Can I Fix My Printer, or Should I Just Buy a New One?

Advice about the most-hated piece of technology


Q: My HP Photosmart C5100 printer says that I need to insert a new ink cartridge (the pink) even though we already have. It won't let me choose black and white printing either, which it usually does when one color is out. I've tried two different pink ink cartridges so I know that isn't the problem.

A: Printers are probably the most-hated pieces of technology ever created, and at no time are they more hated than when they pop up the dreaded “Ink Cartridge(s) Are Empty” error message. Fortunately, with your model, you can override that error message without hacking into the printer. It does take a few steps though. Here's how to get rid of that pesky error message.

Before you start this, you should bookmark this page or open it on another device. You have to reboot your computer during this process, and since you can't use your printer you'll need a way to get back to this information. A fast easy way to bookmark this page is to press Ctrl-D on your keyboard. That will start the save this page as a bookmark dialogue in almost every web browser. Now that you have that saved, you can move on.

  1. First, if the computer and the printer isn't turned on and plugged in, go ahead and do that now. This will sound ironic in a minute, but trust me, it's important.
  2. Now, diconnect the Ethernet Cable or the USB cable from the back of the printer. (Disconnect both if you have them both plugged in for some reason.)
  3. Restart your computer. (Make sure you've already bookmarked this page before you do that so you can easily get back here after the computer restarts.)
  4. Once the computer is back on, and with the printer still turned on, unplug the power cord from the printer. 
  5. Now, wait 30 seconds. Listen to Her Majesty by The Beatles to kill the time. (Technically, it's only 23 seconds long but by the time you fire up the CD or record player or YouTube, you'll have burnt those extra 7 seconds.)
  6. Put all your CDs or records back in the closet, or stop watching cat videos on YouTube.
  7. Insert the power cord back into the printer, and turn the printer on.
  8. Clear any error messages.

Now, you shouldn't have that pesky error message in your face, and you should be able to go back to printing. Until the next time.

If that doesn't work, try repeating these steps again, but perhaps try substituting Her Majesty for one of these videos. They won't improve your odds, but they'll probably make you laugh, and you might forget about your evil printer for a little bit.

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