Printer Cartridge Empty Error

In this last year I haven’t been able to get away from servicing the HP Color LaserJet 5500 and each call I get seems to present an even odder situation than the last one. In this article we’ll explore the Empty Cartridge Error,  how it presented and what ended up solving the problem.

The Reported Problem
The customer explained to me that, one day as they were printing, the machine reported that the three color cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow) were empty. The customer ordered OEM replacement cartridges but once these new cartridges were installed the error did not go away — the black cartridge still said it was half full but the color cartridges said empty.

When I arrived onsite I first tried reseating the cartridges and cleaning out the cartridge contacts. Second, I disabled the cartridges in the diagnostic menu and printed several test pages. The machine hadn’t reported any errors related to the cartridges and the firmware was up-to-date.

Since the customer had just installed three new toner cartridges, which cost them hundreds of dollars, they weren’t excited about installing more toner cartridges. So, I decided the next course of action would be to perform a NVRAM initialization in case the information on the DC controller had been corrupt. I printed the config and usage pages to copy the information back to the formatter and then performed the initialization, which led to the machine reading the color cartridges were now non-HP cartridges.


1.  Turn the printer on and watch the control panel display, when the display begins showing the memory count, press and hold the DOWN BUTTON until all three lights on the control panel are lit.

2. Press the UP BUTTON (On some models a more complete NVRAM reset is performed by pressing the Down Button)

3. Press PAUSE/RESUME. The display should show SKIP DISK LOAD.

4. Press UP BUTTON until NVRAM INIT is highlighted.

5. Press the SELECT BUTTON. The printer will initialize NVRAM and then continue its power-on sequence.

The good news was the machine now worked, but I wasn’t sure if the problem would continue when the cartridges were replaced the next time. I reseated the DC controller, memory tag PCB, and switched the memory tag antenna from the black cartridge slot to one of the color cartridges. Again, this failed to solve the problem.

At this point I informed the customer the next course of action was to either try a new cartridge or start replacing parts. The customer decided they didn’t want to replace more cartridges so I returned the next day with a formatter, DC controller, memory tag PCB, and antenna, all of which I took off a scrap machine. After installing the parts the machine still read the same non-HP cartridge message. Now, the only other option was to replace one of the toner cartridges. When I installed a new toner cartridge the problem was solved. It took me a little longer to solve the problem than needed because of the toner cartridge situation but in the end it all worked out.

I am not exactly sure why this problem happened. Given my luck with the Color LaserJet 5500 series I would say because it’s a 5500. I like to find solutions to these issues but this is a hard one to pinpoint. I just thought I would share this experience with others in case they run into a similar issue.

If you have run into this problem, please let us know how you resolved it!

Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. Market Point is a HP PartsOne Partner selling HP printer parts. If you have a question regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics for which you would like more information, please send an email to

5 thoughts on “Printer Cartridge Empty Error

  1. Thanks Kevin for sharing such an important information with us. Customers do such things some points.. we have to explain them how it work and what we have to replace..


    • It might be. You every try calling HP. 1 out of 10 times you will find someone helpful in a timely manner. The other times you spend an hour or two on the phone only to be left in the same situation you already were. Plus, I find it hard to believe they would get 3 bad carts and the next one I open is fine. Something had to be wrong with the machine from the beginning. I personally haven’t heard to many good stories about people calling in with cartridge issues. Most times I hear people saying they were charged money for tech support and not really getting much help.


      • I used to call, many years ago, most times very helpful. Nowadays I guess not so much, tech’s reading from a manual, providing obvious answers, and just wanting to have your credit card info, it’s a different game now


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