Hacking Toner Drums To Get Your Money's Worth

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

There has been a recent trend in consumer printers that really annoys me: Printers that lie to the user and report that they are out of ink or toner when they are not.

A couple days ago the toner light started flashing on my relatively new Brother HL-2140 laser printer. It had printed less than 500 pages since I bought it, and I really wasn't too impressed with the starter drum. In addition, the last pages I printed left no indication that the toner was running out. I had heard rumors that there was a way to trick the printer into thinking that the toner drum was full, thus enabling me to continue to print. I pulled information from multiple sites, so I will summarize here:

  1. Turn off printer, unplug
  2. Take out the drum
  3. Find the holes / areas used for detecting how much toner is left.
  4. Cover found holes with something opaque. A small piece of paper and transparent tape works well, as does black electrical tape.
  5. Put the drum back in
  6. Plug in and turn on printer
The holes I reference are probably symmetrical across the drum and may have an optical lens visible. I believe that with my printer, a light or laser is shown through these two holes, sensing if the toner level is below the hole alignment. It is for this reason, and the assumption that this worked on my printer, that I believe the color of whatever used to cover the holes is irrelevant so long as it is opaque.

After doing this to my own printer, the toner light went off, I continued to print about 30 some pages just fine, and everything seems to be working. I've heard of people getting quite a bit more life out of their toner drums using this method, but I'm ordering a new drum to be on the safe side.

Photos of what I did on both ends of the drum:

Did this work for you? Do you know more about how the printer senses the ink level? Leave a comment!

Posted by Craig Younkins at 11:00 PM  


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