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My HP printer's ink Ccartridge won't align

Updated February 21, 2017

New inkjet printer cartridges have to be aligned whenever they are installed. If you are getting a repeated error message that the alignment process failed on your HP pritner, there are two ways to diagnose what the problem may be. But prepare yourself -- in some cases more may be wrong with your printer than just the cartridge. The printer may be unable to align the cartridge at all due to a mechanical failure. If this is the case replacement of the printer may be the only option.

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  1. Remove the ink cartridge (or cartridges) from the HP printer.

  2. Turn the cartridges over so you can see the copper foil portion of the cartridge casing. You'll see many neatly punched holes in this copper tape. Look closely -- if any of the holes seem to be torn, with jagged edges, or if there are tears anywhere else on the copper foil, the cartridge has been physically damaged. Replace it. If the foil appears to be all right, continue.

  3. Moisten the tip of your finger. Gently rub it over the small print head on the bottom of the cartridge. The print head will look like a small plastic or glass window. Rub away any old, dried ink that may have collected on the print head. Old, dried ink has "killed" many a cartridge, particularly if you haven't used the printer in a while. Use your finger tip rather than a towel or a cotton swab: Your fingertip won't leave stray fibres on the print head which could cause further problems.

  4. Seat the cartridges back into the printer. Firmly snap shut the cartridge carrier. Let the printer take the cartridge head back to the proper starting position on the track. Close your printer service bay.

  5. Turn off your printer. Unplug it from the power source for 10 seconds. Plug it back in and turn on the printer.

  6. Follow your HP onscreeen software instructions on aligning the cartridge heads. The alignment prompt comes up each time the HP printer detects the cartridge has been replaced or moved. Be sure to note whether this is a new or an old cartridge when you answer the HP dialogue questions.

  7. Use a brand new cartridge, one that is freshly packaged, if the alignment process on the old cartridge fails. This will tell you, definitely, whether the problem is a cartridge problem or a larger printer problem.

  8. Replace the printer if no cartridge -- regardless of age -- will successfully align in the printer. Unfortunately there are very few computer repair stores that service inkjet printers. In most cases, unless your HP printer was advanced and expensive, it may be cheaper and faster to simply start with a new unit, rather than try to repair an old one.

  9. Tip

    As a last ditch effort, you can attempt to download fresh HP driver software for your printer from the HP printer Support website (see Resources). While there is only an outside chance this will fix any alignment failure issue, it won't hurt to try.

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About the Author

A writer and entrepreneur for over 40 years, J.E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in personal computer maintenance and design, home improvement and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years. She currently serves as Director of Elections for McLean County, Illinois government.

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