Firmware Update Issues? Check the Formatter Port


A few months ago I went out to a customer site to update firmware on five HP P4015 machines. They had been having unexpected print problems after upgrading their computer systems to Windows 8. Unfortunately this seemingly simple job went south quickly. Let me explain.

I downloaded the firmware on the first machine and it crashed half-way through the update. I rebooted the machine and was confronted with a SEND RFU UPDATE message. I was able to get the machine to a ready state and print some test pages but the network port was no longer working so I had to go to the USB update. Again, the firmware update crashed half-way through. Continue reading

HP LaserJet M4555 Series Will Not Print


I recently was called out to work on an HP M4555 printer that had some feed issues. Each time the feed issues seemed resolved the printer would print a few pages but then stop.

The printer was receiving information; it said ‘processing’ on the display, acted  like it was going to print but then nothing would happen. Even printing internal information pages from the control panel failed to work. Also, the machine’s control panel was very slow and often times unresponsive to commands.

Whenever I see an odd problem on a new HP printer the first thing I do is check the firmware version and upgrade or replace it. It’s nice that HP has changed the way the firmware is stored and managed. However, with all the new software changes and applications, I’ve seen a drastic increase in firmware related issues.

Warning: Before you update the firmware… Continue reading

49.38.07 Error on Start-up – HP LaserJet M601 and M602 series


Last Week I was called out to work on a M601 series printer that had a 49.38.07 Error displayed on the machine. At first I thought this would be an easy fix; I’d go out, remove the network cable, turn the machine off and back on and the problem would go away. Once I plugged the cable back in the error would return and I could report back to the customer that a print job was causing the problem. This customer has several public computers and printers so I receive more of these types of calls because of the wide variety of information being printed to the equipment.

Anyway, once I got onsite, nothing I did made the error go away. Every time the printer got to the initializing process, even without the network cable installed, the error returned.

After trying all of my known troubleshooting steps without success, my next option was to try a firmware update. I returned the following day, followed the below listed steps to perform an update and everything seemed to work the way it should. However, once the procedure was done and the machine rebooted the error returned. At this point it was either (a) replace the hard drive or (b) wipe the hard drive and start from scratch!

Solution
What ended up solving my problem on this machine was to reboot the machine (following the below listed instructions), Continue reading

HP P4014 and P4015 Printer Common Issues


The HP P4014 and P4015 printer model offers the same great quality we’re used to when we think of the 4000 series printers produced by HP. These machines offer fast print speeds, high print volumes, few service calls, and inexpensive parts making repairs cost effective for customers. In this article I’ll point out a few of the minor problems with the 4014 and 4015 models, discuss a little about the differences between the two models, and why end users, techs, and sales representatives should be cautious when making buying decisions.

Slow Start
Unfortunately, these printers were first introduced at the time of the stock market crash in 2008 and 2009. Companies were downsizing. Large companies found themselves with extra printers or budgets that didn’t justify replacing a printer when their old faithful 4200 or 4250 could be repaired for a third of the cost of a new machine. And the market became flooded, and still is, with slightly used 4200 and 4250’s with low page counts that look brand new and are available at a low cost.

I’ve found that many large companies like the fact that they have several printers that use the same toner cartridges, making ordering and supplying more efficient.   Continue Reading

HP Printers 49.XXXX Service Errors


In the past several years 49.xxxx service errors have become one of the most common errors associated with all models of the HP line of printers. In this article, I’ll discuss the meaning of the error, what causes it, and gives some tips on trying to fix it. Yes, I said try. Given the nature of the errors each one is unique and what might work on one will not work on another. So patience and a little bit of luck might be needed. Read on…

First, the 49 error is an internal communication problem. The firmware has had a critical error and the formatter processor has aborted its operation. XXXX refers to the address of the fault. This doesn’t mean much to end users but HP likes to record these so if they start seeing a high level of errors with the same fault address they can focus on making changes with the firmware or other parts to prevent the error from recurring.

HP’s service manual says the 49 error can be caused by a bad print command, corrupt data, invalid operations, firmware, formatter, or possibly by accessories like an EIO card or memory. Some reports even say extra trays, duplexers, envelope feeders, etc., under certain circumstances, can cause this error.

With the amount of 49 errors and the ranges of fixing them I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s caused by a bad command or corrupt data. That’s HP’s way of saying ‘it’s someone else’s fault.’ The truth is there are lots of other manufacturers out there that aren’t having this problem.

Many of these 49 errors are happening with newer software, file types like PDFs, special fonts, formats, or pages pulled off the internet. So, the reality is, HP’s driver/firmware software doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the rapidly evolving software industry. I will say that recently I was checking out some firmware fixes for a few printers and was surprised to see several 49 errors being addressed in the firmware updates. So HP is aware of these issues and attempting to correct the problems.

