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Whilst sheet feeder scanners are quite expensive for even entry level ones, all in one devices with a sheet feeder are surprisingly affordable - I can only assume that this is sold at a loss leading price on the hopes you are going to buy a lot of ink.

I used a Epson CX6400 for the past few years and it worked perfectly with empty ink cartridges. I could scan to memory card fine.

Anyway, my Epson has just broken and I am currently looking for a new scanner (don't worry, not asking for recommendations!) and I was just wondering if anyone knows if modern scanners can work like this or have they got wise and require ink in the cartridges?

At the moment, I am most interested in HP, but, I am interested (and possibly others who come across this question) in other brands such as Epson, Brother and Lexmark (who seem to sell the most sheet feeder all in ones).

Does anyone know the answer to this? (or if you have a moment to test it, I would be very grateful!)

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As far as I know they all do, including HP. – Moab Sep 12 '11 at 19:44
I would think so too—it is possible for ink cartridges to run out of ink, but the unit should still function (actually, the HP 6500 I use will still /print/ if the cartridges are empty, making it very easy to determine when I've gotten full money's worth from a cartridge). Who can say without testing, though? – zpletan Sep 12 '11 at 20:17
If a manufacturer designs their all-in-one such that the scanner refuses to work if the (completely unrelated) ink cartridge is empty, then I would call a lawyer and start a class-action suit against them. – Bobson Sep 26 '11 at 2:09
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have the HP PhotoSmart C310, I just pulled all (5) the ink cartridges out of it and it still scanned a picture for me. It did throw all kinds of errors and complaints about the ink cartridges being damaged or missing.

Its actually the best flatbed scanner I have ever owned.

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...and most likely a lot cheaper as well! I can only guess that they hope you will buy the ink... other than that, I can't understand the (huge) difference. I am looking at the Officejet 6500A at the moment so thank you so much for actually testing this. I want to keep it open a while so hopefully we can see some answers from other brands. (out of curiosity, could you scan to both PC and memory card even with warnings?) – William Hilsum Sep 12 '11 at 20:07
... P.S.... only if you still have them out, please don't do it for me again! On my Epson, I had to just do memory card and I would love to be able to do this from a computer again as it is a pain to keep swapping cards around! – William Hilsum Sep 12 '11 at 20:09
I scanned to PC in the experiment, unfortunately I don't have any memory cards that fit this model, or i would, I see no reason it would block one storage device and allow another. – Moab Sep 12 '11 at 20:27
this was more about my experience with the Epson - Scanning to memory card was a work around as scanning to PC wouldn't... I would doubt that it would allow PC and not work on memory card (and even if it did, I would prefer it this way round!). Thanks again. – William Hilsum Sep 12 '11 at 20:29
I got an HP 6500A in the end, and, it did exactly as you said - scanned without ink... however, it was a rubbish device that I took back to the shop - it didn't do half the features it was advertised to do - kept loosing the association with the computer, couldn't scan to email, and the web scanning feature was a joke... but anyway, thank you for your help and going the extra mile of actually pulling the cartridges! – William Hilsum Nov 4 '11 at 11:25

Most all in ones will ship with at least a partially full ink cartridge. Provided you never actually use the initial cartridge for printing, there should be no problem scanning. Never actually tried it, but I don't think that any manufacturer would require a non-empty cartridge (or even a cartridge to exist at all) to scan/fax.

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yeah, not something I have ever tested, but I cant imagine them requiring ink to scan. Printers break, why disable the scanner with it? In the US, HP used to require HP ink cartridges or it would disable the printer. They got sued and lost. This is along the same lines. – Keltari Sep 12 '11 at 19:45
+1 and thanks, but, I am still a little worried without actual proof. My Epson would not work to the computer with empty ink - when I tried to scan, it would come up in an error and scanning to memory was a good work around.... I like what you said about the starter cartridges, however, going back to the Epson again, it deposited a small amount of ink every time it is turned on - scanning at least a day (and trying to cut electricity bills by turning it off between) emptied a full set of cartridges in 2-3 months! I really don't want to have to buy ink for a printer I only want as a scanner! – William Hilsum Sep 12 '11 at 19:46
Maybe you should go with a laser all in one. I don't believe that they would use up toner when turning on. Black and white lasers printers are cheap enough that this shouldn't make much of a difference to you. – Kibbee Sep 12 '11 at 20:28
@Kibbee - Only reason would be price... The laser ones I have seen cost a lot more and I would actually be able to buy a high end scanner for the same sort of price. – William Hilsum Sep 12 '11 at 21:45
I'm not sure what your budget is, but there are some nice Brother laser multifunction printers for under $200. Some of them even have networking, which means you can share the scanner between multiple computers. Like this one:… – Kibbee Sep 13 '11 at 12:50

Beware! At least Brother sells Multifunctional devices that do not work without ink cartridges that are about half full. If there are no cartridges or cartridges with less than a certain amount of ink in them, the device will not allow you to scan or fax. I have a brand new MFC-J415w one here and I can't even set it up for anything without inserting the "start ink" cartridges. I've tried for hours.

Plus, these devices are known to perform "self cleaning" cycles at set intervals, thus wasting your ink. Without even printing a single page, you'll can end up buying ink time and again. There was not warning by Brother about that whatsoever.

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I have just read a few people's advice to stick black tape over the clear sensor on the cartridge. I just tried this with an LC67 cartridge. The sensor part is behind the plastic at the front of the cartridge (on the same side where the ink comes out).

I coloured a small piece of paper with black marker then put it between the sensor and the plastic and then put the cartridge back in and this worked. It didn't work for me just to colour in the plastic sensor part so that's why I did it with paper and I don't have black tape. I think paper is the easiest anyway. It worked perfectly to scan after that.

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The HP Officejet 5610 All-in-one still scans without ink. When I turn on my printer/scanner, I get an error message because my ink cartridges are empty but when I hook my computer (MacBook) up to my printer and go into the scanner program and follow the motions to scan a document, it works.

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No scanning allowed if there is no ink in any of my Epson Stylus TX410's cartdriges. The official response from Epson for this issue is that it is a 'feature', it's how it's supposed to work. Also, you can't print BW if there's no color ink.

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