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Bypass Brother printers’ colour cartridge requirement for black and white printing

First published on April 8, 2009

It’s bad enough that many printers force you to replace ink cartridges well before they are empty.

Since we purchased the Brother 685CW inkjet printer, we have printed almost exclusively in grayscale or black and white. But when the black cartridge ran out, the printer reported that the yellow, cyan, and magenta cartridges were empty as well. That was hard to believe, and it defeats the purpose of having individual ink cartridges. At any rate, we figured we would replace the black cartridge and abstain from printing in colour.

Sadly, the printer refused to print in black and white until it received new colour cartridges. Well, if that’s the case we should really find a more reasonable printer. It’s an inconvenient and costly situation.

Thankfully, as suggested in someone’s comment on amazon.com, there is a solution that doesn’t involve getting a different printer or unnecessarily buying more ink. After placing a piece of electrical tape over a “window” on each colour cartridge, we were able to “trick” the printer into thinking the cartridges were full.

Electrical tape covering the ink window

After a bit more searching, I discovered that this is a common issue, especially regarding Brother printers. The reasoning given by printer companies is along the lines of having to continuously flow ink to clean the system. I’ll take my chances, as the potential loss of colour printing isn’t so bad in our case; I’ll also keep hoping for either a smarter, more convenient and economical printing design, or a printing company that isn’t trying to rip us off.

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87 Responses to “Bypass Brother printers’ colour cartridge requirement for black and white printing”


  1. Cassie says:

    Regarding inkjet printers…. I don’t print pictures or anything like that with my Canon inkjet printer. I’ve had it for over 4 years, and have used no-name cartridges from Abacus (http://www.private.abacus24-7.com/driver.aspx?topic=compatibility&compat=12644) that cost a couple of bucks each (individual cartdriges), I would not buy another printer that I could not buy generic ink for, I’ve saved hundreds of dollars over the years by doing this. My kids can print full color pages for their school work, I don’t sweat it, and the printer never clogged or streaked because of the ink quality. Printing photos is cheaper and better through Walmart.ca or any other printing service, sometimes 10 cents a copy. Filling cartdriges with kits is a waste of time (only took me wrecking 3 printers to be convinced of this, never again). That’s my 2 cents.


  2. Ferr Dogg says:

    You are a lifesaver, I have been wanting to do this for years but thought it was impossible. I have spent so much money on the color inks over the past few years, not anymore!!


  3. ML says:

    where would i put the tape on canon pg40 and cl41 cartridges, if at all possible?

    Reply from Peter: Sorry, I have no idea how it works with Canon cartridges. However, if someone else does, please post a comment :)


  4. CodeAddict says:

    There are various "chip resetters" on the market for people who don’t have a Brother printer. The device can reprogram the chip on the cartridge to make the printer think it is still 100% full! Just google "<vendor> chip resetter".

    I also found a program for Epson printers which could reset the cartridge from Windows: http://www.ssclg.com/epsone.shtml
    I haven’t found them yet, but perhaps there are similar programs for other vendors.


  5. Jay says:

    Hi, i bought a Brother MC-2330 on sale in January and the cyan ran out or at least the printer says so…all i want to do is print grayscale and it still would not let me so i emailed Brother to tell them what i thought of their print policy. They gave me the option of spending another 180 dollars to upgrade to their laser black only!!! Cheez thanks A$$holes. So their next offer was 20% off ink cartridges-but they wanted 50 bucks for the colours-bend over again. Anyway thanks so much for the bypass using the tape as it works great and there is still lots of ink left.

    Brother can GFT.


  6. mcd says:

    I am going to try this trick, if it works God bless you my friend. I am sick of big companies taking advantage of customers, and Brother seems to be only one of them. Let”s rock!! :)


  7. Nels says:

    Hello:
    It is NOT clear just eggsackly where to place the tape.
    I have tried multiple times – placed tape on ALL cartridges but the cartridge then "jams"
    Please, can you be more specific?
    Thanks for a very informative article – I”m sure SO many folks appreciate it.


  8. cmh says:

    Thanks so much! This was driving me crazy.

    Nels, the first time I tried it the cartridge tried to jam, but just give it a firm push and it’ll snap back into place. I think the electrical tape is key, as that has elasticity to it.


  9. John says:

    It definitely works. Thanks for the tip!