Isolating the problem
Many times, users power off, and when they power back on the printer starts working.  Shortly thereafter, or within the next few days, the 49 error reappears and a service call is needed.

I suggest the following steps to isolate the 49 error problem:

(1) Power off the device and disconnect any communication cables; Network, USB, or Parallel cable. 

(2) Wait 30 seconds and turn the device back on. If the error is still present then we know we have a device error – move to step #3. If the error goes away, see Communication between the computer and network (below).

(3) Unplug the printer and remove any accessories like EIO cards, memory, extra trays, duplexer (if removable), and envelope feeder. If the error goes away when you power back on, start reinstalling the parts one at a time, powering off before installing each part until you find the part causing the error. Once you’ve isolated the problem part, before replacing that part, check for any firmware updates and then reinstall the part. Some firmware updates fix this type of issue.

If the 49 error is still present after removing everything possible, try a cold reset or NVRAM initialization (see service manual for details). A cold reset resets minor stored memory settings like control panel settings or internal and external jet direct settings, so, if possible, know these settings before proceeding or remove the jet direct card. NVRAM is more evasive and clears out more of the internal memory like error logs and certain counters.

If the 49 error persists, it’s time to replace the firmware DIMM, if there is one, or to replace the formatter board. On extremely rare occasions the DC controller or power supply can be at fault. Check the service manual for specific 49 errors related to these parts. 

Communication between the computer and network
More than 95 percent of the recent 49 error faults are communication/software related. If the printer is connected to one PC we simply see what file was sent to the printer last (usually still in your computers print queue). Note the file and delete the job from the queue.

The printer’s service manual says to download the latest and greatest firmware or driver. I, personally, have fixed lots of the 49 errors just by changing the driver. Most HP printers have three drivers; PCL 5, PCL 6, and Postscript so first, simply try another driver. I usually go with PCL 5 or PCL 6. Most of the errors I see are when using the Postscript driver. HP likes to show the fixes beside the driver and firmware so check them out. As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised at the amount of 49 errors being addressed on the few I looked at.

Once the driver or firmware is changed, reprint the problem print job. If you’re still getting an error, try downloading a generic universal print driver, which you can find in the same section as the firmware and driver downloads on HP‘s website.

Converting the document
If, after trying all drivers and updating the firmware, you are still getting the 49 error, convert your document to another software application. For example, convert a Word document to a PDF or vice versa. The logic behind this is that you probably have a command in the document that the printer doesn’t know how to handle. When you convert the document to new software the data is reformatted.

Still getting the 49 error?
Most errors should be fixed by following the above steps. Still, I know of cases where all of these steps were tried and the printer still gives the error. As I stated earlier, the causes of the 49 error are vast and each one is unique. As a last resort, find the offending print job and try printing it to a different printer. I did see on firmware released this year HP has added an auto recovery feature. Read more here: Auto Recovery Feature for 49.xxx Errors

For printers on the network, trying to isolate the issue can be frustrating and time consuming. If you have a server print queue, check the queue for the offending print job. If print jobs aren’t stored in a server print queue, you will have to go around individually to each workstation to find who is sending the offending job. Once found then follow the steps in the previous section.

Ask Questions
I’ve found that most 49 errors occur when someone has recently installed new or old software, downloaded something off the internet, created a new file, or tried altering a document by changing fonts, color scheme, adding a picture, or formatting. Ask questions! Look for something that has recently changed, even the smallest detail can be the most important.

————————————————————————————-
Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. If you have a question for Kevin regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please send an email to maryp@marketpoint.com.

Laser Printer Firmware Updates


More and more, service technicians are getting questions about firmware from customers. What is firmware? What is the difference between print drivers and firmware? Why is it so important that I update my printer’s firmware? Why haven’t I heard of firmware before now?  Sound familiar?

Printer manufactures have made firmware available and if users call in for support, they will ask if they’ve updated the firmware. On some recent models the software installed with the printer periodically updates the firmware. So why haven’t the manufacturers done a better job explaining the importance for firmware to the end-user? In this article I’ll shed some light on the subject.

What is Firmware?
Firmware, in my opinion, is best described as your printer’s internal operating system. Without it the equipment can’t do anything but turn on. [Side note: engine tests are run by firmware stored on the DC controller — for all you tech’s thinking I’m a liar.] Everything from your $20 TV remote to your 50k sports car has firmware. Fifteen years ago a printer went through an intense testing period and the majority, if not all bugs were worked out before it was presented to the end-user. Going back to the operating system example, a very basic command system like DOS was used. Pretty much if you had an error it could usually be traced back to the user.

However, in today’s market our printers are much more complex and the demand on development is forcing us to create newer cutting edge equipment with less attention to perfection. There are different speeds, scanning, fuser modes, usage profiles, etc., much like the Windows O/S, where everything is more user-friendly and with many options, but prone to more problems. So, like Windows updates that appear every time you turn on your computer, you have printer firmware updates that also need to be installed to fix operating glitches so your equipment can run at peak performance and you can reduce service calls and expensive repair bills.

