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— When Do I Change the Ink Cartridge?
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When you get an alert on your printer that it’s time to change the ink cartridge or toner, do you swap it out immediately or do you dismiss the warning message and continue printing until the printer refuses to print any more pages?

It’s usually possible to print a few extra pages after you get the alert so you’d be a correct wonder if the cartridge is really empty when the printer tells you it’s time to change it. There are no simple answers to this lingering doubt but here are some tips and comments about it.

 

There are some good reasons not to ignore all warnings and let the ink completely run dry. There is a risk of causing damage to your printer if the cartridges are allowed to run completely dry, so best to play it safe and don’t take it quite that far.
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Some OEM manufacturers leave a ‘safety reserve’ or buffer to prevent damaging the printers. Certain OEM cartridges actually have an ink-level sensor to more accurately report ink levels and will prompt the user to change the ink supply.
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Your printer may display a warning message as the ink level dropped, but never force you to replace the cartridge. Eventually, as you continue printing, the output will begin showing signs of low ink — overall lighter print, areas that are blurry or even random lines printing instead of or in addition to the text.

Depending on whether you are an Apple or Windows user, you can get a good sense of your ink supply by going to a tab under hardware, or the devices and printers link from the control panel, where there is usually an option to find ink levels. Most printers also have a display panel somewhere that visually indicates how low your ink supply is. Here again, the visual may be showing you are low, or even ‘dangerously low’ on ink, yet you will still be able to print many more pages before any signs of low ink reflect on your output.

Before you say ‘uncle’ and swap out the cartridges for new ones, it’s worth an extra effort to actually remove the cartridge from the printer, and give it a little rock back and forth to get as much of the ink to the bottom as possible. This can often even out the remaining ink and extend the printing life that much longer.

Lastly, this all may be subjective when it comes to the determination of just how “dead” is that cartridge. If you are more picky about how sharp and crisp your print quality needs to be, you would readily toss the nearly empty cartridge when any degradation in print quality is showing, while your co-worker sitting in the neighboring cubicle may be perfectly content to keep printing a dozen or more pages with some compromised clarity and sharpness before admitting it’s really time for a replacement.
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Canon takes a different approach. Each printer uses an optical sensor in which shines a light through a prism at the bottom of the inkwell. Once ink levels fall to a predetermined level, a beam of light bounces towards a low-ink sensor, which again triggers an on-screen message that tells you to replace the cartridge.

If ink costs concern you, your best bet is to do a bit of research before you buy a printer. In general, the cheaper the printer, the more expensive the ink. Spend a bit more on the printer itself and your ink costs will likely decrease

Also consider leaving your printer’s power on. Each time you cycle the power on an inkjet, it goes through a maintenance routine that can use a huge percentage of each cartridge’s ink

Print only when you need to and leave the printer on, and you’ll get the most mileage out of each cartridge. Hopefully, you’ll save a bit of money, as well.

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