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A Guide to Brother® Toner Cartridges

A Guide to Brother® Toner Cartridges

Laser printers have been a popular option with businesses for decades and Brother® is a brand that has always done a great job with their monochrome printer series in particular, consistently offering a solid range of models year after year. All Brother laser printers include a black toner cartridge that is equally respected and boasts consistently crisp prints at a low operating cost.  Today, we will be skipping the printer conversation so that we can focus solely on Brother toner cartridges.  We’ll be touching on the most popular Brother toner cartridges and also discuss toner cartridge installation as well as troubleshooting.

Meet the Cartridges

First, let’s introduce the Brother monochrome cartridges.  Each series that is mentioned includes a standard yield and high yield cartridge option (we list the standard yield cartridge number first, followed by their high yield counterpart). If you’re unfamiliar with what high yield or high capacity means, it’s the term used to describe cartridges that contain more ink: more pages printed = higher page yield = high yield. Standard cartridges are moderately filled with toner and produce a smaller number of prints than the high yield.  Consumers that only print a couple of times a month will be fine investing in these less expensive cartridges, but anything more and it’s probably better to spring for the high yield.  For example, the standard yield TN-420 offers a yield of 1,200 pages, while the high yield TN-450 offers 2,600 pages.  If you are looking for a more affordable option, consider buying the compatible version of the Brother brand.

Here’s a list of top Brother toner cartridges with a list of printers they are compatible with.

Brother TN420 / TN450 Series


Brother TN530 / TN560 Series


Brother TN540 / TN570 Series


Brother TN550 / TN580 Series


Brother TN620 / TN650 Series


Brother TN630 / TN660 Series


Brother TN720 / TN750 Series


Brother TN820 / TN850 Series


Installing Brother Toner Cartridges

Although the actual toner installation process for each printer is slightly different across machines, the basic mechanics are the same.  Toner cartridge replacement varies depending on the type of documents you print.  Every toner cartridge has a page yield that determines the average life of the toner cartridge based on 5% page coverage.  You will know it’s time to replace your toner cartridge when your printer’s displays: “Toner Low”.  To replace your toner, follow these easy steps:

  1. Before installing a new cartridge, remove the protective covering that surrounds the toner.  This cover protects the cartridge during shipment and the toner will not fit properly if it is still attached.
  2. Gently shake the cartridge back and forth a couple of times to redistribute the toner powder.  A small amount of toner may emit from the cartridge, so be sure you do this over a trash can to avoid a mess.
  3. Every Brother toner cartridge fits into a drum unit.  The drum unit sort of looks like a tray and you will need to remove it from your printer in order to install the cartridge.  Other major printer brands like HP and Canon sell their cartridges with the drum unit built into the toner but Brother sells them as two separate consumables.  The toner cartridge should click into the drum unit easily.  Make sure it is locked in securely, otherwise it will not fit into your machine.
  4. Clean the corona wire located on top of the drum unit by sliding the small tab from right to left a few times.
  5. Put the toner and drum back into the printer (they should now be one combined unit) and close the front cover.

We also have a video on the installation process here:

Replacing Your Drum

A drum unit works in conjunction with your toner to transfer images onto a page.  Drum cartridges do not need to be replaced as frequently as toners, usually after you go through 3 or 4 toners.  If your printer’s display reads “Replace Parts Drum”, your drum unit is nearing the end of its life.  You can sometimes prolong the replacement of your drum by cleaning the corona wire (see more on that below) or by removing the cartridge and gently rocking it back and forth a few times to redistribute the toner powder.  If those suggestions do not seem to improve matters, follow these steps for the proper replacement process:

  1. Open the front cover of your machine and remove the drum unit and toner cartridge assembly.
  2. Pull the blue lock lever to remove the toner from the drum.
  3. Remove the new drum unit from its packaging
  4. Click the toner into the new drum, it should firmly lock into place.
  5. Slide the complete unit back into the printer
  6. Do not close the front cover yet.  First, you’ll need to inform your printer that you are installing a new drum.  This resets the counter on your drum unit so it is able to once again keep track of its expected lifespan.  The instructions on this will vary depending on what printer you have, so you will want to consult your specific manual for the appropriate steps.  If you own an MFC-8680DN printer, you can inform your printer by pressing the “Clear/Back” button on the machine.  This prompts the display to bring up the message:

Replace Drum? Yes. No.

Confirm you are placing the drum by pressing “1” on your printer’s console. Close up the front cover and you should be ready to print!

