Simple low toner workaround squeezes out a few extra pages when your printer refuses

low-ink-hacking

[Andrew] was getting ready to print out an assignment when his Samsung printer suddenly started blinking a red error light at him. Unable to find any documentation explaining the issue, he called Samsung directly and found that it was indicating the toner cartridge was nearly empty.

He held down the button that prints a test page, which came out just fine despite the printer’s insistence that there was not enough toner left. Annoyed at the fact that he felt Samsung was trying to strong arm him into buying another pricey toner cartridge, he looked for a way around the restriction.

He discovered that his printer’s software allowed him to specify a custom test page document, though it required that the document be in PostScript format. After a few shell commands, he had his document converted and was on to bigger and better things.

While a bit time consuming, his workaround should let him get by on this toner cartridge at least for a little while longer. We imagine that since he’s using Linux, the process could probably be scripted to save time, though we’re not sure if the same can be said for Windows-based PCs.

Comments

  1. Griffin says:

    At our home we have gotten around this with a shared printer by having a computer with the bare version of the driver do the printing. The basic driver is often unaware of the ink levels.

  2. basuraman says:

    my Brother laser printer complained it was out of toner. i took out the cartridge and found where there was a small hole where an optical sensor shines through and measures toner level. A small piece of electrical tape over the hole has kept the printer printing about a year and half now – and prints haven’t even lightened at all.

    Printer toner/ink – what a freaking racket! grrr.

  3. DMPhotog says:

    I would be curious to see just how many more pages [Andrew]can get out of the remaining toner. I don’t think it is Samsung’s intention to strong-arm anybody into buying things they don’t need. However if there is a lot of toner left over, I would be asking questions of how the printer determines that it is out of toner.

    • basroil says:

      If this was an inkjet, I would laugh when he fuses his printer-heads, but since it’s a laser printer, no problems.

      • Truth says:

        It really does depend on the make and model of inkjet. Some have the plumbing and electronics for the ink flow as part of the disposable print cartridge. That is why the cartridges are so expensive.

        Some inkjet printers use piezoelectric vibrations to pump and spew ink onto the paper. Others use microscopic thermal heaters (generating temperatures higher than the surface of the Sun) to spray atomised bubbles of ink onto the paper.

      • andres says:

        huh, at higher than sun temperatures i would think that was some kind of plasma tech. as far as i know most heat based ink-throwing systems dont go much further than 300 degrees Celsius.

  4. vmspionage says:

    My HP color laser printer will print any document in the queue when you first power it on regardless of the toner status. The process is: 1) turn off printer 2) print document 3) turn printer back on. It has printed hundreds of full color pages since it “ran out” of toner. I forgot exactly what model, if anyone wants to know I’ll post it up later when I get home.

    HP can suck it, if they were honest I would consider buying their official toner but now I’ll probably buy some generic stuff from the interweb or a refill kit.

  5. No One says:

    If you call tech support and tell them you put a new toner cartridge in but it still won’t print they’ll give you the command sequence to input to “reset” the page counter and let you continue to use your current cartridge. Unfortunately, laser printers require this so infrequently that you’ll probably forget by the time you need to do it again. However, fortunately, laser printers require this so infrequently that you’ll probably forget by the time you need to do it again.

    That said, there’s an argument that using a toner cartridge too long past its expiry risks damaging the machine because it requires higher and higher voltages to print successfully. I forget the exact science but it’s a pretty safe risk, probably.

    • Barefoot says:

      I see what you see what you did there :)

    • Morgauxo says:

      Things like that I like to write on a piece of paper and tape it inside, to the bottom or back of the device in question. Wherever is out of the way. No need trying to memorize everything OR re-inventing the wheels each and every time.

    • Dax says:

      Why would the printer require higher voltages to print with an empty cartridge? Why would the machine be programmed to do that?

      The only thing I can see that would damage the machine is the fact that the laser drum would have leftover charge with no toner stuck to it, which then leaks somewhere else and the toner dust will follow.

