December 15th, 2006 • 10:02 am
I got confirmation of this again yesterday when my old cp1700 color inkjet printer started refusing to print. I saw a light blinking on the printer, so I went to see what the LCD display on the printer said. (It’s no use trying to communicate with the printer from the computer using hp’s utilities. First of all, the utilities don’t work over Ethernet, so you need to establish a direct USB connection to the printer. And even then when you try to communicate with the printer most of the time you get cryptic error messages. That was the case again here.)
The LCD display said that my ink cartridges had expired!
I am not a heavy printer user, so I tend to have the same ink cartridges for a long time. And sure enough, when I opened the printer and looked at the cartridges themselves, I saw that they had a date on them, and it was a date in the past (early 2006 or late 2005, depending on the cartridge).
But of course the cartridges were still three quarters full.
I tried taking the cartridges out and putting them back in, but of course that was not enough to outsmart hp’s printer software. It still refused to print anything.
Now, I am sure that hp would argue that there are good reasons for these expiry dates, like the fact that you might damage the print heads if you use ink that is too old. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that, even if you don’t use your printer very frequently, your print heads still have a limited lifespan themselves, as I discovered myself a year or so ago, when the printer told me that I had to replace them.
So I strongly suspect that using older ink doesn’t really make much difference in the overall lifespan of the print heads.
Anyway, the point here was that the hp cp1700 was refusing to print, and it was doing so because of a rule enforced by hp’s software, not because of a physical failure of the cartridges. I decided that I was more than willing to take a chance to continue to print with “expired” ink cartridges for a while. But was that possible?
Sure it was, but not with hp’s help, obviously. I first tried to download hp’s latest printer driver for Mac OS X from their web site. It is actually available again as a download, and hp even provides a “universal” driver for Intel-based Macs. (Long-time Betalogue readers might remember that, at some stage, hp actually decided to stop providing its printer drivers as free downloads on its support web site and force users to order CDs for a fee. That user-hostile strategy must have back-fired, because everything appears to be available again for free.)
So I downloaded the “universal” driver. I then ran the installer, which was a totally weird, non-standard process, with no request for an administrative password and no user feedback to indicate that the installation was complete. The installer just quit! These hp guys really do not know how to write software. In any case, after I installed the driver, I discovered that it was in fact the exact same version (3.3) that is already included in Mac OS X 10.4. So there was no difference here. I still wasn’t able to use the printer utility (which is not a universal application, by the way) to do anything.
Then I turned to that great resource known as the Internet. A Google search for “cp1700 ink cartridge expired” and soon enough, I got more than enough tips about how to work around this cartridge expiry system.
It turns out that the whole thing must be controlled by some kind of internal clock, and that this clock is powered by a small battery, and if you just remove that battery, the printer ceases to take expiry dates into account (presumably because its own internal clock is now completely off).
This page has pictures of what the battery looks like in another model of hp printer. The cp1700 is different, but the battery looks pretty much the same. In the cp1700, the battery is located inside on the left-hand side. You do not need to take anything apart. You just need to open the top cover of the printer, and then look inside on the left-hand side. You cannot miss the battery. It’s not easy to access with your fingers, however. But I found that, using a long screw driver, I was able to simply push the battery off its slot and make it fall down inside the printer.
I didn’t bother to try and retrieve it. Based on what I had read on-line, the printer would operate just fine without the battery. So I closed everything up, plugged the printer back in, and turned it on. After a couple of seconds, the LCD display said, “READY.” Yey!