Marketing | Environment | Culture

The Story: Our HP Printer Stopped Printing Black Ink

First, the good news. Any day now, we should receive a free shipping label from HP to send our useless printer to one of their recycling centers.

That’s the full and complete extent of the good news.

This is the story of an otherwise functional HP PhotoSmart 6525 All-In-One Inkjet Printer that stopped printing black ink and, as a consequence, faces the fate of dismantling and (hopefully) reuse.


Before Our HP Printer Stopped Printing Black Ink


Fun Facts about Our HP PhotoSmart 6525

  • We bought it at Costco a few years ago.
  • It required A LOT of new ink cartridges.
  • We exclusively used “genuine HP ink,” until …
  • I tried to save 15% by buying Office Max / Office Depot ink.
  • The printer stopped printing black ink.


Years of Expensive Use

Yes, this printer worked fine for two or three years. It sucked down a fat lot of “high yield” ink, but it worked well enough.

Proof of insurance for the car’s glovebox. Text and images for the science fair project. Our PhotoSmart 6525 dutifully (if expensively) handled all the basic chores we assigned it.

On the regular, we’d buy and drop in another set of Genuine Factory-Sealed HP Brand Cartridges.

Until …


Office Max/Office Depot Ink

With a little more focus on the household budget, I decided to give some less expensive, house brand ink a try.

Office Max/Office Depot (yes, they’re the same company) takes spent HP ink cartridges and fills them up with their own ink. And they sell it side by side against “genuine HP” cartridges at about a 15% markdown.

I tried it. Big mistake.

Minor issue: the printer immediately let us know that danger was imminent; impure, tainted, off-brand cartridges were detected. “They have to scare us to protect sales against less expensive competitors,” I told myself.

Significant issue: The first 10 pages we printed looked awful, so we took them back to exchange them for Genuine Factory-Sealed HP Brand Ink Cartridges.

After a little back and forth, the office store employees agreed to give us store credit for their house brand cartridges.

Now I’m paraphrasing here, but the shift manager at Office Max/Office Depot told us (approximately):

I hate that we sell this ink. I caution people against buying it.

I only wish she’d been on duty when we made the initial decision.


When Our HP Printer Stopped Printing Black Ink

We paid the $17 difference between the “genuine” and non-sanctioned cartridges, took the new ink home, and installed the cartridges.

Printed text and images still looked bad. A little Google search produced these step-by-step instructions from HP.

The Print Quality Diagnostic (below) sheets made clear what the problem was.

HP, HP 6525, HP printer, print quality, print quality diagnostic, bad print quality, printer quality, no black ink


When we tried to print plain text documents (black text only), the sheets shot out empty; this Diagnostic sheet made clear why.

Notice that the cyan, magenta, and yellow all look fine – printing all 3 shades without any striping or streaking.

The black? Empty.

HP 6525, HP All-In-One, no black ink, print quality diagnostic, stopped printing black, not printing black

NOTE: The letters and boxes have a slight 3D look to them – made of the mix of colors, rather than properly printed with black ink. Again, printing in black only produces empty sheets.


Not Printing Black Ink: “Apparently This Is A Thing”

The heads aren’t clogged. All recommended steps had been taken. No black ink.

Though I have no evidence for it, I suspect HP set up a kill switch on the black cartridge upon reception of any ink cartridges except “genuine HP ink” cartridges.

Either that – or it’s a major firmware failure.

Either way, HP knows about it. I found several posts in their customer/product message boards. And it’s well documented in the Amazon reviews for this product.

Amazon, Amazon reviews, customer reviews, low score, bad reviews, HP PhotoSmart, PhotoSmart 6525, All-in-One, printer reviews


Not only does this HP printer have one of the lowest set of customer reviews I’ve ever seen on any product (yes, that’s 1.4 stars total and 78% 1 star reviews), the black ink issue seems second only to how badly it sucks through ink.

