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The Ultimate Guide to HP® Toner Cartridges

The Ultimate Guide to HP® Toner Cartridges

HP has been making laser printers for over 30 years and they sell dozens of different printer cartridges for the home and office, but how do you know which one is right for you?  Here, we’ll be breaking down the basics of HP toner cartridges so you can make a smart buy when you are shopping for a new laser printer. We’ll cover the three main cartridge types that HP® offers, how the cartridges are named and even show you how to lower your printing costs too.  Let’s jump right into it!


Meet the toner cartridges

HP sells toner cartridges for monochrome and color laser printers.  Most cartridges are available in a standard yield and high yield cartridge size, while a handful of printers also offer an extra high yield version.  No matter which size you go with, the cartridge will install the exact same way in your printer.  In fact, the physical cartridge size is the same regardless of the yield – the only difference is the amount of toner inside the cartridge.  The higher the yield, the more toner you get, which translates to more prints!

HP toner cartridge part numbers that end with an “A” are the standard yield version of a cartridge series and part numbers that end with an “X” are the high yield option.  For example, the HP 87 cartridge series includes the HP 87A, which prints 9,800 pages and HP 87X, which prints 18,000 pages.  Part numbers with a “Y” at the end are extra high yield, like the HP 976Y series.  If you print frequently, you are better off paying a little bit more for a high yield or extra high yield cartridge.  Higher yield cartridges often have a lower overall cost per page than their standard yield counterpart and they don’t need to be replaced as often either!


HP Monochrome Toner Cartridges

Monochrome or black toner cartridges print are best suited for homes and offices that only need to print text.  If you buy a monochrome laser printer, it uses a single HP black toner cartridge.  With just one cartridge to replace, monochrome printers are a lot cheaper to run than a color laser printer and require less maintenance too.  Some popular HP monochrome toners include the HP 12A / X, HP 85A / X and the HP 87A / X.

HP Color Toner Cartridges

Color laser printers use four separate cartridges, sold in black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  Each color can be replaced as needed, so if it’s just your cyan cartridge that’s running low, that’s the only color you have to replace!  If you regularly print business reports or presentations in color, a color laser printer is a great option.  However, replacing color toner cartridges can be expensive and you’ll likely spend the same amount (or more!) on four new cartridges than the price you paid for the printer.  Color toner cartridges can print photos too but they don’t do it very well.  Photos printed with a laser printer often appear dull and some of the details can be muted due to the limitations of the toner powder inside that creates the print.  Inkjet printers are a better choice if you need gallery grade photographs.  Some popular HP color toner series include the HP 410A / X, HP 202A / X and HP 131A / X.

HP Pagewide Cartridges

HP Pagewide cartridges are a newer cartridge line that HP introduced a few years ago.  Although technically they are not toner cartridges, we are including them here because they look and operate a lot like a toner cartridge.  If you put a Pagewide cartridge next to a regular HP toner cartridge, you’d have a hard time telling the difference between the two.  HP Pagewide cartridges are actually a type of inkjet cartridge that’s designed for business printers.  Instead of fusing toner powder onto the page like a typical laser printer, Pagewide cartridges use a stationary printhead to create a print.  Just like a toner cartridge, they are capable of printing thousands of pages and they can print lightning fast too.  The HP 972A / X / Y cartridges are the most popular HP Pagewide cartridge series.


Do HP laser printers come with toner?

Yes, a new HP laser printer comes with a toner cartridge.  Most new printers include a starter cartridge.  This is filled with less toner powder than a standard yield cartridge, so don’t be surprised if you need to buy a replacement cartridge relatively soon.  You should still get a decent number of prints out of the starter cartridge but you will get more with the standard yield and high yield versions!


How to install an HP toner cartridge

Installing an HP toner cartridge is slightly different from printer to printer but the basic concept is the same no matter which machine you own.  Consult your printer manual or the specs page of your printer on HP.com for specific instructions for your printer.  Most new HP toner cartridges include a protective clip that needs to be removed before installation.  Some also include a sealing tape that must be removed.  If both these items are not removed from your toner, the cartridge will not function in your printer.  In the instructions below, we show you how to install an HP 48A toner cartridge in your HP M15w printer.

  1. Before installation, remove the orange protective clip that is surround the cartridge.  This clip protects the cartridge while it’s in transit and can be recycled after removal.
  2. Gently rock the cartridge back and forth a few times over a trash can to redistribute the toner powder inside the cartridge. This primes the cartridge for your printer!
  3. To remove the sealing tape, hold the cartridge in one hand and tug on the tab that is sticking out of the side of the cartridge. Be sure to remove the entire strip of tape.  If the tape rips, you may not be able to use the cartridge.
  4. Open up the front cover of the HP Laserjet M15w printer to access the cartridge installation area.
  5. Insert the toner cartridge inside the printer and close up the front cover to start printing.



