Printer manufacturers like Epson make relatively little profit from the printer itself, but a great deal from selling ink cartridges afterward. There's a thriving industry that revolves around providing lower-priced ink for budget-conscious users, although Epson's support pages sniff that their products are "designed to use only genuine Epson-branded print cartridges." Despite this, aftermarket cartridges usually work, but you may have to try a couple of workarounds.
Clones vs. Refilled/Remanufactured
There are three paths to saving money on your ink refills. One is to save your own original Epson cartridges and take them to a shop that offers refilling services. A second is to recycle your empties and purchase remanufactured cartridges from your local supplier. These are original cartridges that have been refilled in high-volume factories, and their quality can be very high.
The third option is "clone" cartridges, which are manufactured inexpensively from the ground up – usually in China – to replace original Epson cartridges. These are popular because of their low price, although their quality is highly variable, and you lose the environmental benefit of recycling.
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You see the same few error messages with any of these three options.
Sometimes a Message Is Just a Message
Before you jump into troubleshooting, it's important to recognize that a lot of the error messages you get with refilled or third-party cartridges are just messages. The big printer-makers tolerate aftermarket cartridges but display "nag" or error messages as a way to discourage less-knowledgeable users.
When your Epson printer doesn't recognize a new cartridge, your first step should be to click OK or Accept on the error message and try again. If the error shows up on the printer's screen, use the built-in navigation keys to do the same. Sometimes, the printer works afterward, but often you need to try a few more steps.
Some Quick Troubleshooting
Before you delve into software, check the cartridge. Make sure it's clean and that all metal contacts are ink-free and don't have any tape or other debris such as a stray hair or piece of paper lint stuck to them. Snap the cartridge back into place and check that it fits tightly. Some clone cartridges may not be exactly the right size and shape, and you need to shim them in place with a piece of folded paper or card stock so that they make firm contact with the print head.
Bypass Epson Cartridge Check
Many error messages are spawned by the Epson Status Monitor, which is installed on your computer as part of the printer's driver package. It's the program that keeps tabs on your cartridges and tells you when you're running low on ink. It can be confused by refilled or clone cartridges, and turning it off eliminates many errors at the source.
Go to the Devices and Printers folder on your computer – the exact steps vary, depending on your Windows version – and then right-click on your printer's icon and choose Printing Preferences. From there, go to a tab labeled Maintenance or Utility, and look for the Extended Settings button (or Speed & Progress on Windows 7 and earlier) at the bottom right. On the next screen is a check box to enable or disable the Status Monitor. Uncheck it and then click OK.
Override 'Epson Ink Cartridge Not Recognized'
Ordinarily, you put an aftermarket cartridge into your printer because the old one runs out of ink. That means your Epson might try to return an error message for non-Epson ink but get confused because the low-ink message is still in memory. That's often the cause of the "Epson ink cartridge not recognized" message.
To clear it, remove all the ink cartridges and restart the printer. That clears out the memory and gives you a "no cartridges installed" error. At this point, you can reinstall your cartridges, and unless there are other issues, your printer should recognize them.
Sometimes the Deck Is Loaded
Epson and other major printer manufacturers have pledged not to lock out aftermarket cartridges automatically, but their periodic updates to your printer's built-in software may cause your existing cartridges to stop working. The companies walk a fine line with these: They want very much for you to buy their ink, but if they make your experience difficult, you may not buy their printers at all.
A quick internet search can tell you if the problem you're experiencing affects Epson users generally or just you. If you suspect a software update is at fault, contact the support team at your cartridge vendor or manufacturer — not Epson — for a solution. When a workaround becomes available, they'll know.