Canon Chipped Cartridges (Pixma printers)

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Note: This guide is in its sixth revision with some updated notes on chip resetters. (Dec' 29th 2011)

Would you like chips with that?

Since this guide was first written the goal posts have been moved, as you might expect, by Canon with the release of various new versions of printers and occassionally new cartridges complete with new chipsets.

The PGI-5/CLI-8 cartridges gave way to the PGI-520 (220 in America) and CLI-521 (221) back in 2009 before Canon switches horses again to the PGI-525/CLI-526. Changes have included not only different cartridge designs and capacities but also a completely different chip and increased usage of "zone specific chips" with cartridges and chips specific to different sales zones in much the same way as Epson do. This is obviously a tactic to allow zone specific pricing to maximise profitability against competing products without allowing more affluent zones like Europe, etc... to get cut price consumables. Nice eh?

Chip resetters for all of these cartridge chips are now available in various forms although there are some "gotcha" issues to watch out for (see below) so worth keeping this in mind..

Chip functionality

The Canon cartridge chips work in a number of ways to "protect" you from messing up your printer
  1. You can't put the wrong cartridge in the wrong slot anymore (it knows what colour it is)
  2. If the cartridge springs a leak the chip will kick in and let you know when the sponge is likely to be empty
  3. When the ink in the spongeless side of the cartridge is registered as empty (using the prism built in) it'll warn you that your ink is running out
Unfortunately if, like me you like to re-use your cartridges and don't see the point in paying £40+ for a new set of cartridges (almost the cost of a new printer!) then the chips will also:
  • detect if you've refilled a cartridge that's already been identified as running low
  • detect if the number of printhead jet firings has exceeded the number of expected shots
In essence they detect if you're using non-standard kit, refill ink or Continuous ink supply systems


What are your options?

There are now three general options you can choose from when it comes to using non Canon brand (OEM) consumables (see the "quoted" sections below for additional information on each aspect)
  1. "Refilling" your existing OEM/Branded cartridges and accept the "warranty invalidation" routine (see below)
  2. "Refilling" your existing OEM/Branded cartridges and use a Chip Resetter (see below)
  3. Obtain compatible cartridges or a CIS system that require "chip transfer" and acceptance of "warranty invalidation" (see below)
  4. Use "third party chips" and/or cartridges (see below)

Refilling

There are a number of ways to refill your existing Canon cartridges with one particularly effective approach being the "German Durchstich" method. A quick search on Google should provide you with guide to this approach as well as the necessary resources. As always look for a quality ink to handle the refilling and consider the need to purge cartridges on a regular basis to avoid cloggation (algae and ink residue buildup). Online communities such as nifty-stuff printer forums will provide more on topics like this.
(see also "Warranty Invalidation")

Warranty invalidation (ink monitoring disabled)

If you refill, install a CIS or the printer recognises an inconsistency between its sensors and your cartridges.. you're going to get the "Warning" message that tells you that the printer can " no longer detect ink levels properly and do you want to continue".

You can choose to replace the cartridges or accept this warning three times before accepting a final warning that you're about to invalidate your warranty. If you continue you'll then need to press/hold the reset button for 5 seconds to accept this condition and continue printing.

On doing this you immediately lose the ability to track your ink levels for the affected cartridges and you'll need to monitor them manually or use one of the experimental ink monitoring tools that have been created to try and tackle this. (Try looking at inkmon.org)

Chip Resetters

(Updated: 29th December 2011)

Generic chip resetters (version #2b)

Whilst dirt cheap in many respects these resetters can be more trouble than they are worth with problems such as:

  • poor battery life
  • poor component quality
  • incompatibility with some cartridge chips (the CLI-526Grey chip can be rendered unusable by some generic resetters)

... so it's worth looking for a proven unit and seller before you stump up your money for something that might do more harm than good.

Obviously not all resetters are poor quality but there are so many clones now that it can be difficult to identify the good from the bad. Good seller communication and understanding of all the parameters is essential.

"Redsetter" chip resetters (version #2)

The "REdSETTER" unit is now a recognised chip resetter brand although various clone units have long since been around from China that copied much of the functionality with a few caveats and poorer quality components (see above). The original REdSETTER units are a high grade/quality unit that can reset all the chips on their target cartridge set (eg: CLI-526Y/C/M/BK/GY and PGI-525BK) with variations that can be powered by batteries, power supply unit or using the power available over a USB socket on your Pixma printer.

The issues noted with many Generic resetters are not repeated with this particular brand so, especially if you have a MG6150 or similar (ie: with a grey cartridge) you should steer clear of the alternatives.

Commercial grade (version #1) resetters

These are no longer a viable option so I've removed the information on these units as they were massively overpriced and unlikely to be of interest to end-users..

Third Party Chips

While there are some single use chips available you're unlikely to be interested in these so I'll skip to the Auto Reset Type.

ARC's or "Auto Reset Chips" are another option for Canon printer owners who want to replace their cartridge chips with something that automatically resets and doesn't require a resetter.

The important point to note with these chips is that they are almost certainly the "Power off/on" type to reset so you need to ensure that any Auto-power features are disabled and the printer is kept powered on at all times to avoid the cartridge chips resetting when the cartridges are bone dry.

Chip Transfer

There are a number of 3rd party cartridges and CIS kits that can be used instead of Canon OEM/Branded cartridges but they do require you to remove the chips from your old/original Canon cartridges and transfer them to the replacements. This can work, however it's important to choose your cartridges carefully and carry out the removal/transfer without damaging the chips.

  • Look for cartridge sellers that provide full instructions on how to remove the chips without damage
  • Identify the proper way to install them correctly (ie: with LED still visible, etc...)
  • Ensure you put the correct chip on the appropriate replacement (cyan to cyan, magenta to magenta, etc...)

Summary

The options available to Canon Pixma users have improved since the first chipped printer (and this guide) appeared and you no longer need to rely on refilling or chip transfer options as the only way to use your printer without paying through the nose.

NOTE: I'm no longer maintaining this list as ALL Canon printers since 2009 have been chipped

Printers affected: (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • iP4200, iP4300, iP4500
  • iP5200, iP5300
  • MP150
  • MP170
  • MP500, MP510, MP530
  • MP800, MP810
  • MP830
  • MX300, MX310, MX700, MX850
  • iX4000
  • iX5000
Latest printers for which option #1 is the only alternative
  • iP3600
  • iP4600
  • MP620

Rule of thumb... anything that uses the new "ChromaLife 100" ink set

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