The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

November 11, 2009

HP Ink Cartridge Hack: Save plastic and ink

This will be a short post. More of a rant, actually. And hopefully useful to at least one person out there.

Last night I discovered Hewlett Packard’s scheme to get printer owners to spend more money on ink cartridges: cartridge expiration dates.

HP printers waste ink!

I have an HP Officejet 9110 that uses ink cartridges with expiration dates actually programmed into them, causing them to stop working whether they still have ink in them or not. And when that happens, the printer itself stops working too — whether I need to use that color or not.

I don’t know if HP’s newer printers use the same kind of cartridges, but this deal irks me for multiple reasons. First, it’s a total waste of plastic and perfectly good ink to program the cartridge to expire before it’s used up. I don’t care if the cartridges can be returned to be recycled. Recycling uses more energy and resources than actually using up what we already have. And second, this is just a crappy way to get me to shell out another $40 for an ink cartridge I rarely use. (Sorry, I was up late last night doing my personal bookkeeping and realizing I need to find more ways to save money. This situation does not help!)

Fortunately, I found a work around, and maybe it could work for you too. I trick the printer into thinking the date is earlier than it is. You can change the date on the printer (on my printer, I can do it through the Maintenance menu) but that’s not enough. You actually have to change the date on the computer that the printer is connected to. Only then will it print again.

Trouble is, if you keep the incorrect date in your computer, you’ll find you have problems accessing secure web sites because the certificate dates will not be correct. So you’ll end up changing the date back and forth whenever you want to print. But you know what? I’m trying to save paper and ink by printing less often anyway, so it won’t be too much of an inconvenience.

I kick myself daily for buying this monstrous printer that is way more than I’ve ever needed. But I bought it back in the days before I became concerned about lowering my ecological footprint, and I’ve been debating the pros and cons of replacing it with a more energy-efficient printer that consumes less ink. But since I don’t use it much, I think this is a situation where keeping what I have is better than replacing it with a more eco-friendly model.

Hey, HP! I know you care about plastic pollution because you are sponsoring the Plastiki’s voyage to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But recycling isn’t enough. We need to be conserving resources first. So please, if you’re reading, let us know how you plan to remedy this wasteful ink situation. Please?

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Cartridge Shop
10 years ago

I have also looked into saving money around the office. I was spending far too much on printing so I looked into the costs and found that printing in a font size 10 can save you a lot of money in the long run. Also keeping your margin lines to a certain width will save money on ink in the long run. If companies did this on a large scale they could save a great amount, and possibly making the difference between breaking even and profit. Thanks for the post! :)

Kathy Blackmore | Cartridge Shop

Ron Ungerer
13 years ago

Just found this blog when searching for a long-term hack for the expired cart issue. I’m a former HP tech (3rd party) on the laser printers – but not the inkjets… So was looking.

Anyway, my C6180 MFP has an operator level over-ride at the control panel. I just got the message and had to press keys to over-ride.
On the ink refill issue, when I purchased the printer about 2 years ago, I went on eBay and purchased a bulk refill system. Seven containers sit beside my printer and feed the cartridges through capillary tubes. VERY easy to refill outside of the printer, can see the ink level at a glance. FAR less expensive and less impact on the environment than the travel here – travel there – travel home more ink – more plastic -more $ – more travel to get a refill….

BTW, don’t blame HP for an ink = $$ conspiracy… Their left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing – trust someone who has had to deal with them!!!
Just say’n

13 years ago

I removed the CMOS battery on my HP C6180, and although none are reported as expired the printer now reports all ink cartridges are empty, and refuses to print.

13 years ago

Staples reduced the reward for recycling ink cartridges from $3 to $2 and no longer offers $6 for the XL HP ink cartridges.

That totally sucks!

Greg Streif
13 years ago

Anyone with HP OfficeJet 9110 and has expired cartridges (new, used but expired or those installed with remaining ink but expired), there is a way to trick the system. Open the large access panel on the left side of the unit (when you are looking at it head on), pull out the aluminum shield (this is where additional memory is located/installed) and on the lower left (beneath memory slot B’s left release) is a CMOS battery. Slide the battery out and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Reinsert the battery, plug the printer’s power cord and USB cable and if applicable, reinstall your old ink cartridges or install new (but expired) cartridges. You should no longer see the expired message. Do this each time you get the expired message or install expired but new cartridges.

14 years ago

Hey Gator fans a Cartridge World will opening after the first of the year in Gainesville ….If all goes as planned…will keep you posted

14 years ago


Howdy neighbor and go Gators!

I see from your blog you’re a fellow weed eater! We’ll have to compare notes sometime and I’ll definitely take a closer look at your blog when I have some time (and more awake brain cells).

14 years ago

I don’t follow Thom’s reasoning. He said the expiration date “protects the printing components”. Since all of the printing components are contained within the cartridge itself, how does shutting it down at some date have anything to do with protection of anything except HP profit?

The logic is as follows: An expiration date will make the cart useless to prevent it from possibly becoming useless. Huh?

