HP's ink DRM instructs your printer to ignore the ink in your cartridge when you cancel your subscription


It’s been a long, long time since the HP Laserjet III, it seems.


Always buy a basic laser printer and use the standard black toner. Never had issues since then. I know they’re sometimes pricey but I got mine for around 90 bucks at Microcenter so I think online sales from other vendors should be comparable. The best part is the text is far more legible than that inkjet garbage. I swear the inkjet stuff was invented to scam people out of using laser printers.

And the best part about laser printers at least for me is the fact you get many more print outs (I think mine is an HP model but meh). I guess it’s harder to BS folks with laser printers or whatever since I haven’t had many issues with mine crapping out by comparison to the inkjet I had which would complain when I used a black only cartridge for printing.


Sorry to rain on several people’s parade in this thread, but small cheap laser printers have used DRM protected cartridges for a few years (all brands) and tend to cost more per page than some inkjets. Granted: their ink does not dry, but that is about it.


Here’s something positive:
I recently bought a new All-in-one HP printer for our home office that works along a very low cost Kyocera laser printer that I got 2nd hand for about the same low price as the new HP printer. A set of new catridges for the HP printer would cost twice as much as I paid for the printer alone. So we chose to buy into that subscription model because a) the printer was cheaper and b) we need to print pages and don’t want to mess with dried up refill ink and print heads any more (which were at least part of the catridge on our old HP printer - much worse on other brands where ink tanks and print heads are two parts).

For this “I just want to print” side to the whole issue the subscription is perfect. It just works and I don’t have to worry about anything. Of course it feels weired to pay for single pages, but then I could also use a LOT of ink on each page and still don’t care because HP will refill them no matter how much ink I am using. So that’s the positive side of it.

The negative side of course is the DRM-like character of the setup, HP’s control on everything, that it requires to be always on (data & energy consumption) and that it costs heck of money for just a few pages.

I guess that with a circular economy, there will be even more services that charge for a service instead of just an item. Also because it comes down to using something and not owning something. Ownership means that you’re also responsible for it, whereas with the subscription model I just return the catridges et voilà. But still, I wouldn’t have bought into the subscription model if I didn’t have the negative experience with previous printers and refill catridges (that tend to dry up when not in use). So I’d maybe argue that the subscription model fits better to a system that otherwise already limits us in the usage.


I have one of these printers.

I did the math on cheapest available refills vs subscription prices. The subscription saved me about 30%, so I went with it.

I’m sure I could try my hand at refilling to save more money, but the subscription has no risk of mucking up the printer through inexperience or bad ink.

In this case, the DRM isn’t preventing me from doing what I want, per se - I know there are refill options. Much like jailbreaking my phone, I just don’t want to deal with the potential downsides.


Which is why you want to avoid the cheapest laser printers and get a business class one. One easy way to avoid this shit - buy a postscript capable printer.


The curious thing is that all but their trash tier have PCL support(sometimes PostScript as well); and their drivers still refute a loving good.

Not as hard as the ones for the trash tier; but the HP ‘Universal’ Print Driver is an abject pustule. It’s twice as good in terminal services environments.


Yep. IIRC, Compaq did that as well, and HPE merely continued on that tradition after borging Compaq.

Unfortuantely, We have to do business with HPE, as they bought Nimble Storage, and [RedactedCo] uses rather a lot of it. (they haven’t screwed around with the service and support areas of Nimble, although I do see their influences seeping into InfoSight here and there.)


HP’s business class printers have a detection circuit on the toner carts, as far back as the 4300 series.

If you can find one in good shape, get an old 4+; the PCL driver built into every OS works with it just fine, and as long as you feed it a maintenance kit every 100,000 pages it’ll last for an exceedingly long time. (in a pinch, a 5 it’s an uprated version of the 4 but largely has the same core engine.)


HP’s drivers appear to be written by teams of 1000 illiterate monkeys banging away randomly at keyboards until something that actually works as a driver is created by accident. This has been the case since the late 90’s if not longer.


I have a contrary position. My wife is a kindergarten teacher and the HP Instant Ink subscription has been pretty darn useful for her needs. We don’t really use the printer for anything else. New cartridges arrive before she needs them so we’re never in a pinch to go buy ridiculously expensive ink. We tried refilling ourselves in the past and using off-brand cartridges. The whole process was awful and wound up killing our printers anyway.

I think she’s on the 300 page plan which is less than $10 a month and the printer was half off when we bought it. Pages she doesn’t use roll over to the next month. I think we’re going on our second year and haven’t had any issues. I haven’t done a true cost analysis but I think the convenience has been a huge factor for us.

I think if you get into the deal knowing that you’re stuck its not as bad.


Yellow ink is critical for “security”.

Your printer has a serial number chip in it. Every page it prints likely includes a yellow dot array (similar to a QR code) that contains your printer’s unique serial number. Ostensibly, this was done in the name of preventing the casual counterfeiting of money. But the effect was to make every printer similar to the “licensed printers” of repressive regimes.

If you’d like to view the hidden codes yourself, shine a cheap bluish LED flashlight at a printed page in a darkened room. The yellow dots stand out better under the blue light.

Note the EFF is reporting that while not every printer uses yellow dots, that doesn’t mean they don’t print some other forensic identification.


Even better: buy a second hand business printer, as I did.


It’s not the normal price, but it seems like they go on sale around that price a few times a year. Lifehacker loves the printer and makes a big deal everytime it goes on sale, but there are surely other ways to keep an eye out.

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