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Why Did My HP Printer Stop Printing?
A Technical Problem Becomes A Social Justice Issue

Do You Own An HP Printer?

Has it recently stopped working? If not, it may soon, because HP has published a new "firmware update" that is quietly installed, randomly and automatically, into almost every HP printer worldwide. Why would they do this?

Most HP printer owners have no idea what they are getting into when they buy their printers, either new or used. Anyone who owns or maintains an HP printer knows what I am talking about.

HP's printer business model is to sell printers for a relatively low price, considering the level of technology and intricate moving parts in the printers. The wholesale prices to the distributors are actually quite inexpensive, to promote sales by vendors like Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, and Amazon.

So how do they make a profit? Outrageously priced ink cartridges. A typical high capacity black cartridge for a recently manufactured HP printer costs $47 on Amazon and Best Buy. This cartridge is a mass-produced small plastic box, a sponge, a few ounces of ink, and a microchip that counts the number of pages that use ink from each cartridge. They probably cost about $5 each from some sweatshop in China or some other country that pays even less than Chinese factories do. So, about $40 profit for each black cartridge. A high capacity color ink cartridge is about half the plastic and ink, and sells for about $36. So about $30 profit per cartridge. If you do a lot of printing, the four cartridges in combination sell for about $150 (about $130 profit), and you will need to replace all of them every month or two.

You can see right away how this business model works. HP sells the printers cheap and makes an astonishing amount of profit on the ink cartridges. If you do a lot of printing, you are paying the original cost of the printer every month or two, about $1000 to $2000 per year, depending on the amount of printing you do.

Given the very obvious huge profit margin and the needs of people for reasonably priced cartridges, a large number of entrepreneurs figured out how to obtain recycled cartridges, clean and refill them, and replicate or re-initialize the HP page counting chip so that they were compatible with HP printers. And sell these "re-manufactured"

Thus began a very long cat-and-mouse game, in which HP attempted to block these "re-manufactured" cartridges, and the ink recyclers re=engineering their products to circumvent the firmware. In 2016, HP first publicly stated that all re-manufactured cartridges would be prohibited by a printer firmware update. but there was a public outcry and a European lawsuit, so the company changed course, and published a firmware downgrade which allowed re-manufactured cartridges, with a warning error message that their warranty would be voided if you proceeded. This was the guiding principle for about two years.

Then sometime in late 2018, and accelerating starting in 2019, HP quietly published a new firmware update for the entire printer product line, which would be installed randomly and automatically (the default setting). People who used re-manufactured cartridges began reporting that their printer had suddenly just stopped printing, with no warning, in a way that looked like a hardware failure.

But there were hints that something else was happening. One of the HP official diagnostic tools indicated a cartridge error. People attempting to insert new re-manufactured cartridges found that the printer did not "recognize" the cartridge, very different from the previous HP warning of non-HP ink. HP employees began telling members of the HP Community forum point blank that non-HP cartridges were no longer accepted.

Users who had experienced the 2016 incident were furious, and demanded a copy of a downgrade version of the firmware, and were told that it didn't exist, and furthermore that downgrading would not work, both untrue. But because of the nature of the HP Community Forum, these untrue statements became the "solution" of each discussion thread. Or users were directed to HP Support. Some users vowed they would never buy HP printers ever again.

This has become not only a technological issue, but a social justice issue. While many HP printers are used by companies and wealthy individuals who can afford new HP ink cartridges, there are millions of people who have come to rely on these "re-manufactured" cartridges, who do not have the resources to buy new HP cartridges.

The clamor for a downgrade firmware version continued through 2020 and has not abated. There were glimmers of hope, as several software engineers in the HP user community attempted to create installable downgrade versions of the firmware.

Finally - and I am not sure exactly when - the premier re-manufacturers of ink cartridges for HP, Canon, Epson, and other printers - CompAndSave, ComboInk, and 4InkJets - published a comprehensive document and downgrade versions for most HP printers.

There are downgrade tools at these websites for most of the HP printer product line. The only ones missing are the newest of HP's printer product line - the 9000 printer series - which uses the new HP 962 cartridges.

