Cartridge empty? How to trick your printer!

Have you only printed ten colored pages and the printer is already asking for a new cartridge? TECHNOLOGY BUTTONTEC has two tips for you on how to get the last drops of ink out of the cartridge.

Throwing away ink cartridges is extremely harmful to the environment. According to projections, 350 million cartridges end up on landfills every year, although they take between 425 and 1000 years to dismantle. With our tips, ink cartridges last longer and you can even refill them again and again.

1. Use the color cartridges down to the last drop

Most modern ink cartridges have an intelligent microchip that automatically sends the printer the estimated ink level. Regardless of whether the cartridge is actually empty or almost empty, the printer issues a warning message that, with some devices, can simply be ignored. However, many models are programmed in such a way that they do not continue to print with the supposedly empty cartridges. This is to make it difficult to simply refill them and keep using them.

Since the ink level is only estimated and not actually measured in many models with a chip, there is often a considerable amount of ink left in the cartridge, which cannot be used. With some types of cartridges, the chips can be reset. Sometimes a pin is sufficient for this, but often special “reset tools” are required which are held on the chip contacts and after a few seconds make the cartridge appear full again. Some microchips even have an expiration date, which can also prevent printing. Even when the cartridge is refilled, the chip reports to the printer that the cartridge is empty.

The fact that ink cartridges are shown as empty before they actually run out of ink is not only annoying, but also harmful to the environment. Because in this way you can neither fully use nor refill cartridges.

What to do if the printer says the cartridges are empty

  1. First, the affected cartridge should be taken out of the printer and shaken well to loosen any remaining ink inside.
  2. In some cases it can help to put the cartridge in a warm water bath to liquefy any dried ink. Make sure that no exposed contacts come into contact with the water. Be especially careful with Lexmark cartridges where the chip is hidden under the sticker.
  3. If neither of the first two methods works, the chip that estimates the ink level must be reset.

How to reset the microchip

The method of resetting the chip is different for each manufacturer.


Epson cartridges can usually be reset with a pin or paper clip. There is a small hole above the microchip into which the needle or clamp must be inserted. Some cartridge models, however, have two chips and here resetting only works with a special “reset tool” that is available for download free of charge.

With the tool, not only can the microchips of the cartridges be reset via the computer, but also, for example, the color and black cartridges can be cleaned independently of each other. Download the tool from this page:

and after the program opens, click on the Resetter tab. Select Reset Cartridges, then turn the printer off and then on again. The ink level should now be displayed as full again.

Also interesting: Find the right printer for homeschooling


Resetting the chip is much more complicated at HP. HP cartridges have multiple rows of exposed contacts on the back that must be covered in a specific order. In the case of the cartridge shown here, contacts 1-4 must be masked off one after the other and inserted into the printer. After taping off each individual contact, a test page must be printed. Only after the last contact has been masked off and a test page has been printed can the tape be removed and the cartridge reinserted. The printer should now recognize it as a new cartridge.


There are no special reset tools for Lexmark printers because the chip is hidden under a sticker. However, users can try to reset the ink levels by removing the cartridges from the printer, turning off the printer, and waiting for at least 60 seconds before turning the device back on. After a short time, the printer will report the lack of ink cartridges. After reinsertion, the fill level should have been reset.


The printer software for the PC allows you to continue printing even if the ink cartridges are empty. When printing, the warning message will appear repeatedly that one (or more cartridges) are empty. The messages can always be confirmed with YES until a message appears that asks you to press the Resume button on the printer itself for 5 seconds. If the printer does not have a Resume button, press the Cancel button for 6-7 seconds until the warning LED stops flashing. As an alternative to this solution, there are also reset tools for Canon ink cartridges, depending on the model.

Brother printers also have small memory chips, but the detection of the ink level works differently. The instructions for this can be found below.

2. Print in black and white without a color cartridge

With most printers, it is sufficient to keep resetting the microchip in the ink cartridges to trick the printer into thinking that there is still ink in the tank. This means that the cartridges are emptied down to the last drop, but even with this trick, the supply will eventually run out. While the color cartridges are already empty, there is often a little more left in the black cartridge.

However, almost all printer models refuse to print in grayscale when the color cartridges are empty. For most models, resetting the chip or pushing away the warning message is sufficient, but there are exceptions such as Brother printers. Brother ink cartridges have a small viewing window that is illuminated by an optical sensor in the printer. If there is ink in the tank, it is reflected through the window and the sensor forwards the fill level to the printer. Thus, it is accurately measured whether there is still ink left or whether everything has actually been used up and resetting the chip no longer helps. There is therefore a special trick for Brother devices that makes the printer believe that the cartridge is full.

Identify the Brother cartridge as full

The trick is as simple as it is effective. It is sufficient to stick a thin strip of black electrical insulating tape or, in the case of our example, aluminum adhesive tape over the exposed viewing window. To do this, take the cartridge out of the holder and attach a strip of adhesive tape approx. 1 cm wide and 2 cm long so that it covers both sides of the window. Then put the cartridge back in the printer, close the cover and confirm the insertion of a new cartridge on the screen. The printer should now recognize the prepared color cartridge as full and enable printing in grayscale again.

No problems with third party cartridges

Printer ink is extremely expensive, so you want something from every drop in the small tank. Manufacturers see it differently; for them, selling cheap printers and expensive cartridges is a business model. However, third-party providers have always succeeded in reconstructing the cartridges and offering their own cartridges significantly cheaper.

Most third-party cartridges have replica chips that can be reset over and over to allow refilling. The replica cartridges are usually around 50 percent and in some cases up to 95 percent cheaper than the original cartridges.

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