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Think twice before enabling firmware updates

Wednesday, 8 June 2016  |  CLO

Actually think three times

Eh?  This subject is, well, boring, to be honest, so if you just want the simple advice, here it is : 

DON’T ENABLE UPDATES TO PRINTER FIRMWARE unless you absolutely have to.

If you can cope with boring, please continue reading.

What is a Firmware Update?

Firmware is essential. Modern printers (inkjet or laser) are technologically sophisticated bits of electronic kit, and - for what they are - not that expensive. (Ink is the expensive bit). The firmware is the software that is installed in the printer when you buy it, and it enables the whole thing to work. That printer of yours has to react to PCs, Apple Macs, mobile phones, funny operating systems and so on.  It may have to switch between copying, scanning and printing. It may be wireless. It has to check quality, ink levels, cleanliness, paper blockages.

And so on.

And because things do change sometimes that firmware might just go out of date. So the manufacturers are able to install updates over the internet, and therefore now ask you as owner of the printer if you want to accept “firmware updates”. That might be a simple setting which you accept without thought in a matter of seconds when you first install the printer, and don't even remember doing it. And it’s probably strongly recommended too. Why would you doubt it? Updates are good aren’t they? 

Not always. The old maxim of “broke and fixing it” couldn’t be truer here.

Firmware updates are permanent and not reversible.

Updates can stop cartridges working. They can change the ink cartridge recognition protocol and even a perfectly working printer can stop working with an “ink cartridges not recognised” error – aaaarrgghh!  If you're using compatible or remanufactured cartridges, or even older genuine cartridges, you're not printing anything - until the cartridges are replaced with brand new, genuine OEM ones.

Or until compatibles reappear on the market with new chips. 

Far be it from us to suggest that manufacturers, who make vast profits on selling us original inks, are even aware of this problem. Why would we do that?