Once a cart is shut down it is useless unless the printer owner takes the time and effort to figure out how to over-ride the expiration time-out. Since this expiration date stuff is news to almost everyone, how many would know how to defeat it? This is nothing but a pain-in-the-platen for the consumer.

If the customer is really who they have in mind, the default would be an inactive expiration date unless the user DELIBERATELY activated it. In that way the customer would decide on the value of having an expiration date, not HP. Want to guess how many customers would activate it. Survey says: zero.

Eleanor K. Sommer
14 years ago

A response to Thom Brown, the HP expert.

We don’t have a Staples near where I live in Gainesville FL. Office Depot discontinued its program with HP. So my plastic cartridges either go into the landfill or I send them back to HP and receive NO CREDIT for my efforts. And as I mentioned, I don’t automatically get a new (PLASTIC) mailer to send them back to HP. I must make a separate online request each time I want a supply of bags.

Not to mention, am I really doing anything constructive? Using a PLASTIC bag to mail back 6 cartridges for recycling??

What happens to all those plastic bags?

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi, Thom. Thanks so much for responding. I just knew someone from HP would want to weigh in. Here are the problems as I see them:

1) HP recycles the cartridges rather than refilling and refurbishing them. I have watched your video. In fact, I was planning on posting it in an update to this blog post a few days ago, but you beat me to it. I am sad that the cartridges are ground up to be made into new products when so much energy could be saved by simply refilling them several times.

2) I just discovered that Cartridge World can now refurbish these HP cartridges by adding a new chip to them, and they sell them at a fraction of the cost. Why can’t HP do the same thing?

3) You cartridges are mad expensive. I should have checked on the cost before buying this unit, but what’s done is done an I have a feeling the environmental impact of replacing the printer would be greater than buying a new more efficient one with less expensive cartridges.

4) Like I said, I know that HP cares about the environment, but I also feel like the company is putting profits before people and planet when it comes to the bottom line.

5) This is not the first time I’ve had issues with an HP product. Please read my post about my frustrating experience with an HP monitor:


14 years ago

Hi, Beth. HP ink expert here! You raise a lot of good questions, but I just want to set the record straight on a few points.

Only a very small percentage of HP ink cartridges use expiration dates and this is absolutely not a scheme to force customers into purchasing more ink. It’s actually a mechanism that protects the printing components, as ink ages and its properties change over time. Although the majority of customers can manually override the expiry date with minimal impact on their printing experience, it looks as though your printer does not allow this function.

I also want to point out that HP is the only printer manufacturer with a closed-loop inkjet cartridge recycling process that up-cycles plastic from empty cartridges, returned through HP Planet Partners, and combines it with other sources of recycled plastic to create brand new print cartridges. HP has also partnered with Staples so customers can return their empties to any retail location and receive a $3 credit.

This short video, How Green Is Your Print Cartridge? should give you a better idea of how committed HP is to reducing the environmental impact of printing. Hope this info helps!

Thom Brown
follow me – Thom_SoCal_HP

Aaron shaw phd
14 years ago

I am so happy for a site like this!

Aaron shaw phd
14 years ago

I am surprised there is a hack for this.

James Kennedy
14 years ago

I have been looking around the internet and can only find a chip resetter for epson printers (what I have), but apparently there is a battery within your printer which is for the CMOS If you can find this and remove it for it about an hour, the CMOS is reset and you can continue to use the cartridge, if this doesn’t work, maybe try printing with the battery removed.
It is also worth noting you can buy refill kits for cartridges.

14 years ago

Totally off-topic: I followed your blog briefly, haven’t been by for a long time, and yet… You still influence the way I think about my consumption. Never met you, hardly read you, but I think of you often ;). Just wanted to let you know you’re making a difference in my thought pattern, and there are probably other lurkers who take a bit of you with them to the supermarket, the deli, the mall… In short, thanks for your efforts.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

@James, that’s great to know. I’ll see if I can find a program to change the data on the chip instead of constantly having to change the date on my computer.

About flushing cat litter: I agree that most people should probably not flush their cats’ poop of the cat goes outside. But our cats have always been indoor cats. They never go outside so never have a chance to pick up toxoplasma gondii. In fact, when we first got them, we had them tested for the parasite to make sure they didn’t have it, and a representative from a sea otter protection group (I would have to look up the name of the person) confirmed that if they test negative and then stay inside, they won’t get it. So we feel comfortable flushing our cat litter, but I don’t recommend others do it unless they have the same situation we do.

@Eleanor Great idea! Would you mind posting that information in the “Citizen Action” section of the Discussion Board?

14 years ago

I hate printer’s making you buy so much ink. You might check with Cartridge World if there is one near you about a used more efficient printer. The one near me has older printers that still print fine and are more ink efficient then the new ones that they sell from time to time.

Eleanor Sommer
14 years ago

HP’s ink jet policies have made me irate for years. I must write to the company regularly for recycle bags to send the spent cartridges back to the company. (They will not automatically send me one when I send back cartridges, I must go online and order more!) Stores used to accept the spent cartridges, but that program was canceled.

I, too, have found that the entire system shuts down when one color cartridge is out of ink. I can’t even print in black, if one of the color cartridges is spent.

