buying an HP printer years ago. But I found a 'neat trick'. You can subscribe to the free Instant Ink program using a test credit card, i.e. a number from https://developer.paypal.com/docs/payflow/payflow-pro/payflo.... And ~2 days later you have ink sent to your door. Fuck you HP.

Isn't that credit card fraud?

New printers often come with a trial of the manufacturer's subscription plan, which will automatically order ink when it's running low. I guess if you activate the subscription when it runs low, it will send a new cartridge straight away. This probably also works with a real card number if you just cancel the subscription before it starts charging.

I'd assume that only works once per printer - or at least it's enough of a pain to repeat it that most people would rather pay. The smallest subscription plans are pretty cheap.

That’s got to be it. No way would a test card number actually work. Live payment processor environments decline them. They only work in payment processor test environments.

If the merchant’s backend doesn’t special case them and sends them through, they will be declined.

In HP's case, the cartridges will not work if the subscription has been cancelled.

That cartridge will stop working when the place is cancelled, though...

I said in another thread... we have 3d printers! Lets make an open source laser printer around a cheap, commonly-available printer cartridge!

Joke’s on them, my new but cheap POS HP printer won’t even recognise and connect to the wifi, so it can’t ever download updates.

That was very funny. Thanks for the laugh

You can't even find aftermarket cartridges for HP's new printers like the Officejet 9020, and a set of OEM replacement ink costs $100.

They're also paranoid devices which re-enable auto updates by themselves, which is probably against EU law but hey :|

Guess the only option is keeping it off the internet completely.

This should be ilegal.

And I think it is illegal in EU.

In the US of the 21st century, it's far more likely that rolling back the firmware update would be the illegal thing.

Ink tank if you have to go non laser mode. I own like 2 HP 5820 ink tank printers and had to change a part inside once. Other than that can do other than counting pages but 3 years they havent done that. Not that I update my printers

How far back is HP going with these firmware updates? Or are they only updating models that they are currently selling?

They've been doing this since at least 2016, but whether they've gone back farther than that is of interest.

I'm just going to say it....Inkjet printers are one of those technologies that just has to die (for general printing usage). Same with HP Consumer. I don't mind HPE.

Is it ink cartridge or toner cartridge? The post is about LaserJet

Does someone know how other vendors behave? I have heard good things about Brother printers lately, but I'm not sure if this tactic is also used by them and others

I think I might have managed to prevent mine from updating so far. Does anyone have an easy to follow guide to blocking it from internet access?

Slightly off-topic: Any recommendation on a good wifi printer + scanner combo for home office? Works for macOS, Linux and Windows too.

christ... is this the HP idea of Trilogy? Not upgraded to Laser?

I think my age is affecting my memory. Didn't HP did this before... at least twice?

This is exactly why I did assign a static IP to my HP printer, and firewalled to block it from getting internet access.

It's for security. Your printer might catch fire and burn your house down. /s

Technically that's not an upgrade, it's a downgrade.

Why hasn't there been a class action lawsuit yet?

Home printers are dead anyway. The one thing I did still need them for (printing labels for packages) is being taken over by QR codes

Thermal label printers (printing directly onto adhesive labels) are a good replacement for this use-case, with none of the downsides of ink or cartridges.

Furthermore their usage in businesses means there's an endless supply of labels in various sizes so you don't depend on the manufacturer for anything.

> with none of the downsides of ink or cartridges

But with a whole new set of fresh and exciting downsides like expensive paper and fading in sunlight.

don't the thermal labels fade (or turn black) over time?

Or do you mean toner i.e. heated plastic ink

Here that's one of the few things I still use mine for, printing QR labels for my outgoing parcels :P

UPS, DHL and others still require us to print our own labels here. And QR codes are hard to write by hand ;)

>UPS, DHL and others

That's rather odd. Haven't tried many but Hermes and RoyalMail were both cellphone screen QRs

I would have imagined bigger companies like UPS would be a step ahead

Maybe it's a Spain thing. But when I schedule parcels for pick up, I have to print the label myself. They don't bring one with them, so they would have no way to identify the parcel.

If I bring it to the post office I can preregister and show a code and they will put a label on, but I never do that anymore due to the covid measures. There's a massive queue outside now.