Here are a handful of quotes from the Amazon reviews:

  • “My black ink just stopped working all together.”
  • “On my 2nd nearly new official HP Black ink cartridge the printer stopped printing in Black.”
  • “Two years and the printer will not print black ink. Apparently this is a thing.”
  • “Now I can’t get the black ink to print, seems it is a common problem as there many complaints on the HP site.”
  • “I experienced the same issue that a lot of people had when replacing the black ink cartridge and it would no longer print black.”
  • “I’ve only used mine about 9-10 times when it just stopped printing black.”
  • “Much like a lot of the reviews the black ink was the problem.”
  • “You may discover that it’s somehow impossible to print black only.”
  • “Streaks on the pages, jamming problems, disconnect problems … but, worst of all, after a year, it stopped printing black ink no matter how many times I cleaned, re-aligned and bought and replaced with brand new black ink cartridges.”
  • “Just this week I put an OEM cartridge into the printer and then Black color was missing when I printed the quality diagnostic.”
  • “This is the second HP printer I’ve owned that has stopped printing in black.”
  • “Prints good at first, after warranty expires they quit printing black.”
  • “As has been said before, the black ink just stopped printing.”
  • “First time to change cartridges and it won’t print black.”
  • “Less than a year old. Will not print from the black cartridge.”
  • “We have had our 6525 for 26 months, the black just quit printing, tried everything recommended, still won’t work.”


What To Do with a Printer That Doesn’t Print in Black

After exhausting the first four fixes on the five step list, HP recommends getting the PhotoSmart serviced.

servicing, repair, printer repair, HP printer repair, HP customer support


But …

out of warranty, warranty, HP warranty, printer warranty, out of service


Though they threatened a fee for the phone call, I called anyway.

After 10 minutes on hold (not bad on a Saturday morning), I was connected to Christopher, a very kind and helpful gentleman in the Philippines (I asked, he shared).

He was very well aware of the black ink problem; I felt certain right away that he’d spoken with many customers about it. A script can only take you so far – and he was well past that.

I followed all the steps through which he walked me, including wiping off the copper contacts on the cartridges and in the printer. We concluded by printing yet another no-black Printer Quality Diagnostic Sheet.

Christopher suggested that it was a “hardware issue” that couldn’t be resolved because this model doesn’t have a removable printhead.

Of course, it’s not a hardware issue. It’s a software or firmware issue. Something inside the printer told it to stop printing from the black cartridge.

I asked about a hard, internal reset that might make our HP PhotoSmart 6525 All-In-One printer forget I’d ever committed the sin of placing a non-genuinine ink cartridge against its copper contacts. You know, Men In Black neuralyzer style.

No such luck.

So, I can’t use it. Nor should I donate it. I hate to trash it. And, fortunately, Christopher had a great answer to my concluding question.


HP Printer Recycling – And an Insistent Sales Pitch

I asked if they could salvage anything from it or reuse some or all of the printer. Christopher sent me a link to send it to an HP recycling center.

Though I couldn’t find the HP PhotoSmart 6525 on their drop-down list of specific models, I still requested a free shipping label to send our perfectly-fine-except-that-it-stopped-printing-black-ink printer back to them. I just picked a different model.

printer recycling, HP recycling, recycling, recycle, computer hardware

Knowing I was without a properly functioning printer, Christopher also made a hard pitch on “upgrading” to a new or refurbished HP product. Several mentions. Polite, but very persistent.

Of course, I’d ordered a new one from a different manufacturer days earlier, so his efforts produced no fruit.


Takeaways from the Black Ink Problem

> Personal opinion & speculation: HP seems to have created the “give away the razor, profit from the blades” dynamic with this printer and its inks. Sell the printer cheap at Costco, Sam’s Club, and elsewhere. Make it suck down tons of ink. Punish people for non-sanctioned ink. Design in a fixed printhead, so the printer is immediately useless.

> Instant uselessness like this is incredibly wasteful.

> Recycling helps retrieve value from an otherwise useless printer like ours. A cradle-to-cradle approach in manufacturing is even better.