I certainly cannot guarantee that the downgrade firmware will work for your printer. However, the worst that can happen is that you can get back to the new HP firmware update (using the printer update firmware button), and obtain new cartridges from CompAndSave. According to one of their customer service agents, their new cartridges are compatible with this firmware update.

Below are the links to the firmware downgrade pages.

Please note: When you unzip the downgrade firmware executable for your printer, either Microsoft or your anti-virus software will probably warn you that it might be a virus. It isn't. Just click on the options to proceed.


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Here are the HP printer firmware downgrade links.

Technical note: The fundamentals of using these downgrades are:
1. The printer update software must be set to not perform automatic firmware upgrades
2. The downgrade firmware is installed

The order of these  two operations appears to vary according to people who have used them. Most users report that stopping automatic firmware updates should be done first. Others - myself included - found that this step could be done after the downgrade firmware is installed. Additionally, some printers may need a "factory reset" operation to be done before the downgrade firmware is installed.

CompAndSave - In addition to an excellent firmware downgrade page, they also sell very high quality HP-compatible cartridges that are compatible with the recent HP firmware update. Check with their chat agents before ordering if you cannot downgrade your firmware. CompAndSave is a professionally-run organization, and they have live chat agents (not "chat-bots").
https://www.compandsave.com/hp-printer-firmware-downgrade
for 90x, 95x, 97x

ComboInk
https://www.comboink.com/hp-printer-firmware-downgrade
for 90x, 95x, 97x

4InkJets - In addition to an excellent firmware downgrade page, 4InkJets gets top rating by Top Ten Reviews in "Best discount ink cartridges 2021." Check with their chat agents - to make sure their cartridges are compatible with the new HP firmware upgrade - before ordering if you cannot downgrade your firmware.
https://www.4inkjets.com/firmware-downgrade
For 202 A/X, 902 XL, 952 XL

Please note that the CompAndSave printer list is incomplete. Use the download specified for the cartridge series for your printer.

Printers affected by HP's "firmware upgrade:"

HP 90x series (CompAndSave)
HP OfficeJet Pro 6950, 6951, 6954, 6956, 6958 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 6960, 6962, 6968 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 6970, 6975, 6978 All-in-One Printer
 

HP 95X Series (CompAndSave)
HP OfficeJet Pro 7720, 7730, 7740 Wide Format All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 8210, 8216, 8217 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 8700, 8710, 8714, 8715, 8716, 8717, 8718, 8719 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 8720, 8724, 8725, 8727, 8728 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 8730, 8732M, 8734, 8735, 8735, 8736 All-in-One Printer
HP OfficeJet Pro 8740, 8743, 8744, 8745, 8746, 8747 All-in-One Printer
 

HP 97x Series (CompAndSave)
HP Pagewide 352dw
HP Pagewide MFP 377dw/dn
HP Pagewide Pro 452dw/dn
HP Pagewide Pro MFP 477dw/dn
HP Pagewide Pro 552dw
HP Pagewide Pro MFP 577dw/Z
HP Pagewide Managed P55250dw
HP Pagewide Managed MFP P57750dw
 

HP 202A/X Printers (4InkJets)+
HP Color LaserJet Pro M254 dw / nw Downgrade
HP Color LaserJet Pro M280 / M281 Downgrade
HP Color LaserJet Pro M153 / M154 Downgrade
HP Color LaserJet Pro M180 / M181 Downgrade

HP 951
OfficeJet Pro 8600, 8600 Premium, 8610, 8615, 8616, 8620, 8625
The printer firmware for this series has not yet been updated by HP, that is, the current firmware at HP's web pages for these printers accepts "non-HP" cartridges. However, there were reports in the past that some of these printers suddenly stopped working after some firmware upgrade, and they were not allowing the download of the functional firmware version. I am guessing that a factory reset of the printer would facilitate downloading the functional version. In any case, if your HP 8600 series printer is currently working, I recommend that you set the firmware update software to avoid further updates, as described above.
 

Please note: This is not an exhaustive list of all HP printers. I am collecting information and firmware links for others.