      • Jim says:

        Every time you print a page on a laser printer then a small amount of toner gets wasted. Older printers used to have a seperate container for collecting this. Every time you put in a new toner cartridge then you would put in a new collection bottle (it’s not usually suitable for recycling because it’s contaminated with dust from the air and from the paper, plus whatever else happens to be floating around that part of your printer, and so won’t for sure take the electrostatic charge needed to make the process work). But some cheap laser printers don’t have a seperate container for this waste toner and just mix it back in with the new stuff. When the “cartridge empty” comes on it doesn’t mean that the cartridge has no toner left in it, just that the stuff left in there has (by calculation based on some average numbers) a highish proportion non-toner crud mixed in.

        Are their calculations done giving a more than generous safety margin to the manufacturers? I’ve no doubt that the answer to that one is yes, but you should be aware that print quality does deteriorate over time if you force a cartridge to print a long way beyond its rated life, and that there is a risk of biggish lumps of this crud causing more problems.

      • Whatnot says:

        Cheap laserprinters are actually cheaper than a new cartridge, so it would not be a bad thing if it broke, and since this is hackaday we’d have a nice excuse to get some juicy parts, like a powerful laser and a lensassembly (but don’t mess with the toner though, get rid of that in a normal manner).

  6. ScottInNH says:

    I’d be interested to know if shaking the printer cartridge worked. It usually does…

  7. P says:

    I’m not sure if Samsung also does this, but Brother printers use an optical sensor to detect toner level. So, when it says it’s out of toner, you can just cover the sensor with a piece of tape and keep on printing.

  8. Barefoot says:

    A common workaround for low toner is to remove the cartridge and gently shake it side to side & back and forth to redistribute the toner. This has worked for me on many different models of laser printers.

  9. Bill says:

    Brother printers have a setting in the driver (win and Linux) that allows overriding the low toner warning and printing until you’re tired of looking at blank pages. Samsung drivers may have a similar override.

    • Azdle says:

      For anyone looking for this setting go to the IP address of the printer then click ‘Printer Settings’ and the option is at the bottom. It’s ‘Replace Toner’ change it from ‘Stop’ to ‘Continue’. Your printer will now print until you get tired of the faded-ness of documents.

      Note: This is on a HL-2270DW, but I would assume that it would be the same for any network Brother printer.

    • mosheen says:

      My Brother has a window on the cartridge. I put a piece of tape over it and print until the page fades.

  10. Stephen says:

    Usually, laser printers (at least the ones I’ve dealt with)use a sensor to ‘see’ how much toner is left in the cartridge. You can usually find this sensor by removing the cartridge and checked the perimeter where it sits. I sometimes just cover that sensor with a piece of black electrical tape so it thinks the toner is always full. I would venture that machine lets you know the toner is ‘empty’ not because it is, but it is letting you know that it’s time to order the replacement before you are completely empty. Personally, I keep a replacement on hand or don’t need it enough that I can’t wait on the order to arrive. So I cover the sensor and wait until my pages get faint or have streaks.

    I’ve never heard anything about the printer using higher voltages to print with less toner. My opinion is that doesn’t sound plausible. The paper goes through and the voltage draws the toner to the paper, if there isn’t enough toner, you simply have spots on your page where it’s missing. It doesn’t stop or slow the process to create a stronger field to draw extra toner to the locations where it is lacking. It goes through at the same speed as normal and just lacks ink. The process is the same no matter how much toner you have.

    But you never know. I could be wrong…

    • Stephen says:

      Sorry for my poorly typed message. I did not proof read before I posted it :).

    • Homero says:

      I worked as a color laser specialist with Canon for 17 years. The voltages in a color laser printer are set and do not vary by the amount of toner left. The voltages are for the main charge, which puts an even charge over the surface of the drum. The developer bias charge which controls how much of an opposite charge is required to pull the toner from the developer roller to the drum. The transfer charge which transfers the image on the drum to the paper and in some instances a charge to neutralize the remaining charge on the drum so the cleaning blade can remove waste toner left over by the printing process and ready it to begin the cycle all over again. If any of those charges (or voltages) changes the quality of the print would change.

  11. Ivan says:

    I don’t know why going through the whole conversion. Both linux and windows produce PS files when using “print to a file”. For windows, if you have a post script driver installed, just make sure the output ends in .ps. Linux the same.