> Both HP and Office Max/Office Depot are knowingly putting their should-be-valued team members in bad situations. Three team members at the Office store endured unpleasant exchanges with me because of bad products, as did the kind gentleman overseas for HP. And they’re obviously not alone. Those 1-star Amazon reviews date back to March 2013. Employees are at the front end of the service profit chain.

> Look at Amazon reviews before buying anything. Even at Costco.

> I aspire never to purchase another HP product.


[UPDATE: March 2017]

Thanks to Michael, who commented below, for offering this potential fix:

I had this exact same problem and just fixed it by reconfiguring to the default settings. I went to Applications on my Mac, clicked on Hewlett-Packard, then clicked on Setup Assistant, accepted the user agreement and kept clicking continue until the setup was done. IT PRINTS IN BLACK AGAIN!

And another recommendation made in the comments is this video.

My HP printer is LONG GONE, so I can’t test it myself. You, however, might give it a try for yourself!


hp printer, HP 6525, HP All-In-One, Hewlett Packard, black ink, defective, problem



  1. Quick question… were you running the HP 6525 from a pc or a mac?

  2. Hey, Michelle! We had it connected to an iMac.

  3. Found your post as I am fighting with my 6525 that gave up printing black a few weeks ago. Printer worked like a charm for 3+ years. I only put HP ink it and yet, without warning, it has rolled over, legs up, never to print again. I tried many of the online fixes to no avail and will be printer shopping now. Just not sure where to look after this experience. FYI, ran ours from a PC.

  4. I have had this same issue many times: my HP Photosmart C309a all of a sudden stops printing black ink. I have always used HP ink cartridges. I have tried running the ‘clean print head’ option, I have taken the cartridge carrier out and cleaned it, I have turned the printer off and then restarted it, I have disconnected the printer from the computer and reconnected (not sure why-just hoping something resets), I put in new ink cartridges even though there is plenty of ink in the old cartridge. None of these things will start the black ink flowing again. However, just as mysteriously, the printer will eventually (weeks later), start printing black ink again. It’s a major inconvenience. At this point it’s an old printer and I should just get a new one, but I hate to throw out (even recycle) a piece of equipment that usually works well. I logged on to see if anyone had posted any new solution (didn’t see any); now I’m just venting my frustration! Thanks

  5. Sorry to hear! Thanks for sharing your experience here, Beth. It’ll likely help and inform another reader trying to understand his or her own experience.

  6. Thanks for venting, Laurie! Insanely frustrating for you because of its willingness to occasionally show up and work for you. I agree re: recycling – hard to do when it still promises value and delivers value now and then.

  7. I’m having the same problems. I have a HP Photosmart eStation, it has fax, scan, copy, and print. Was working just fine. I use mine every day multiple times a day then all of a sudden stopped printing black. So I did everything you did, but my printer head comes out. So right now I just cleaned the printer head and waiting for it to dry to see if that will help. In the meantime I went to 9 different stores to get a new one since I have to have a printer for daily use. I wanted one that used the same ink since I just got done buying a bunch of ink. Anyway I finally found only one, but the box was taped shut, like it was brought back. I never buy products like that because I always get screwed but I drove an hour from home and 9 stores later I said screw it and try it. So the next day I go through the work to try to hook it up and guess what the new printer I just bought was broken and on top of it not the same printer that was on the box. Two different product numbers and model numbers. Now I’m super mad because I have to drive and hour to return a printer that was suppose to be new. I go to tell the manager about what was going on, that they should look up and see who returned it before me since obviously they put they broken printer in the box and kept new one and returned it, so basically got a new printer for free. But the manager cuts me off and doesn’t want to listen to me about the issue. He was rude and I don’t get it! I wanted to make sure they didn’t put it back out to be sold so another person would get stuck like me dealing with a printer that is totally different than the one on the box. So I praying that when printer head dries that my original printer magically starts printing black again because I don’t know what else to do. Had to vent about all the problems I was having with the same problems you had.

