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What Is Pen Failure on HP Print?

Updated July 19, 2017

Not being able to use your printer can be frustrating, especially when your printer gives you an error message as ambiguous as "Pen Failure." Some basic troubleshooting manoeuvres can be used to fix this error.

The Meaning of Pen Failure

Older models of HP printers referred to ink cartridges as "pens." Pen failure simply means that there is something wrong with the ink cartridge, most often having to do with a bad connection between the printer and the contacts on the cartridge.

Remove and Inspect the Ink Cartridges

Remove all ink cartridges from the printer, turn the printer off and unplug it. Visually inspect the ink cartridges for damage. If the cartridges are new, make sure all the protective tape has been removed. Finally, make sure you have the correct ink cartridge for your printer.

Clean and Reinstall the Cartridges

Using a dry, clean, lint-free material, gently wipe the copper contacts on the ink cartridge. Be careful to avoid the print nozzle. Plug your printer back in and reinstall the cartridges. Make sure that they are installed in the correct slots and that they snap firmly into place. If the problem persists, contact HP technical support.

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About the Author

Justin Mashburn has been writing professionally since 2010, focusing on how-to articles for eHow. He mainly writes about consumer electronics, particularly computer hardware. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Central Florida.