That's what I bought a Rollo thermal printer for years ago for around $150.

Never spend on ink for shipping things again.

Why would you buy an HP printer and try 3rd party ink, when you know the whole business model is subsidizing the printer and selling you expensive ink, and you also know that the whole printer cartrige space is full of DRM roadblock?

Do this: look at what a printer + as many 1st party refills as you'll need for several years will cost you. Compare that number across multiple manufacturers. If the number seems high - yes, you discovered why inkjets are impopular. If the number seems OK: buy that one and use 1st party ink. Alternatively: buy a printer from a manufacturer that says they accept, and always will accept, 3rd party ink. Expect to pay more for that printer, or not find one.

> Why would you buy an HP printer and try 3rd party ink, when you know the whole business model is subsidizing the printer and selling you expensive ink, and you also know that the whole printer cartrige space is full of DRM roadblock?

The vast majority of people don't know this because HP spends tons of money on marketing to distract consumers from the fact that they do this.

Stuff like this is why consumer protection laws are so important: not everybody has the time, energy or mental capability to absorb the nuances of the business models behind the consumer products they buy. And billions are spent marketing to obscure these practices. Buying a consumer-grade printer shouldn't be such an effing minefield , but it is because they market heavily and lobby against consumer protections.

> but it is because they market heavily and lobby against consumer protections.


> not everybody has the time, energy or mental capability to absorb the nuances of the business models behind the consumer products they buy

Exactly. And while it could change (let's hope) - I think most people simply shouldn't.

consumer protection is just a workaround / band-aid on proper advertising laws. Corps can take massive liberties on promotion, then CP needs to negotiate where "too far" wrt misrepresentation is.

How about product categories have mandated upfront declarations, e.g. DRM / no-3rd-party printers need to state as such, in an unambiguous way on the box in some mandated-minimum font size.

That sort of stuff falls directly under the "consumer protection law" umbrella.

It’s been a while, but last time I shopped for a printer, hp had the cost per page of each of their printers right there in the specs

I don't want to be an apologist for HP or any other printer manufacturer, but there is at least one point that seems to be missed in this debate. If I design a printer, whether inkjet or any other type, I probably design it to some pretty tight tolerances in terms of the ink or toner. So I probably don't want people to drop in cartridges where the manufacturing tolerances might be way off the mark as they might well cause issues with the performance. That I as the manufacturer might be asked to fix, also possibly gaining a reputation for poor quality in the process. Yes, you might reasonably point out that OEM cartridges are expensive, but it's far from a monopoly out there, isn't it? In some ways, the expense of printing could be considered to be a good thing. Because it's a disincentive to the production of waste paper. Just my 2 cents worth :)

Then void the warranty if the device is used with unsupported cartridges.

I'm not sure that approach would be sustainable. Printer manufacturers are in the business of loss leading as far as I can see. They probably don't make any significant profit on the printer itself, judging by what I've paid for printers in the last few years. The price of the printer is subsidised by the projected profits from the ink/toner. And they are not insignificant, I agree. But in the current market, selling printers at an unsubsidised price probably won't work commercially. We've gotten used to cheap printers and expensive ink/toner I guess and it's difficult to come off them. There'[s no such thing as a free lunch etc..

A Color Laserjet can be bought for roughly $450. A high-capacity replacement for all 4 toner cartridges will cost just over $700. That makes my Laserjet disposable - once the toners are nearly empty, I will sell it on eBay and replace mine with a new one.

Be aware most printers come with "starter cartridges" which are much smaller.

If the printhead is part of the cartridge, what problems could there be? When HP test the machine with a HP cartridge, there will be no fault found.

A good point. However, if, for example, the quality of the output is poor, I think that most people would not be sufficiently technically informed enough to be able to point to the printer head as the source the problem. Even if they do, there may well not be a brand sticker on the printer head. To most observers, then, it would be the printer that was faulty. Most printer manufacturers are protective of their brand images and don't want negative associations with that brand. Reasonable enough, as far as I can see. Let's face it, most branded ink or toner is expensive irrespective of brand. The best way of reducing printings costs? Probably just print less.

The way around this could be to have the printer validate new cartridges through a test print, with eventually internal sensors to raise errors as needed. That would be to me the cleanest way for HP to handle third party ink.

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