  8. Me too HP is not a good product Do not buy a printer by them.

  9. me too! Fine for 3 years then no black. have tried all the remedies I’ve seen online but no luck. Will be buying a laserjet printer now, but definitely not from HP!

  10. No wonder the stock is through the floor. If you want to know where the lostest cost of labor is, no Harvard MBA needed, just go to Best Buy and see where HP is building printers and/or cartridges.

    Such a same, there were once a great company — seems the Samsung of the printer and PC business these days!

  11. We’ve enjoyed our new Brother laser printer since this incident.

  12. Live and learn. Won’t do it again. We’ve gone with Brother since then and been pleased.

  13. Good luck, Niki. The “magically starts printing black ink again” part is the part I would let go. Based on those Amazon reviews and the comments collecting here, I think we’re all out of magic.

  14. I’ve not been tracking their stock price, but when I think “HP,” no particular brand images come to mind … and that’s definitely a problem.

  15. This has been quite amusing.. I have been reading this post while having an online chat with a HP CS member due to my Photosmart B110a.. because my HP printer “has stopped printing black”.. The CS member was very polite and has sent my issue up the ranks. I have only used HP cartridges and went through the cleaning out the entire printer process and it still not working.. then leaving it for three weeks. Then is miraculously worked for two days and then of course stopped again just as suddenly!! Hmmm not holding my breath!

  16. Mine’s just stopped printing black…. unless I try the troubleshooter then it prints a test page fine!!??? Only ever used HP cartridges & they’re new, been used a couple of times before it stopped printing?

  17. Sorted mine – new HP cartridges stopped printing black, but the test page came out fine..??!
    So, I deleted & reinstalled the printer on my laptop, it then forced a troubleshooter to check & reinstall printer drivers, et voila! It works now 😬

  18. I have an HP 7520 all in one printer that also stopped printing black ink. The 3 colors and the photo black continued to work. The printer is about 2 years old, was only used occasionally at home and printed very good quality until it simply stopped printing black. I took the printer head out and cleaned it with water. It was extremely gummed up with black ink. Then reinstalled the cartridges (I have always used HP cartridges, for all the good it has done me). I ran the clean printhead and align cartridges several times to no avail. Still no black ink printing. After the alignment a message displays that says the alignment has failed due to “cartridges are set to default quality”. Still have not found out what that means or what to do about it. I agree that the HP’s suck up a ton of ink. I will try another brand such as Brother and maybe make it a laser printer. So tired of HP printers and computers. I had an HP computer that had constant issues. I have had a Mac for 2 years and have had almost no issues. What a relief. Good luck to all who are having this issue.

  19. Black ink stopped working on my HP Photosmart 6525. Not a surprise after reading comments on several sites. This printer has been the most expensive printer I have ever owned. Time to research other options before buying. However it won’t be an HP. This is the last time (I have owned many) I will purchase a HP product. Ink doesn’t last and the cost makes this printer the most expensive printer I have ever owned. Bye bye HP.

  20. Thank you everyone. I spent 2 days trying everything to get the black ink to print. Nothing! Hp Photoshop Premium C309 nothing premium about it. Thank you all for sharing will not buy another HP product.

  21. 365 E. Ave De Los Arboles
    Box 227

  22. Thanks Ethan et al for all of the comments, although unfortunately we’ve all taken a ride up the HP Creek without a paddle. Been tinkering with the printer all day with no success. FYI, Consumer Reports March 2017 edition just rated home printers. I think they’d be interested in the litany of comments regarding HP’s black ink issue and failure to properly address and compensate consumers.

  23. Richard Parry

    March 4, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Why does black cease more than other colors?
    Why does it work in the morning and suddenly stop in the afternoon, without any hardware changes (my case). Is this a programmed problem to drive sales? A uniform design flaw? I desire to get out for the printer business by driving loyal customers to their competitors?
    A sixty dollar replacement OEM print head, which may or may not work, or a recycle label and a new printer from anyone but HP. Guess what my choice is?