Drivers vs. Firmware
Now that we’ve established that firmware controls the function of the printer, let’s explore the difference between drivers and firmware. Drivers take the information from your computer and convert it to a language that your printer can understand. Firmware, along with the formatter, takes that information and sends it to the rest of the machine to perform the actions necessary to put the digital data on paper.

Why are firmware updates so important?
This is the confusing part. When you call your manufacturer for tech support you’ll be asked for the make and model number of your printer, its serial number, and now for your firmware version. If you’re not running the latest and greatest firmware version, you’ll need to update it before you can proceed. However, you’re thinking ‘my printer worked fine for years with the old version, why not now?’ Once again, firmware is like your computer software, it has glitches. One day you’re using Word with no problems and the next day you go to open it up and you get a missing file error or a corrupt data message. After uninstalling and reinstalling, you’re back in business. Same with firmware, it too has glitches. The main thing is to fix the glitches before they become an issue.

Firmware fixes a wide range of problems. It can fix printing issues with certain software, fax and scanning issues, error codes that will not clear, and its even been known to fix certain issues where parts of the printer overheat and get destroyed.  Those are just a few of the possible fixes.

Most firmware updates work only if the printer is at a ready state. If you wait until the printer is in an error state and then realize that a firmware fix will keep the issue from happening, you’re too late. You can no longer perform the update and you have to replace the board that has the firmware on it.

If your fax LIU overheats and needs to be replaced and you find out there was a firmware fix for that issue, unfortunately, you’re too late, again. That’s why it’s best to keep firmware up-to-date and understand what fixes are being addressed in the current version. Most manufactures provide this information with the firmware download or in a readme file with the download.

The downside of updating the firmware
If a printer fails during an update you can permanently corrupt the firmware, the printer will not go into a ready state and you can’t try again. So, if an update fails, then you’re most likely stuck replacing the board. Right now there are very few printers that can work around this issue. That’s why it’s so important to read and follow the instructions when performing this action.

Things to remember when updating firmware
Be patient; update when you know no one else is going to be printing; don’t ever unplug power while updating; and, most importantly, the computer almost always finishes before the printer so once the computer says it’s done go over to the printer and wait until it’s complete.

Just remember [for the paranoid individuals like me], for every firmware update you read about going bad – thousands are going right. So be cautious, but do it when it needs to be done. Otherwise you could be buying a new printer or looking at an expensive fix.

Why are users just now hearing about firmware?
Firmware has been around for quite some time; basically since the beginning of electronics. As I mentioned earlier, when laser printers first came out they were very basic and there wasn’t much input the printer needed. Firmware used to be integrated on the logic board and if it ever failed you were stuck replacing the board.

Printer manufactures did a lot of research and spent a lot of time to make sure this didn’t happen. About ten years ago manufactures started making firmware DIMM’s, which looked very similar to memory DIMM’s. They were installed in a slot on the main board. If the DIMM went out or needed to be updated you just swapped it out, bringing down the cost of repair.

As time wore on, more fixes were being made and firmware was being updated more often, leaving manufactures throwing old firmware away or not having it available because they couldn’t predict the demand.

Now, almost all manufacturers use a flash ROM chip located on one or more of the logic boards. This way the firmware can be updated whenever needed.  Like I said before, the modern printers are much more complex. Thus, the possibility of more problems.

Allowing the end-user to fix their own issues through firmware helps keep a printer working for a longer period of time. Printer manufactures hope this will extend the life of the printer and reduce the costs associated with maintaining it.

Links to firmware for four of today’s leading printer manufacturers
For most manufactures you can find firmware updates in the same locations you would the print drivers. Typically if firmware is available for download you will find it there. If you do not see a download listed by your machine then one is most likely not available yet or your machine doesn’t have a flash chip or DIMM in it.

The Lexmark firmware requires a special code. From what I briefly read it’s related to your printer’s model number, which can be confusing if you not familiar with their system.  Basically they don’t want you loading the wrong firmware and permanently damaging your printer. So, if you call Lexmark support they will guide you through getting the right firmware for your machine.

http://welcome.hp.com/country/us/en/support_task.html

http://support.lexmark.com/printerfirmware

http://www.brother-usa.com/downloads/

http://www.support.xerox.com

====================
About the Author:  Kevin Gumpp is a certified printer technician and freelance writer for Market Point. If you have a question for Kevin regarding this topic or have any other printer repair related questions or topics you would like more information on, please send an email to maryp@marketpoint.com.

For additional technical support information, to find printer parts &  supplies or to learn more about Market Point, go to www.marketpoint.com or call us, toll free at 877-365-1903.