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HP Inkjet Cartridges - Why Does a Cartridge Have to Be Discarded When It Still Contains Ink?

Question
My printed output looks as if the ink is running out: the colors are wrong, or faded, or streaked, or there are other symptoms. However, the cartridge still feels heavy, as if there is ink in it. Why can the printer not use the remaining ink?
Answer
There are several possible reasons:
  • A color or photo cartridge has run out of one of the basic colors it mixes together to create the colors in your images. The printer cannot print correctly if it lacks one of the basic colors, even if it still contains some of the other colors.
    The cartridge must be replaced.
  • The cartridge contains only a residual amount of ink. There is always a small amount of ink left when the cartridge stops functioning. Please note that HP cartridges are over-filled so that they deliver the advertised quantity of ink before they stop printing.
    The cartridge must be replaced.
  • The cartridge nozzles are plugged with dry ink.
    • The printer is designed to prevent this problem by returning the cartridges to a "capping station" when they are not in use - however, if you unplug the printer without first turning it off with the power button, the printer is unable to do this.
    • Storing cartridges outside of the printer after they have been untaped can also lead to dried ink in the nozzles - if you must take the cartridges out of the printer, put them in a cartridge protector or seal them in a plastic tub (and make sure nothing in the tub touches the nozzles).
    It may still be possible to recover the cartridge - check your printer's documentation to find out how to clean the cartridges.

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