How long does HP toner last?

HP toner cartridges can last up to two years in their sealed packaging.  Even after two years you may still get some use out of the cartridge, so it may be worth trying even after the fact. Your printer will display a “low cartridge” message when a specific cartridge needs to be replaced.  However, you may not need to replace the cartridge right away.  To try and extend the toner life, rock the cartridge back and forth a few times over a trash can. This redistributes the toner powder and usually primes the cartridge for a few more prints.  Since toner powder is made from plastic materials, toner cartridges don’t dry out like an ink cartridge.  You can go months in between prints and still have a working cartridge ready to go, but over time, internal parts can wear out and eventually your cartridge will need to be replaced.


How to troubleshoot HP print quality issues

Getting streaky or spotty prints?  Toner powder and dust particles can build up over time inside the printer and create print quality issues.  To fix this, you can remove the cartridge from the printer and gently rock the cartridge back and forth a few times to redistribute the toner powder inside.  We recommend doing this over a trash can as some toner powder may escape during the process.

You can also print a cleaning page to solve print quality problems.  These steps may be different depending on which HP laser printer you own, but most cleaning page options can be found under the “settings” or “maintenance” section of your printer menu.  To get started, select the “tools” icon, then navigate to “service” > “cleaning page”.  Your printer will prompt you to load paper into your paper tray and then you can start the cleaning process.  When it is complete, try printing your document again to see if there is an improvement.

If you are still getting poor print results, inspect the cartridge and drum for any scratches, fingerprints or dust particles.  The drum is the long photosensitive roller on the back of the cartridge that helps bond the toner powder to the page.   You can gently wipe the drum with a dry, lint-free cloth to remove any fingerprints or particle build-up, then reinsert the cartridge into your printer and try printing again.

Printer settings and paper can also cause poor print results.  Double check these settings on your printer’s display or on your laptop.  If your prints are light, you could have your printer settings on “draft mode”, which uses less toner to create a print.  A simple switch to the “general” setting could clear up your light prints right away.  HP’s paper settings are designed for different types and thicknesses of paper.  Make sure your settings are configured for right medium for the best results!


 How to save money on HP toner

High volume printer users can save money (and frequent replacements) by printing with high yield or extra high yield cartridges.  Another great way to save is by buying high yield compatible cartridges from LD Products.  LD compatible cartridges offer the same print quality and print the same number of pages as an original HP cartridge at a fraction of the cost and each cartridge is backed by a lifetime guarantee.  For example, HP sells the 87A cartridge for $236.99* but you can buy an LD compatible for just $69.99, that’s a huge savings!  LD offers a low cost compatible version for almost every HP toner cartridge on the market.   Start saving money on your HP printer here.


Can HP toner cartridges be refilled?

You can find refill kits online for some popular HP toner cartridges but we do not recommend refilling your toner cartridges.  Since you are dealing with a plastic toner powder, the refill process can be messy and for most users, it’s just not worth the headache.  It’s a lot easier to buy a compatible cartridge from LD Products that has been professionally filled and can be installed right away!


Where to recycle HP toner cartridges

The easiest way to recycle your HP toner cartridge is by dropping it off at a local office supply store like Office Depot, Best Buy, Target, Staples or Walmart.  Most stores that sell office supplies will gladly accept them back for recycling.  To find the closest office supply store or recycling facility in your area, visit Earth911.com. Just search by material type (ink or toner) and your zipcode!

If you purchased an original HP printer cartridge, you can print out a return label and ship it back to HP for free through their Planet Partner Program.


Now that you’re an expert on the HP toner you can find the right cartridge for your printing needs.   When you are shopping around, be sure to pay attention to cartridge page yield – or the approximate number of pages your cartridge can print.  Page yield can vary greatly from cartridge to cartridge and to save the most money, you’ll want a high yield low cost cartridge  Learn more about how page yield works in our guide here.  Or, if you are ready to start shopping for a printer, check out our Best HP Printers of 2020 buying guide!


*Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices on www.LDProducts.com and OEM cartridge and printer prices from the listed retailers: Amazon and Staples. All products are reviewed independently. As an Amazon associate, LD Products earns from qualifying purchases through links on this page.  All prices effective as of June 10, 2020.  OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.

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