  10. phanny says:

    I have Brother that uses LC65 and LC61 cartridges and I was able to use gray duck tape because I didn’t have electrical tape. I did it the first time and it didn’t work because I think I put the tape on too tight, but after loosening the tape so the tape can be flexible to form the shape it needed to when pushed inside the printer it worked. This should save us some money. For now =).


  11. i drummond says:

    brother mfc 235c tape works perfectly. previously i had epsons and resetters worked perfectly for them. regarding refilling – can mix your own colours to refill for interesting effects. thanks for site


  12. JohnP says:

    If you are thinking of another printer don’t go upmarket to an HPC6380 or a similar "new" design. As yet there are no chip resetters available. Another problem with the named printer (and possibly others) is that it must be turned off with the console On/Off switch. Turn it off at the wall and you can damage the printer. Mine came with a faulty power supply so that even though I had read the manual and been warned, guess what. That is something they don’t tell you before you buy. Even a house power failure would do it.


  13. MATT says:

    I just did it with black electrical tape and the LC 61 color cartridges. Thanks, does this mean I owe you $$$ now??? Boo greedy companies, Hooray! you!


  14. Dom says:

    Peter,

    You are the man. Your blog was the first Google result for "force brother printer to print" and for good reason. My mother needed to print her boarding pass tonight, after the local stores had closed, and this blog was our saving grace. Needless to say, covering the ENTIRE opening around the ink window worked perfectly. Thank you so much! Screw Brother!


  15. Jack says:

    You are right. It works. Now my Yellow, Magenta and Cyan are full!!!
    I have a Brother DCP-145C. First it didn’t work but after applying the black tape on the inside of the space were the little plastic square tube is placed, it did.
    Jack
    The Netherlands


  16. Jessica says:

    We just solved the problem by coloring the window with a black permanent marker (no electric tape). Worked like a charm!


  17. Brian says:

    You Rock! Thanks for the tip. Jessica’s black marker idea sounds good too. Thanks again.


  18. Lisa says:

    WOW! THANK you x 1,000,000! It worked!


  19. Josh says:

    Thanks Peter you are a life saver, my borhter printer mfc 5890 had run down my color print cartridges even though i had only ever printed in greyscale from new, and then refused to work until i replaced the both the colour and black cartridge.

    what a scam by the printer manufacturer to force me to buy ink i never used.

    I took your advice and used a little piece of black tape and placed it over the window on the cartridge, this tricked the printer into thinking the colour cartride was full and i was able to continue printing in black only.

    happy days.
    thanks again.


  20. Kim says:

    you are brilliant you are going to save millions of people money not to mention little old me. Thank you


  21. wallcat says:

    oh thank gods, you just saved my butt! thank you so much!


  22. Nikko says:

    in 410 CN printers its ink cartridge LC47C is different from that yours but i tried to put a very small cotton ball on the white stick below the cartridge and it worked…did you change black?? yes…. cleaning please wait… then I can continue up to the last drop


  23. Regogal says:

    This worked like a charm…I used a piece of black construction paper over the window, and taped it down on the sides…got my urgent doc out, and now have time to get my yellow replaced.

    Thanks!


  24. jean0 says:

    very grateful!!! thanks so much, worked great!


  25. Weezer says:

    We have a HP officejet Pro 8500. I have worked at alot of places with different prints and this one su—s. But I am stuck with it at this office. 4th replacement. Now this ink thing–same thing I don’t use color at all and it is eating ink–just replaced the color ones 2 wks ago and there almost gone. Does the trick with the tape have to be electrical?? Also do I put it in the middle?? There is like an eyeball on the bottom and just a blank slot on top and another blank hole in the middle-the photo shows the middle, so I did this but jused scotch tape, all I had–will this be ok?

    Reply from Peter: It doesn’t have to be electrical, but I had chosen electrical because it’s dark and sturdy. As for whether it works for other printers, I don’t know; you’ll just have to try!


  26. Amanda says:

    I just used this trick on my brother printer and it worked!!!! Thank you!!! I was sooo angry at my printer for not printing in black ink just because the colors were empty. The black was still over 1/2 full. I placed black electrical tape over the windows just as described and voila! it worked. Thank you for this money saving tip ;-)


  27. Adam says:

    awesome. thanks. unimpressed with Brother Marketing at the moment, this is a blatant and undeserved money grab.

    otherwise, machine works great, but there’s no room for this.