    Using PDF as an intermediate step probably leads to poor quality printing results (as in figures).

  12. therian says:

    I just disable the sensor on my Brother and now it printing almost twice more pages

  13. Derek says:

    Depending on the printer model, you can get around this by covering up the small sensor window on the side of the toner cartridge. A piece of black electrical tape made my in law’s Brother laser printer continue for months of light usage after it refused to print due to the cartridge being empty

  14. Kris Lee says:

    I have Samsung ML 1640. It has been blinking since weeks now and it does not refuse to print.

    So this model is different?

    • Hungry_Myst says:

      My old Epson inkjet printer would let me continue printing after warning me of an empty cartridge when I was using windows XP. Unfortunately the Linux and Windows Vista/7 drivers absolutely refused to print any more after the warning. So maybe it’s a driver thing.

      I have an HP laser printer now which has a setting to allow printing after it decides it’s out of toner.

    • Adil says:

      Samsung Ml-1640 can be reset in two ways. Both ways will help you refill the toner and use it again and again.

      The first method requires you to short some pins on a chip by opening the back of the printer.

      The second method which I prefer is a bit long but doesn’t require you tinkering with the hardware. Its a purely software solution.

      Hope it helped. I have been using my Ml-1640 for the past two years by just refilling the same factory cartridge.

    • Andrew says:

      I think so. This printer absolutely refused to print. The Samsung tech support guy seemed to confirm that on this model the printer just won’t print at all when it thinks it’s low on toner.

  15. MikeK says:

    There is usually a simple sensor that can easily be overridden by placing black tape over or disconnecting entirely.

  16. Matt says:

    My Lexmark printer gives me warnings every time it considers a cartridge empty, but it still continues to print using the regular driver. Once it thinks that the cartridge is completely empty, it simply asks me to confirm before printing. However, that might be caused by the fact that it is a business model…

  17. anfegori91 says:

    My Samsung ML1660 laser printer had the same problem, the toner cartdridge has a chip that counts the pages printe; I just had to put a piece of tape to avoid the printer communications with that chip and i’ve updated the printer’s controller with a pirate firmware. Now my printer never asks for toner when it has a bunch left to use.

  18. matt says:

    my ml-1710 has never had that issue. 5k pages on the counter with the original cartidge. two refills (under $10) and some shaking. who calls tech support? kick it till it quits blinking (shaking the cartridge in the process) and be done with it.

  19. efnord says:

    HP LASERJET 4M+ FOREVER! It just won’t die and the toner is dirt cheap.

  20. nimitzbrood says:

    I have an HP LJ8150DN and recently went through a low toner escapade. I wasn’t able to convince it to ignore the message nor find a setting for it in the web interface. Probably due to the age of the system.

    On other model printers though I’ve seen everything from tape on the sensor to hacked firmware so there are a lot of choices out there.

    And I’ll agree that the companies are setting the Toner Low threshold considerably in their favor. I haven’t yet seen a printer that couldn’t go through at least another half ream of paper with clean print when the function in question was disabled.

  21. truthspew says:

    I finally got fed up with my HP Inkjet printer that I picked up a Samnsung CLP-315W.

    The WiFi on it sucks. So it’s wired into my network. No biggie.

    And my print volume is low enough at maybe 30 pages a month that the toner will last a LONG time. And I don’t need to worry about smearing, blotching, etc. Nice clean laser printer text and graphics. Perfect.

  22. Jordan says:

    I have a brother 2170W. i blacked out the window on my starter cartridge and pulled out the lever on one side that indicates it’s a new cartridge. the printer no longer reports anything about the level of toner and happily prints away. The starter toner is rated for 1000 pages and hit 2000 before it actually ran out. The toner-covered roller on the cartridge was clean when it finally died.

    i wonder how long the high-yield cartridge i put in will last…

    also checked for that “replace toner” option and didn’t see one.

    so glad there are ways to get around these artificial barriers. talk about wasteful in every respect.

  23. ejonesss says:

    if the toner cartridge has a fill hole on it for the factory to fill it you could refill the cartridge.

    if there are no electronic boards or chips in the cartridge it may be possible you can refill the cartridge.

