Our connected world makes it simple to send documents around the world in the blink of an eye, but heaven have mercy if you ever need to print one of them. Printers are perhaps even more frustrating than they were in the pre-internet era, thanks to the way companies like HP have chosen to increase profits. Despite customer backlash and a series of lawsuits, HP has stepped up the rollout of “Dynamic Security” features that block printing with third-party ink cartridges.

According to HP, Dynamic Security is all about “[protecting] the quality of our customer experience.” What it actually means is that an affected printer will check for an HP authentication chip in the cartridge, and if it’s not there, your printer will refuse to work. HP introduced Dynamic Security in 2016, and it has been forced to pay out several class action lawsuits in the intervening years. And yet, HP is still adding Dynamic Security to printers via firmware updates.

Reports of HP printers suddenly rejecting ink cartridges began increasing late last year as the company rolled out firmware updates. One Reddit user spurred a 1,000-comment discussion in recent days when they posted an image of an error message (see below) that appeared after a firmware upgrade. According to user /r/grhhull, their 3.5-year-old printer used to merely warn about potential quality issues with the cheaper third-party carts it was running. After the update, Dynamic Security refused to print without an authentic cartridge.

HP Updating Printers to Block Third-Party Ink Cartridges

HP Dynamic Security error. Credit: /u/grhhull

The issue is all the more infuriating because it’s impossible to know which printers are affected. According to HP, its security updates may “block cartridges using a non-HP chip or modified or non-HP circuitry from working in the printer, including cartridges that work today.” Emphasis ours. This information is conveniently contained in a support article that no one is going to read before buying a printer. Although, HP slyly reminds Ars Technica that Dyanamic Security is mentioned on the printer box, implying that it’s on consumers to investigate this innocuous-sounding term.

Despite hints of a new approach, HP is still entrenched in the decades-old printer business model of losing money on the hardware to sell expensive ink cartridges, and it’s making its customers’ lives miserable as a result. For most machines that get a Dynamic Security update, you’re out of luck. The only way to continue using the printer you bought is to pay HP’s inflated price for ink or pay for a silly printing-as-a-service subscription. Some printers can circumvent the block, but only if they were manufactured before Dec 1, 2016. The overwhelming majority of replies in the Reddit thread suggest a different fix: stop buying HP printers.

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