  24. Everyone needs to write to the Better Business Bureau so this is stopped, i’m now fighting the same fight and still need to do taxes, so buying a new printer was not at the top of my list, but it is now. Thank you all for saving me much wasted time!

  25. Hi back again.. managed to get through to a really nice customer service person at HP and after explaining it must have been a faulty ink cartridge he kindly organised for another to be sent out to me.. A few days later a rather large box arrived with a small black ink cartridge and success it now works again. Will not be pre purchasing any ink cartridge until they die, one at a time!!

    Good luck all!!

  26. Michael Scribner-O'Pray

    March 14, 2017 at 8:33 am

    Thank you, Ethan, for your excellent work with this post. You have validated our own experience with our HP Photosmart 6525 from Cosco. Going forward, we will do our homework as consumers and avoid HP.

  27. Michael Scribner-O'Pray

    March 14, 2017 at 9:06 am


    I had this exact same problem and just fixed it by reconfiguring to the default settings. I went to Applications on my Mac, clicked on Hewlett-Packard, then clicked on Setup Assistant, accepted the user agreement and kept clicking continue until the setup was done. IT PRINTS IN BLACK AGAIN!

    I can’t help but wonder if those sneaky folks at HP slipped-in this ‘fix’ to avoid lawsuits since so many of us have been asking questions…

  28. Same problem no black ink, but I don’t have Hewlett-Packard in my applications.

  29. Had the same problem with my hp6525 not printing black. The following web site explains how to fix this problem. Did exactly what he explains and now the printer prints like new.

  30. Hi,

    Thanks so much for this information. My HP Photosmart 6510 just began doing this same thing after a friend sent me her new ink cartridges because her Photosmart was no longer working. Ever since, I have not been able to print anything in black and white. HP forums were useless. It was evident that they had no fix or did not want to share it. I will try setting it to default and see what happens. When it did work it sucked up ink like crazy and I hardly used it much. I will also never buy another HP product. Thanks for publishing this.
    P.S. Can I ask what you ended up buying for a new printer?

  31. Thanks so much for giving this a look, Jan. We bought a laser jet from Brother. We’ve not yet replaced any toner.

  32. I thought I’d chime in on this thread for other HP victims…I have a 6525 as well, and had the same exact problem you described in detail. I googled all the fixes and hacks I could find to no avail. I put WAY too many hours into it, if for no other reason, I was determined to not get scammed by HP’s dirty ways. Well, after many attempts and no success, I went the nuclear option. (because i had EVEN MORE TIME to spend on this) I basically deconstructed the printer, down to it’s core and put it all back together. AND IT WORKS LIKE NEW. I’m convinced its a programming scam built in to the printer so I went deep into the computer boards within and unplugged all the connecting wires I could, then reconnected them to try to turn everything back to factory settings from the ground up. So if you have the time and the will, this method worked for me. Good luck!

  33. Hooray uninstalled and reinstalled it and unbelievably started printing in black after refusing to even with brand new HP cartridge.

    thank you Sam

  34. I’m having the same issue with the black ink not printing on HP deskjet 2130. I have hardly used this and it’s about 8 months old. The last time I used it to print, the black ink wasn’t clear.. today it’s not printing. Tried the diagnostic tools
    all were successful even though black was missing! Went online for help. HP suggested that I hadn’t installed the software correctly.. Did that and tried to print, black ink isn’t printing still. The level of ink is at least at 90% and I was wondering if the problem was because it’s still the initial cartridge. Thankfully I read these comments to know not to change the cartridge. I read a comment somewhere to wash the cartridge. Tempted.

  35. I was starting to think it was windows because this happened to me on two different printers at the same time so my sister gave me her old one to use for the time being which works perfectly… until I hooked it up to my computer. … no black. I honestly think some kind of killswitch for the black was enabled and I can’t make it stop no matter how many times I restore factory defaults. But a lot of you have macs so now I’m just dumbfounded again and incredibly aggregated.

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