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

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.

Troubleshooting
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. Continue reading

HP P3005 – Light Print – Formatter Issue.


A few months ago I serviced a HP LaserJet P3005 for a third party company. While servicing the machine for a paper jam issue I noticed that it was printing extremely light and every time I turned it off and back on, upon reboot  it gave me an 11.XX internal clock error. The internal clock error was pretty simple. That’s the formatter board.

The light print, though, threw me for a loop. The machine had an OEM cartridge, toner density all the way up, and not in toner save mode. The customer said it was always like that so they had no issue with it. I told them that to fix the clock error they would have to replace the formatter and possible either the ECU or formatter to fix the light print.

Fast forward a few months Continue reading

HP M2727nf Power Issues Due to Formatter Failure


A few weeks ago I serviced a HP M272nf  printer that was randomly turning off on its own. The customer reported that the printer would be working fine but then, randomly, the computer would report a connection issue when sending a print job. Upon looking at the machine the power would appear to be off with nothing on the display lit up. Usually, if they opened the toner door or turned the power switch off and on the machine would return to normal operation.  On some occasions though, it would freeze up during initialization when the arrows were moving across the display. The customer reported that this problem started off as a random issue, only happening once or twice a month, and then gradually began happening just about every day.

Continue Reading

HP P3005 Formatter Board Issues


The HP P3005, like the P2015, is known to have formatter board issues. The typical signs of formatter board issues on this printer are:  (1) a blank screen, (2) the printer freezes during memory check, (3) the HP logo is stuck on display, (4) an RFU load message, and (5) 49 errors. These are just the most common errors. You could experience other issues or messages due to the fact that the problem is with a chip on the formatter board.

Like the HP P2015, a design flaw causes the chip temperature to melt the solder used on the board, which breaks and causes a poor connection. HP could have used a stronger solder material to withstand the thermal stress or could have added a heat sink or fan to cool the chip. And, like the P2015, most board repair companies have figured out a way to resolve the issue for the long run.

HP, on the other hand, is still trying different chips to solve the issue. I recently learned that HP just released yet another version of the board but the verdict is still out as to whether this will finally solve the issue. The web is flooded with unhappy customers who have had boards replaced by HP just to have the same problem again, six months later.

Troubleshooting this Formatter Board Problem

The first thing we need to do is verify what is causing the issue. To do that, first unplug and remove any accessories, such as optional trays, or memory or jet direct cards, and then reboot. If the error goes away, reinstall the accessories one at a time unplugging each time before the next component is installed until you find the component causing the issue. On some machines the error isn’t always present so reboot a few times if the machine starts working to verify if you actually resolved the issue.

If, after removing the accessories, the error is still present then we need to perform an engine test. The engine test bypasses the formatter and tests the basic engine functions to verify the machine’s print engine is physically working. To perform this test you need to remove the right side cover and find the engine test button located a few inches down from the fan cover.

HP P3005 Engine Test

The engine test bypasses the formatter and tests the basic engine functions. To perform this test remove the right side cover and find the engine test button located a few inches down from the fan cover.

You might need something small, like a paper clip or canned air straw, to depress the button. In some cases the formatter might prevent you from performing the test so the formatter might need to be removed before the test will work. On one machine I worked on recently, by pressing on the chip above the memory card slot, the chip known to cause these errors, the machine booted up to a ready state but failed when chip was not pressed on.

Confirmed Printer Formatter Issue

If you’ve gotten an engine test out of the machine, we verified a formatter issue. We have a few options of how to proceed. You can

  • replace the whole machine with a new or refurbished unit,
  • have the board professionally repaired,
  • replace the board with a new or refurbished board
  • try the homemade fix (not recommended)

Replacing the printer with a new or refurbished printer

I personally frown upon this unless, after inspecting the whole printer, you find other problems like a worn printer fuser, noisy scanner motor or a large copy count. In other words, big ticket items that will lead to a costly repair bill.

I like knowing the history of printers that I service and with past experience with refurbished printers you never know what you’re getting. It’s like buying a reconditioned cartridge. Two out of ten will probably give you issues. New printers, unless justified with the overall condition of the unit or repair bill, just makes people believe they are throw away units leading to less service calls. And if you have a large repair bill just for a formatter board replacement you need to shop around because someone is taking advantage of you.

Buying a new or repaired formatter board

This is the first choice I always make. Get yourself a reconditioned formatter board with a warranty from a professional, reliable company like Market Point. HP just added a new version of the board so I wouldn’t trust new since they haven’t figured it out before now.

