What Happens If You Put in the Wrong Type of Ink Cartridge?

By Jane Williams

The wrong ink in your printer can cause damage and waste money.
i George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Time is money in the business world and every moment you can't print impacts workflow. But take care replacing those empty ink cartridges, as the wrong type can stop production even longer. Those worth-their-weight-in-gold cartridges are designed to work only in specific machines and are not interchangeable. Installing an incorrect ink cartridge can cost you money and even damage your machine.

It Won't Work

Most ink cartridges have a microchip inside that communicates with your printer when correctly installed. If you install the wrong cartridge for your printer, the machine can't communicate with it and will most likely offer an error message telling you it detects the “Wrong Ink Cartridge.” In most cases, even if the wrong cartridge is not necessary for your current print job -- an incorrect color cartridge but you are printing only with black, for example -- your printer will not print at all until the mistake is corrected.

Possible Printer Damage

Ink cartridge case designs differ from printer to printer, meaning the cartridges for one brand typically don't fit inside another. A good indication that you may have the wrong cartridge for your printer is how difficult or easy it is to install. A correct cartridge simply slips into its spot, snapping into place with little effort. If you force a cartridge in, you could damage both the cartridge and the printer.

Wasted Money

Costing between $20 and $70 at the time of publication, replacement ink cartridges are not cheap. Purchasing the wrong type can not only negatively affect your printer, but also your bank balance. Even if you discover your mistake before installing the wrong cartridge, stores typically will not take opened cartridges back. Now you're not only out the cost of the wrong cartridge, you also need to spend more money on the correct one.

Minimize Problems

The best way to avoid putting the wrong cartridge in your printer is to do your research before purchasing replacement ink. Check your printer's manual or the manufacturer's website for the exact ink refill numbers you need and make a note to take with you. Examine the cartridges still inside the printer for any identifying information, as most cartridges have their brand and numbers prominently labeled. If all else fails, place the empty cartridge into a plastic sandwich bag and take it and the exact brand and model number of your printer with you to the store. An employee may be able to narrow down the correct ink for your printer with those details.