Q. We're getting rid of our HP all-in-one printer and buying a new one. I know printers store a lot of our info and I would like to know how to erase it before we pass it on. Thanks!
– Paul in Las Vegas, Nevada, who listens to Kim's national radio show on KXNT 100.5 FM/840 AM
A. Before you get rid of any gadget, you should think about what information it might be storing. It's especially critical to wipe computers, cellphones and tablets, but other devices you might not expect can store data as well, including printers. So, thank you for this great security question, Paul.
Standalone consumer printers don't actually have that much storage space, and your data is wiped when you turn off the unit. All-in-one printers have a bit more internal storage to support the scanner, copier and fax features, so they might store documents a bit longer, although they probably can't save very many. That means there's a little less to worry about than commercial copiers that have hard drives.
Tip within a tip: When it's time to get a new printer, trust this advice: An EcoTank Printer from our sponsor Epson will cut down the cost you're spending on ink over time. Tap or click here for more information on Epson's line of affordable EcoTank Printers, and start saving on ink today.
So in cases where your printer dies, you don't need to worry. No hacker is going to pull the memory chips and reconstruct whatever data might be on them if any. Just be sure to remove any memory cards from the card-reader slots before throwing it out.
If your printer is still in working order, however, then keep reading for instructions on how to know if it's storing your information and how to wipe it.
Find out how your printer stores data
One clue your printer is storing data is if it has the ability to reprint documents you printed, scanned or copied days or weeks before. Maybe it lets you reorder jobs in the print queue or includes a private printing feature. Private printing is where you send the document, but it doesn't actually print until you're standing at the printer.
If your printer can do any of these, turn it off and turn it back on again. Then check if old print, scan, copy or fax jobs are still available for reprinting. Go to the menu to see if you can find a log of past prints or faxes. If the data is gone, then you're done. However, if you're still seeing it, you should perform a hard reset.
The general way to do this is to turn the printer ON, then unplug the power cord from the back of the printer. Next, unplug the power cord from the wall. Wait for at least 15 seconds. Then plug the power cord back into the wall, and then the back of the printer.
If it doesn't turn on automatically, turn it on with the power button. Check to see if your information is still available. If so, you'll need to do a factory reset.
Warning: Aside from documents, a modern wireless printer connected to your network, or smartphone or tablet, might have stored connection information. You definitely want to make sure that's gone, which means either deleting it in the menu settings or initiating a factory reset.
The directions for a factory reset vary by manufacturer, and sometimes printer model, so you'll need to check your manual. If you don't have the manual, get it from the manufacturer's website, or an online manual site.
Usually, the manual will direct you to the appropriate spot in the printer's menu system. On an HP, you can look around for the "resets" menu. This lets you do a partial reset, a semifull reset, or, on some models, a full reset. In this case, you want the semifull reset. That will wipe out any personal information and return basic settings to the default.
Need a new printer? Here's our pick
Once you've gotten rid of your old printer, you can turn your attention to buying a new one. At Komando.com, we recommend the EcoTank from our sponsor Epson. It's an all-in-one printer that has a major difference: no ink cartridges.
Instead, it has ink reservoirs you refill from bottles. The benefit is that a bottle of ink is much easier to make than a cartridge, so the price is lower. Consumer Reports did some math and figured out that with a regular Epson printer, you'd need 20 sets of cartridges costing a total of $800 to print the same amount.
In other words, you save $750 in ink costs with an EcoTank.
Check out the Epson EcoTank printers at a Best Buy, Office Depot or Office Max near you and online at Epson.com/ecotankkim.
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