  28. Sue says:

    brilliant..this trick works awsum


  29. Ant says:

    Absolutely brilliant tip – took me a couple of goes as my tape was too large, but now works perfectly Thanks


  30. batgioi says:

    So cool that I used a permanent marker instead of the tape and it worked. Maybe have to blow the ink tip and make sure it dry.


  31. Kevin says:

    Thank you so much for this tip; I can now at least print stuff in black/greyscale until I get new cartridges.


  32. Abby says:

    THANKYOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU! i couldnt quite figure out the tape bit but jessicas black marker idea just saved my butt big time, but if it wasnt for your original post i would be getting a major fail in my essay tomorrrrow !! THANKYOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU


  33. Bach says:

    Excellent tip!!!
    After all that money wasted on colour cartridges, when I’ve never ever printed in colour anyway. Rip offs!

    Jessica’s idea, sound better though and less risky,
    just in case the tape gets stuck in there or something.

    Thanks


  34. J says:

    Just wish to say how much I appreciate you post!
    I have been stuck with this after getting a Brother DCP.

    thank you for sharing!
    -J-


  35. stef says:

    yup, worked for my dcp 357 c.

    saves allot of money!


  36. sr says:

    Thanks so much! It worked like a charm! I’m buying only laser from now on.

    If it helps anyone, I didn’t have any electrical tape around but I had some black plastic from the top of a hot sauce bottle and I cut it and loosely put it around the window. I bet you could use a piece of garbage bag or even colored paper or anything you have around the house. Don’t get screwed by this printer refusing to print your homework or project at 2 in the morning. Find anything to cover that window. I bet aluminum foil would work or pretty much any opaque thing.


  37. Wendy says:

    Thank you for this great tip! I used a piece of a garbage bag and it worked like a charm!


  38. Rinoa says:

    Thank you SO much for this ingenius tip! I used a bit of dark paper and some ordinary tape, and voila – I was able to print out the boarding pass I so desperately needed. You saved me a £40 "fine" lol:) I’m truly grateful!


  39. DC77 says:

    I LOVE YOU. Than you thank you thank you!!! Never again do I have to succumb to Brother’s capitalist demands…………. all it took was some masking tape!! :D


  40. mlwlpt says:

    Thank you sooooo much! It worked. My last Brother printer let me print in just black. I save color for special occasions, if ever.


  41. Daniel Ashford says:

    This is the best blog ever!!! Showed me exactly how to place the tape with that awesome photo!

    Got my mum’s printer going again so i can print out some docs for a job application! AWESOME! you’re the best!

    Brother are money hungry dogs!!! I always told ppl that Brother were good value for money, but I wont be saying that again!


  42. Michael says:

    Thanks Peter ….much appreciated…worked perfectly!!!


  43. Hugo Reis says:

    Great, great, great! It worked for me. Brother will never see my money again.
    Thanks, thanks, thanks!


  44. bingbob says:

    Did this on LC1240Y cartridge for MFC-J6710DW. Just covered the transparent little window nestling in the middle of one end of the cart. A single piece of tape nicely wraps round going under a little black bar to cover both sides of the window. Worked immediately. No messing about.


  45. Birch says:

    Did not work for me with electrical tape, it told me I had tried to replace the cartridge with a black cartridge (it was my cyan that was out of ink) .. so, I cut a piece of the cyan coloured sticker from the existing ‘empty’ cartridge and wrapped THAT around the window, and it worked :) YAY!!!


  46. Mike says:

    OMG! Thank you so much! These people from Brother company have made me spend so much of money on ink cartridges, which I have hardly used. The ink would somewhat dry up and the printer would not print, asking me to replace the ink.
    I put just a bit of electrical tape and it has worked just great (black and white or grayscale printing). THANKS again.
    BTW: I have a MFC 65cw

    Hopefully all Brother customers can get access to this info easily. Infact if there is Brother sucks.com or if better business bureau can report this, will be even better.


  47. john says:

    Yeah, not impressed with brother at the moment for this POS money grabbing tactic.. trick works great. Didnt have electric tape but blue painters tape worked wonders.
    Thanks man.. great tip. Im all for capitalism but F*@# the man on this one.