I don’t print in color often but it seemed that I was always running out of color ink; then a salesperson at a local store told me this: If you don’t use the ink often enough, it dries up!! Which indicates to the sensors that it is OUT of ink. He said the simple solution to that is to print a color copy about once a week, just to stir up the ink.

I have written two letters to the HP CEO about their decidedly anti-environmental and wasteful approach to home printing. As they just about corner the market on reasonably priced home printers, I suggest we mount a campaign to encourage to change design and also to make it easy for customers to recycle cartridges.

Here’s the address:

Mark Hurd
CEO and President
Hewlett-Packard Company
3000 Hanover Street
Palo Alto, CA 94304-1185 USA

James Kennedy
14 years ago

Hi, I like this blog, very interesting and informative and I am writing from Norway.
Just a quick few comments on this post and a previous one.

For ink jet cartridges with chips, it is possible to download free programs which can alter the information on the chip, or simply stop the computer sending data to the chip. It all depends on your type of printer and what . Some internet searches should find what you you can do.

On an earlier post I was having a look at on cat litter. I noticed some mentions of flushable cat litter and also that some people train their cat to use a human toilet. I don’t recommend this as cat faeces can contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii which they can pick up from eating infected birds, rats etc. Most sewage treatment plants are not equipped to deal with this parasite as it is generally not found in human faeces. This parasite then ends up being discharged with treated sewage and can infect other wildlife particularly otters. I hope you take this into consideration with your cat litter issues.

Anna @Green Talk
14 years ago

I have this same problem. I had bought a bunch of cartridges over the years and now the HP won’t work. I tried their work around and nothing happened. It is on my to do list to call them. I have 4 cartridges that don’t work now.

How stupid…

14 years ago

We ran into this with our HP printer recently, following a power outage. I think it somehow confused things. I’m not sure, in fact, whether it resolved itself once everything was reset to the correct date or not. Either way, how annoying and wasteful! Come on, HP, get with it and stop gouging us. Not. Cool. And also? Not. Sustainable.

Nick Palmer
14 years ago

The manufacturers have to find some way of forcing us to buy lots of expensive ink even though it only costs them pennies to make because they sell the printer at cost or below cost to get the initial sale – relying on people’s inertia to prevent them kicking up a fuss. This is the famous razor blade/shaver model of marketing. It makes more waste and it ultimately costs us more. I think this model of marketing products should be taxed out of existence if we are ever to get a sustainable way of living going.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Regarding refilling: I should have mentioned that the other thing that sucks about my cartridges is that they can’t be refilled because of the electronic chip embedded in them. At least that is what they told me at Cartridge World when I tried to refill them several years ago. I think HP makes them unrefillable on purpose.

And also, refilling will not solve the problem of the cartridges expiring before they are even empty.

14 years ago

Last week I received a mailer from Costco (big plastic land), advertising a new service at the photo desk. They now refill cartridges for under $10. Check it out.

Lisa @ Retro Housewife Goes Green
14 years ago

That’s so annoying!

14 years ago

The printer was one of a handful of things that got left behind during our most recent move, We were going the refill route, which may have saved a bit of plastic but it was mostly about money, The money we pay when we occasionally have to get something printed out by a service provider has probably been a lot less than the price of a cheap printer, You know that little save the trees message at the bottom of some emails? We really should think twice about every printing job.

A pet peeve of mine if that the young people at the copier service say they can’t print selected pages of a pdf. There should be software to make that easy to do and everybody that has a printer should have it,

14 years ago

I know there are millions out there who sympathize. I do. I knew about the date thing but if you buy a new cartridge the date is far enough in the future that you can refill several times before it arrives.

I bought a refill kit at Office Depot that works fine and gives me many (black ink) refills for about $20 – a huge savings over buying new carts. Kodak is marketing a line of printers that have the ink-jet mechanism in the printer so you buy only a simple dumb tank of ink that costs less than the HP design (but is still a plastic problem).

One thing probably everyone knows is to ignore the “almost out of ink” warning that pops up. I’ve found I can still print dozens of sheets after seeing that warning before the ink really runs out. I use the low ink warning as a prompt to refill.

The ink-jet market is a God-send for HP…sell the machine dirt cheap then sit back and clean up on the cartridges….but don’t forget to keep coming up with new machines that need a slightly different cartridge design, so you can head off the refill market.

14 years ago

Thanks for writing about this! I didn’t know HP was doing this, but now I’ll definitely make sure any printers I buy in the future do not do this!

I suspect they came out with this “feature” primarily to stop people from refilling printer cartridges. What a shame! I can understand them wanting to make more money, but going to these lengths to stop people from choosing the more environmentally sound option? They won’t get another cent from me while they’re pulling this crap!

Canada Guy
14 years ago

Buy a laser printer! You can get these for $99 or less today and a full cartridge can print 5000 pages. I still have a laser printer I bought over 10 years ago and I still haven’t put in the spare toner I bought at the time. :) Mind you, I don’t print a lot.

Inkjet printers are way too wasteful, laser is much better, and even cheaper. You might have to pay a bit more for the printer, but’ll you’ll save hundreds in ink over the years.