  24. usr says:

    Very interesting information. I own the same printer model, however, I didn’t find how to make it work in linux.

  25. Mathias K. says:

    Konica Minolta offers a Tool called Remote Panel Utility for the magicolore 1600W witch allows you to disable the “Toner empty stop” so you can print until the toner is really emty ;)
    The Tool is realy hidden on the page but you can find it, don´t know if its avadible to other printers.

  26. julian perry says:

    Be wary of running dry of toner on units that have a true “toner cartridge”(such as Kyocera printers) as opposed to combined toner/OPC drum units.
    The toner contains as a lubricant which keeps the agitator in the transfer unit (that applies the toner evenly to the metal roller – that holds the toner ready to be transferred to the OPC drum. ) If the toner runs TOO low, the bearings run hot. Melted toner forms a chitinous black goop that kills the transfer unit.
    I had a particularly parsimmonious customer who repeatedly did this – cost him a fortune in repairs – and he COULDN’t be pursuaded otherwise.

  27. Mr. Mole says:

    If you have an HP CP1215, CP1515n or CM1312 (or any version having a LCD panel with scroll buttons
    Press OK
    to System setup
    Press OK
    to Print Quality
    Press OK
    to Replace Supplies
    Press OK
    to override Out
    Press OK

    If you have a CP12xx or any version lacking LCD panel with scroll buttons
    Toolbox>System Setup>Cartridge Out Override>Choose ON>Choose USE OVERRIDE>Apply

    If you want to know if your cartridges are actually fading print a colour swatch.

    In e.g. MS Word
    New Document>View>Toolbars>make sure Drawing is ticked
    Autoshapes>Basic Shapes>Click the rectangle
    Draw Rectangle across whole width of page
    Right click your rectangle>format autoshape>set fill colour from drop-down box: black
    Repeat to make blue, light orange & yellow rectangles.

    Print the sheet a few times. Identify the fading cartridge as follows:

    Colours Affected on Swatch Cartridge Fading
    Black Only Black
    Blue Only Cyan
    Blue and Orange Magenta
    Yellow and Orange Yellow

  28. blue carbuncle says:

    Why would this be harder on Windows HaD? .prn files work fine…

  29. Kender says:

    My Samsung has a small fuse, 1/4 amp i think, that is in the cartridge. When first powered up it sends power through the fuse and starts a page counter till empty from there.
    The fuse will blow on first use so to restart the counter just replace the fuse. Dont use a higher amp fuse or the control board WILL FRY!

  30. JD says:

    I have a Samsung ML-1910 and I put custom firmware on it..

    There are 4 pins on the cartridge itself so the printer can talk to it, with the new firmware if I just tape the pins, the printer thinks there is a factory cartridge installed and will print 1000 or so sheets. The print count resets each time the power is cycled..

  31. jaap says:

    Regarding shaking of toner cartridges: I have mixed results: an HP A4 laster printer where it works wonders and an HP A3 laster printer where it has no effect at all. Maybe it depends on how well the printer does it’s own toner distribution, and how much your printed text is skewed to on side of the page.
    Regarding ink-jet refill warnings: I have a Cannon printer (3 color + 2 black) that gives helpful warnings when one of its 5 cartridges gets below 20%, which statistically is 100% of the time :-)

  32. Rogan says:

    I have a Samsung SCX4300, and I’ve also suffered through the pain of their “out of toner” warnings. Googling turned up a tweaked firmware that could be uploaded to the printer to disable the warning, and I have managed to print hundreds of pages more.

  33. Jan says:

    Thanks for this info!

    Another way is to buy compatible ink, especially for hp and lexmark this could save you big bucks!

  34. Don says:

    Just remove the cartridge, hold it by the sides, (don’t turn it upside down) and shake it left/right/right/left to distribute the remaining toner. It should be good to go for several hundred, even maybe another thousand pages!

    You can do it again and again until it really starts striping.

  35. Hacked off Samsung user says:

    On the Samsung CLP415 – I was able to start printing again by using the printer menu to go to maintenance, then set the toner notifications to off. Not before I’d spent two days without a printer!

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