Dell Free Printer Scam

My printer finally ran out of ink the other day. I’d been printing out some cards to use to play Magic the Gathering with. Not even remotely tournament legal, but means I can put a few decks together to play with, without having to cough up enormous amounts of money for rare cards.

My printer is a Dell Photo Printer 720 that came free with a laptop that I bought from them a while ago. It turns out that my printer wasn’t so free, after all. The expensive part of an inkjet printer is the ink and the print head. Usually this is built into the ink cartridge, so whenever you replace the ink cartridge you are also replacing the print head. The Dell printer only comes with a Trial Size ink cartridge and so doesn’t take long to run out of ink.

When this happens, the software very helpfully points you at the Dell website to buy more ink. At an astronomical price!

I had heard that the Dell printer was the same as a Lexmark model, so I decided to see if I could find a cheaper alternative. The Dell forum claimed that only Dell cartridges would work in their printer. Although it is true that the Lexmark cartridges don’t physically fit in the cartridge slot, they further claim that the chips are electronically chipped to not work.

This turns out not to be true.


I was in a hurry so I didn’t bother shopping around for my printer ink and bought a standard Lexmark No. 27 cartridge from Dixons for £13.99

Then the fun part - altering the printer to accept the new cartridge. The picture below shows the inside of my printer. You need to turn your printer on so that the ink cartridges move to the centre for loading/unloading.

Printer innards

The red circled area shows the only difference between Dell cartridges and Lexmark cartridges - A raised up plastic area on top of the green Lexmark cartridge.

The red arrow points to the only difference between Dell printers and Lexmark printers - A plastic tag on the Dell printer which interferes with the raised area on the Lexmark cartridge.

My picture doesn’t actually show the tag. The simple modification process is to take a pair of pliers and break the tag off. This has already been done to the printer shown in the picture.

And, would you believe it, but after breaking the tag off, not only does the Lexmark cartridge fit in the slot properly but the printer prints perfectly, too. Stories about cartridges being chipped so they don’t work turn out to be completely untrue.

Disclaimer: This modification will void your printer warranty. I am not a Dell engineer. I can’t promise that it will work with your printer. I can only tell you what worked for me.


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