  48. Mdub says:

    thank you soooooo much. mfc-5890cn putting ducttape in between guard and window to cover the window itself was awesome. left a little slack and pushed in snugly. great idea….. MFC-5890CN


  49. Erik From Germany says:

    WOW, such a neat Trick. I looked all over the house for some electric Tape. Until my son said "hay DAD" just use a Black Sharpy Pin and color in the clear window. I have a brothers MFC 290 C and it worked just as well. Thanks again for the clever Idea. Just saved me $50. Bucks :-( ) YAAAA Thats a BIG bottle of Jager Meister Tonight.


  50. Gary says:

    I have problems with my Brother printer not printing black, even though full.
    After talking to a teckie was told Brother has a counter on the main board and there is no way to reset it!
    Aparently a few companies are doing this but don’t admit to this


  51. Ralph says:

    Worked perfectly. Thanks for saving me hard earned cash!


  52. emergancy print job says:

    YOU WHO EVER YOU ARE, ARE THE FRICKKENNNS BEST!!! I spent 4 hours in the black of night trying to figure out why my new printer with a brand new full black ink wouldnt work. hummm it was because they want to force me to buy all four colors. they suck you are awsome!


  53. christine says:

    thank you so much, the trick worked perfectly lol
    on my cartridge i had to make the piece of tape very small to cover the hidden window but finally it worked, you rock


  54. Desiray says:

    Worked perfect! You saved my printers life. It was about to jump out of a window. :-)


  55. benem3000 says:

    I just gave the cartridges a really good shake (and a couple hits and throws out of anger) until the ink in the window got all bubbly and it worked. Doesnt measure at 100% but i really needed to print something and this saved me from having to go to the store.


  56. La says:

    Amazing! Thank you so much.


  57. Rebeccaf612 says:

    AWESOME!!! Years after your original post with the tape idea it is still working even on newer printers! This saved me today and put the biggest smile on my face! Now I can print my shipping label and get this order out without going to the store to buy those darn color cartidges. Thank you…………you should set up a donation account through PayPal. I would donate to you just for this advice.


  58. ea1002 says:

    Works like a charm!! you should hide only the part of the ink detection leaving the space there free, otherwise the printer won’t recognize the ink.
    i tried this on brother mfc-j430w and it works great!


  59. Miss M says:

    Man, I love the net! ……Normal sticky tape coloured with a black permanent marker has worked for me. I never even knew this problem existed until now….wonder how many times I have been ripped off by re-filling or changing ink cartdridges unnecessarily??? Not any more. Thanks guys : )


  60. stephanie says:

    I don’t seem to have the tab on my MFC 210C where you are putting the tape, it’s just a bar that runs from one hole to the other?…I really need to do this too because I never use color, it’s just NOT that important! thanks


  61. stephanie says:

    I just covered all the color middles of the cartridges, got ink all over my hands and it still says I got no ink!…gggrrrrrrr!!!!!


  62. Dee says:

    This tip has saved me $$ and a 100 mile trip on a Sunday. It worked. A piece of black eletrical tape just over the window itself worked like a charm and I am printing. I have struggled with this for 6 months. Tried grayscale print with just yellow & black. That worked for a while but still got the annoying pop up to replace ink every time I printed. Then on a Sunday critical print needed & refused to print without more Cyan & Magenta. They have actually been empty for a while so don’t know why today….except the printers ability to sense how badly you need something LOL. Anyway….thanks !!!


  63. Lena says:

    That was awesome!! it worked like a charm. Ive been struggling for months with my printer trying to make it print from the black cartridge only when the other colors were empty…whew…now I dont have to fork out the extra dough to buy the other 3 cartridges…thanks soo much!


  64. Sue B. says:

    This tip just helped me out big time! Thank you.


  65. Charles Farence says:

    This worked perfectly! I could see the ink in the cartridges when i flipped them around but the printer always would say its empty. Though I do use a laser printer for my Black & Printing needs. (My Color Laser has a line streaking problem) I mainly use this for a couple of copies and scans.


  66. Anna says:

    Thank you for this information! I can’t tell you how much I did not want to buy new colored cartridges when they were still half full in order to make my printer work. TY


  67. Rich says:

    Anything opaque will work. I ended up using "white out" Worked great.


