Technology, Tutorial

Bypass Empty cartridge Brother Printer to Keep Printing

If you are like me, you bought your Brother scanner printer because you wanted a decent scanner and perhaps the odd black and white print.  Nothing more.  That’s why you didn’t pay a lot.

Well, built into the ‘cheap printer’ business model at Brother is a nasty little trick which says ‘When their colour cartridge runs out (which is really small) then stop printer from printing *everything* – including black and white – even though it’s full!”

Now that is just dirty.

I turned off colour printing on computer and it still refused to print with some bogus message like ‘cannot maintain print quality’.  Really?  I have a fully black and white cartridge and I’m not printing colour and it cannot maintain print quality?  I call BS, Brother.

Thankfully, the solution was super, duper crazy easy.  Thanks very much to these guys here

Just take some electricians tape (don’t bother with sharpie markers or other ideas as I tried other stuff on my desk) and get some small scissors (or exacto knife probably easier and more accurate) and cut some black electricians tape so that the tape *perfectly* covers the plastic clear window.

Note: you can see a small gap in this photo example which you should avoid.  Aim for 100% coverage of the window or it may not work.  I tried one with a slightly larger gap and it failed (their lasers are very accurate!)

Once the lasers kick in and hit the tap your screen will show a nice full cartridge and printing in Black and white (or whatever colour you have left) should work.


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34 thoughts on “Bypass Empty cartridge Brother Printer to Keep Printing

  1. Thank You! This bypass procedure was successful on my MFC-J480DW, but I had a bit of trial-and-error. Brother is making the gap above the window very narrow. I discovered it must remain open for the laser check to pass through. I made sure to clear the gap by holding a thin nail and carefully running it back and forth to remove residual tape. I’m going to keep this ‘taped’ empty color cartridge as my bypass tool for future use in similar circumstances. Now I can proceed to print critical road detour info for my guests. All my other cartridges, including black, had plenty of ink! Thank you, Wayne.

  2. You’re a genius!! Worked like a charm. I can’t thank you enough! I’ve been SOOOO frustrated, especially after my brand new cyan cartridge ran out after cleaning and some test pages.

  3. Doesn’t seem to work on the MFC-J6520DW model however I have just discovered that when the ink is low, pull it out, tilt the cartridge around a bit and put it back in. Shows full ink again!! Hoping to finally use all the ink instead of it saying replace when it’s still half full.
    Just to note that it can be temperamental and if it cannot find the cartridge or shows empty, just tilt the printer back as you put it in and it seems to work.

    1. Yeah. these cheap printers are a scam and bad for wastage. Bad business model. Typically the printers just read ‘did someone open and close and put new ink in?” if yes, put indicator to ‘full’. I doubt they can actually read how much ink is in before it hits the bottom. Once it’s nearly gone I think they have sensors in there to warn you and tell you. I think some printers use lasers to shoot the ink and when the laser beam is able to go through the ink and hit the other side, because it’s not hitting the ink, then it says ‘ink low’. Each machine is different but most are a scam.

  4. For some reason it is not working for me. I have a MFC-J491DW. What is so aggravating is that I literally have not printed one sheet of colored paper since the last time I replaced my cartridges and they are all empty and it hasn’t been that long. If I only print black and white how in the world does it use my colored ink?

    1. Well part is digital. They have ‘counters’ built into the software of the printer that says how many pages printed. I have heard of printers that ‘just stop working’ once they hit a certain number of pages and then you reset the counter and ‘magic’ – it starts working. Also, it could be physical so perhaps the nozzles dried up? Maybe take them out and check if they are dried up? Anyway, have fun and good job trying to beat the machine! 🙂

  5. Just bought a secondhand MFC-J5330DW for $50. Ordered some generic XL cartridges, But nice to be able to check I hadn’t bought a dud. The black was empty, with no way to over-ride the global printer disable function when a cartridge is empty.
    I put some electrical tape over the cartridge window and says is now full – which of course it isn’t. But at least I can get a few more prints whilst waiting for the replacements. When removing the cartridges I did have to close the door, then open and insert the “doctored” cartridge for the fix to be detected.
    Anyway thanks for the tip.

  6. Thank you! This trick worked great! My colored cartridges had “Not enough ink” according to my Brother MFC-J430W (Fax/Copier) but Costco would not refill them because according to weight they were still 50% full. They said they could not refill unless they are empty (ugh!) What a great help – thanks again!

  7. Thank you so much!!! I have been frustrated with my printer for this exact reason. I primarily print in black and white but like to use the occasional color. It frustrates me that, unless you specify black and white, it will use color to print black and white pages. I have kids who use the printer on occasion and they don’t know to change the setting so there goes “all” the color ink. I would tilt the cartridge and lo and behold there would be ink in there but it wouldn’t print. I used to work in a doctor’s office that used a Brother printer and my boss would do a tape trick to bypass the low ink message but I couldn’t remember what it was. I came across your tip and it worked perfectly!

    Brother MFC-J480DW

  8. It worked like a charm on my Brother MFC-J5330 DW. Had been breaking my head for the past 4 hrs to bypass low Yellow ink.a

  9. I’ve been trying to do this with my Brother printer model MFC-J497DW and it won’t work. Frustrating because I have to print a few things and my black ink is completely full!

    1. sorry to hear about the frustrations. Hopefully it works out in the end. Sometimes it does require recycling the thing and getting one that is ubuntu friendly and supporting the printer companies that do so.

  10. I am trying to make my brother DPC-L2550 DW printer accept a third-party cartridge which it refuses to acknowledge his full. Unfortunately, my TN 730 replacement doesn’t have a window that I can take over.
    Does anyone have any more suggestions?

  11. Brilliant! It really works. And sadly, my Brother color ink cartridges were not even close to being fully empty. I can print in black and even color now. Thank you!

  12. Nope, did not work at all. I have a MFC-J48ODW Brother Ink Printer using LC201 cartridges. I ONLY print using black ink. The Red, Blue and Yellow all have an X or a ? above them on the screen, even though those cartridges are NOT empty. I did your hack, but still have the X and ? above the Yellow, Red and Blue ink levels on the display. I will NEVER buy a Brother printer again. JUNK!

  13. Unfortunately does not work for the MFC-J5945DW as there is no clear window on these cartridges. Would love to know if anyone has a hack to reset the ink levels or get the printer to recognise a refilled cartridge without having to use a chip resetter.

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