Resetting the Toner Life

If you recently installed a new cartridge and you are still getting a “Toner Low” message on your machine, you will probably need to manually reset the toner life.  Sometimes when you replace a Brother toner the built in page counter, or what Brother calls the “toner life,” still needs to be reset.  You will want to research the appropriate steps for your specific printer, since the steps vary a bit from machine to machine. To reset the toner life of a Brother HL-2270DW, follow these steps:

  1.       Open the front cover and leave open while completing the following steps.
  2.       Turn the printer off.
  3.       Hold the ‘go’ button while turning the printer on. All lights should be on.
  4.       Release the ‘go’ button (or “start’ button).
  5.       Press the ‘go’ button (or “start’ button) 2 times.
  6.       Pause. All panel lights should be on.
  7.       Press the ‘go’ button (or “start’ button) 5 times
  8.       The toner light should be off. (error may be flashing)
  9.       The paper light should be on or flashing.
  10.   Close cover. The ready light should be the only light on.

Print Quality Issues

Getting spotty or streaky prints?  Remove the toner from your printer and gently rock it back and forth over a trash can to redistribute the toner powder.  You can also try cleaning the corona wire on the drum by sliding the green tab from right to left a few times.  If you complete these troubleshooting steps and still aren’t getting the prints you want, it might be time to replace either the toner or the drum.  The toner’s page yield should give you an idea of how many prints to expect from each cartridge and the drum should be replaced after every three or four toners.  Your printer typically does alert you when it’s time to make the change. If you think the streaky prints are being caused by your drum, try cleaning it.  To do this, carefully remove it from the printer.  Place it on a flat surface with a paper towel underneath to prevent toner from spilling onto your desk or carpet. Gently wipe the drum roller with a dry, lint-free cloth.  Make sure you do not touch the drum; it is incredibly sensitive!

Drum Not Fitting

The drum unit is a separate item from the toner cartridge and must be re-used.  If the cartridge is not fitting or is too small, then you are probably not installing the cartridge into the separate drum unit.  Make sure that you have separated the old drum unit from the old toner cartridge and are re-using the drum unit with the new toner. Brother’s monochrome printers can go a long way if cared for properly. Regular upkeep and maintenance ensures your printer can continue operating at peak performance.  Although there are differences between machines in terms of function their basic troubleshooting steps are universal.  

Now that you’re an expert on the Brother’s monochrome series you can maintain the life of your printer with confidence.  If you have any questions or suggestions on what we might have missed, drop us a line.  This guide will be kept current.  If new updates or error messages come about we will definitely add them here!


  • How do I know what number it is when there is only a TN on the spot where usually is TN-350 at? I have a bunch of them that I want to recycle to a place where they pay cash for them and I need to figure out what number they are. Can you help me with this? I am with a non-profit Animal Shelter in Atlanta, MI and that is how we get money to help with the animals by recycling both laser and ink cartridges.

  • Where is the HL 3180CDW??

  • I have a brother laser printer – HL-22400 and the toner light went on. I took the cartridge out and shuck is back and forth a few times inserting it back into the printer. The printer indicates the toner light.

    I was given by my IT folks a cartridge (not Brother) noting model “C2C-CT450”. Inserting that into the printer it is much smaller than the Brother cartridge and seems to fit but the toner light is still on. Can you advise me which toner replacement I should get replacing the one that was in the printer. That model # is MDLF13N079271CLY3474.

    • Hi Bob, the Brother HL-2240D is compatible with the TN-420 standard yield and TN-450 high yield toner cartridges. Either one of those will work in your printer. The standard yield cartridge prints 1,200 pages and the TN-450 prints 2,600 pages. Hope this helps!

  • which printers use TN336 toners?

    • The following printers work with the TN336 toner series: HL-L8250CDN, HL-L8350CDW, HL-L8350CDWT, MFC-L8600CDW, MFC-L8850CDW.

  • I just purchased a HL L 2370 DW printer. The starter toner, how many pages will print with that toner? Also, How long is a new toner good for as long as I keep it in the package and box??

  • My office stocks TN 221 and TN225 cartridges and we would like to get a different printer that will accept the same cartridges we already use. Can you recommend a Brothers printer that takes those cartridges?

  • Where can I find the expiration date on a brother toner cartridge?

    • Manufacturers usually post the expiration date on the packaging, otherwise, a ballpark range would be 2 years for an unopened package, 6 months once you open it. Hope this helps!

  • I just put a Brother TN 660 cartridge into a new Brother HL-L2300D printer. It works just fine. The “starter cartridge” is still in the foil wrap and I just noticed it says it is “not a replacement cartridge.” Will I really not be able to put the “starter” cartridge in after the TN 660 is done?

    • You can still put it in and use it. It just won’t contain as much ink but it should be usable.

  • please send me an e-mail on how to install a toner in a Brothers HL__2370 DW

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