  68. Danny says:

    I’ve just bought a MFC-J280w Brother printer. If I knew that these scammers use this tactic, I wouldn’t have bought it, but now the return deadline is over. I’m trying to find the place where I’m supposed to place the electric tape, but I’m not sure about it. The format differs significantly from the picture on the top of this page. The cartridge model is LC71 followed by the colour letter. Can someone help me?
    Also, I may even give this printer out and buy another one, if the trick doesn’t work. Can someone tell me which brand is the most honest, or the least crooked regarding cartridges? I’ve NEVER used any colour, just black. Why should I spend money in colour cartridges?
    Furthermore, can someone tell me if there would be any legal implications for me if I break my brand new Brother printer with a sledgehammer while someone makes a video, and then post it on Youtube along with a narration like "this is is my brand new Brother printer and I am breaking it because I refuse to be robbed? By the way, I live in Canada, so I would appreciate if you only give your opinion if your familiar with Canadian law regarding this subjetc.
    Thanks for any help.


  69. Nicole says:

    Totally worked and totally saved my life!!! I had some very important things to fax over to a company and the tape thing did the trick. THANK YOU!


  70. Rob says:

    Excellent advice. Though I used a darker form of sellotape and covered the small ink window with about three layers of the stuff. Works a treat!


  71. Jackie says:

    Beautiful. I was quickly going stark raving mad trying to get my Brother print to print in black only. Upon covering the eye with a little duct tape, my printer is off and running printing in black ink only. Many thanks for the excellent advice which has saved my sanity!!!


  72. charlene says:

    That you so much for this trick. It worked and I don’t have to buy all those colored cartridges. I had a full black but it wouldn’t print, did your trick and it printed. Thanks again…clever


  73. Ren says:

    Just did this on my Brother MFC-J430W. I just bought a new black cartridge (which really was empty) and I put it in… and then my magenta was too low to print! I took my tan duct tape, colored it with a sharpie, then put it on the "ink window". Printer asked if I installed a new magenta, I pressed "yes", and now it says it’s completely full. Thank you so much! Worked like a charm. I almost never use color so this was perfect.


  74. Sim says:

    Does anyone from the beginning of this trick had problem printing color after weeks, months or years of "electric tape" on?
    I’ve tried, it works as you all, but what if I want to print color in 6 months?
    Having 3 kids at school it sure will happen…
    Thanks in advance
    And thank for the trick!


  75. Margaret says:

    You, my friend, are a genius! I used green painters tape over the clear window of the offending empty yellow cartridge in my MFC-J430W – and the stupid machine is completely fooled!!! Black and white printing now back in operation! Thank you, and thank Google for leading me to you!


  76. Mike says:

    Thanks a million! I tried to colour it with a black Sharpie but to no avail. The piece of electrical tape worked like a charm!


  77. Robert Holmes says:

    So fed up of getting ripped off by the crooked printer companies. This worked great, thanks a million!


  78. Bigfoot says:

    for those of you who don’t know exactly where to put the tape. here is a little clear plastic window in between the two holes top and bottom. you must cover up that clear plastic because that is what indicates the level.


  79. Lizzie says:

    SUPA thank you for the advice, it worked out great. Thanks to people like you we can fool companies as Brother just as they fool us.


  80. Will van Diepen says:

    Also from the Netherlands thank’s for the advice. I had the same problem whit my Brother J6510DW. I did figure out where to place the tape. And yes I can print again whit only a black cartridge. After so many years this page is still important.

    Thank’s again


  81. techagile says:

    worked but will monitor for few days. thanks for the post.

    cheers.


  82. mpeace38 says:

    This problem has frustrated me for years. I barely use my printer, and usually only black and white When you look at ink seems to have a lot left. Thanks to your hint I painted the window black and it works great. You saved me a ton of $$


  83. DEATH2brother! says:

    You ROCK petah! its alive its aliveee its ALLLLLIIIVEEEEEE ahhh hahahahahahahaha!!!!
    Greedy corps should spend more time I N N O V A T I N G instead of devising antifeatures! ROTTEN mofos!


  84. Bob says:

    Thank you! Worked perfectly!


  85. hendri says:

    need problem solve.
    i have problem with my brother MFC J6710DW:
    printer not detect for ink magenta cartridges..
    i have trying to open all cartridges and install again but not working.
    display still ink magenta not detect, please install ink magenta cartridge.


  86. Sharon says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Work from home, trying to get a vital bit of info in under time restraints and this just saved my bacon!!! Thanks again!!


  87. jen says:

    need problem solve
    brother mfc-j430w yellow ink cartridge cannot detected
    i put electric tape, i install again but still not detected -_-

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