Sending the formatter board in for repair takes time, which you usually don’t have and if you repair for a living, like me, it makes you look bad because one of the keys to service is quick and reliable turnaround. So rebuilt and warranty, even though you might pay a little more than sending it in, gives you the quickest and best results. And in the eyes of your fellow employees or customers makes you look like the hero because in today’s world quick response is key to success.

The homemade fix

You can find this repair on several places on the web. Due to the nature of the procedures, if not performed correctly, further damage to the machine or to yourself can result. So I believe Market Point does not want to be held responsible due to injury resulting from information posted on their website. I personally have performed these procedures and fixed machines but the results will vary and while it might get your machine running again, it’s not the same as having it professionally done. In the long run I would recommend purchasing a reconditioned board that has been professionally reworked and has a warranty.

Hopefully, this article has helped you resolve your P3005 formatter issue. I expanded more on your repair options in this article to help you make an informed decision when it comes to your options. As I stated with the HP P2015, the P3005 machines are great machines and when working properly do an excellent job. Given the history over the last ten years, more and more problems are happening with the newer models. If spending around $200 to fix this machine does the job and the machine is in good condition then it’s probably in your best interest to fix rather than replace and spend $600 to $800.

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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.

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.

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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.

HP P2015 Paper Jam / Toner Empty Error Message


This article discusses the formatter issues with the HP P2015 printer.

First, let’s talk about the symptoms of this particular formatter problem.  A “paper jam” or “paper jam and toner empty” error light remains steady when you’re going to print, or turning your printer on in the morning. After checking for and clearing any paper jams (or if your unfortunate and get both the jam and toner empty message, replacing your cartridge) you get the same error. Now what?

Side note: Other errors can result because of this problem; these are just two of the most common.

Verify the problem

  1. Remove the left side cover by releasing the four tabs located near the cover’s four corners. Starting in the rear works best.   

    HP printer P2015, remove left side cover

    HP printer P2015, remove left side cover

  2. Locate the engine test button on the engine control board just below and behind the right side of the formatter.

    HP P2015 printer engine test button

    HP P2015 printer engine test button

  3. Press the engine test button. This test bypasses the formatter and verifies the actual engine is working fine. A page of horizontal black lines should print out.  Note: make sure the covers are all closed, toner installed, and paper is in the cassette tray before performing this action otherwise it will not work.
  4. If the page prints out and the display still reads an error state the formatter will have to be replaced or fixed.

If you’re getting other error codes, or if the page doesn’t print out, refer to this link:  Hp P2015 Error Codes

The test page printed….now what? 

First, it may be helpful to know that some reports say as many as 20% of the HP P2015 printers made have this issue. Most technicians and engineers have come to the conclusion that the material used to solder the chips on the formatter fails. They believe the chips produce too much thermal stress on the solder causing it to break. Not necessarily the chip’s fault, just that the solder material should be stronger. So what you’re left with is a formatter with all working parts but with an internal connection problem.

What are my options?

You have a few. You could send the printer in for repair or you could purchase one that’s already been fixed. Another option would be to buy a new OEM HP formatter. Right now HP is on its second or third generation of boards. The verdict is still out as to whether they have actually figured out a correct way to prevent this from happening again.

The internet is flooded with unhappy customers who have had the formatter replaced under warranty or purchased a new one from HP and experienced similar issues several months to a year later. Most then opt to go with a board that has been repaired (reconditioned or refurbished) because of the lower cost and because the typical warranty exceeds that of HP’s. Market Point has teamed up with a company that specializes in board repair. They make repairs to the boards and add a heat-sink to the processor to help dissipate the excessive heat that causes many of the failures, to make sure the end user is getting a high quality product that will be reliable.

What about the homemade remedies found online?

There are home remedies described online for the boards that involve heating them in an oven. If you’re thinking of using this approach, keep in mind that the oven temperature has to be just right or the heating will be ineffective and may cause other components to fail or melt. And, if the board is not kept perfectly flat it may warp. Additionally, this heating process does not solve any problem that may have been caused by a failed flash memory IC or NVRAM IC, which should also be tested and replaced.

If you do attempt the homemade fix, remember that a re-flowed board is not necessarily a sure or a lasting fix. I’ve heard of some boards reverting back to their original fault state days to months later. In my opinion, your best option is to get a reconditioned board done by a professional board repair provider like Market Point.

A Workhorse Printer

Well that’s it. Hopefully you have been enlightened about your troublesome P2015. I will add that, while this printer model is known to have a board issue, the overall printer is a workhorse. I recently serviced one that had over 175,000 prints and never had a problem. So don’t be too quick to dismiss your HP P2015 printer. With a properly working formatter board, these printers are well worth having around.

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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.