HP Disabled my Printer

Not only are original ink cartridges expensive, but HP LaserJet toners can also cost about the same as the printer itself. You still would buy the toner cartridges because the ones that come with a new printer have reduced capacity.

So the obvious choice is to use third-party cartridges at often less than half the price. That worked well for my all-in-one HP LaserJet Pro M281 with cartridges from LDProducts.com – until it did not, anymore.

HP had installed a firmware update on my printer that disabled the after-market cartridges, and I now got an error message that there was a “Supply Problem”. I had not immediately noticed that something wasn’t working anymore because I don’t print much and there had been days between the update and the first time I saw the “Supply Problem.”

A bit of googling gave me the hint that this problem might be caused by the latest update which was dated 20201021. The obvious course of action was to go back to the last version of the firmware – but this became a few-day quest.

The printer was out of warranty, so getting direct support from HP was not an option, so I resorted to the community support forum. Answers to my post confirmed that this was not only my problem but that others were hit by this “update bug.”

A bit further googling got me the info that the firmware version 20200612 was a good version and that I just had to find that version for my printer model.

But that was not an easy task, and it nearly appears to be intention of HP to suppress that version. One user who answered my post mentioned that two years ago HP had reached a settlement in a class-action suit when it had disabled its inkjet printers that were using 3rd party ink cartridges, and wondered if it’s time for another class action suit – – and he got banned from the forum for that for a day.

But before he got banned I had seen the post and looked up that lawsuit, and – just for the fun of it – left the firm a message that there might be some more HP shenanigans going on. – I have not heard back from them.

That same user had managed to find the right firmware file for his printer model, HP_Color_LaserJet_Pro_M254_dw_Printer_series_20200612.exe, on HP’s website and had been successful in downgrading his printer software and had his machine working again.

I wasn’t quite as lucky, as that file had been removed from the HP website the very day, but with parts of the file name and good old Google I found the file somewhere in the far reaches of the internet. I tried to run it several times, with cartridges in, without, after unplugging the printer for a few minutes to reset, to no avail, until it dawned on me that his model was not exactly the same as mine and that I probably needed different firmware, specific for my M281 printer.

After more extensive googling I found that the name of the right file should be
but no executable with that, or similar, name was to be found. The only thing that came close was exactly that file name but with a .rfu extension which probably stands for ‘remote file updated.’ I actually found that info on an HP page.

I had no idea how to use that file. Windows does not know what to do with a file with that extension and I had no idea how to run it or with what application.

Again Google to the rescue.

I finally found it – and it was simpler than I thought. The reason I write this post, just in case somebody runs into the same problem, is that you might not need to spend so many hours with friendly Google.

First of all, I will leave this update file here so you can download it. I had to obfuscate and zip it so that I can upload it here and possibly hide it from HP. Once you have downloaded the zip file, just extract the file inside it and rename it to M280_M281_firmware_20200612.rfu and follow the following steps:

  1. The printer needs to be accessible as a share. My printer was not shared so I just created a share for it as \\MYCOMPUTER\M281 – in case you need help to do this – Google is your friend “How to share a printer.” Replace MYCOMPTER with the real name of the machine you are sitting at.
  2. Then open a command line window and type
    copy /b M280_M281_firmware_20200612.rfu \\MYCOMPUTER\M281
  3. This command finishes surprisingly fast, but the printer then started a lengthy install of that firmware. It took a while – maybe five minutes, while the printer display showed progress and messages ‘programming’.
  4. When it was all done, the printer restarted and the “Supply Problem” was gone.

That’s it – following this my printer is deserving its name again – it prints!

I am happy – but shame on HP!

PS: I wonder if I ever hear back from that law firm regarding a class action…

PPS: I got a message from Jonathan who followed the instructions and was happy to report that he did not have to discard his HP printer. He suggested that you also disable the update feature in the printer to avoid the problem as much as possible in the future.

For this you

  • go to Setup on your printer’s LCD display (the last one)
  • Scroll down to Service and select it
  • Scroll down to LaserJet Update and select it
  • Select Manage Updates
  • Select Allow Updates
  • Select No
  • Go Back to Home

I don’t know how safe that is because I seem to remember that I set that when I installed my first set of 3rd party cartridges, but I think I was prompted to update by HP maintenance software installed and running on my computer. It was years since I had installed the cartridges and forgotten about the warning and so allowed the update.

Somehow I am more and more tending to follow the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when computer updates are concerned, especially firmware.