Look, I have no idea if this will work for everyone, but in case someone else is stumbling around trying to find a simple method to fix this problem — which exists solely because HP is greedy — here is what I found to be quick, simple and easy. The instructions will be for the HP LaserJet Pro MFP M281fdw, but I will try to include some information that may help owners of other HP printer models.
The problem is that HP is using firmware updates to cripple people’s ability to print if those people have the audacity to buy much more affordable third-party printer toner cartridges. At the time of this writing, HP charges nearly $500 to replace all of the colors — cyan, magenta, yellow, black. While an online provider we use charges $160 for the four.
To be honest we have really liked this printer, and the toner we get online. Other than the occasional firmware changes which brick the devices. This second time, I decided to do something about it.
I have no experience with printers and mostly loath their existence. So by “do something about it” I mean search the internet and see how others solved this, and copy that.
However, as is often the case, there are lots of people with the same problem who have turned to multiple locations to query for solutions, and the posted solutions are often not one-size-fits all, and often are either under-explained or vaguely explained. Or the solution involves using the command line, and knowing what parts of the command you may need to change to fit your model. This is the frustrating bit.
So with Sarah’s help, we tried all sorts of suggestions found in the HP forums, Reddit, YouTube, and even called the makers of the
contraband much-less-expensive toner cartridges. The latter were very nice, and somewhat helpful.
The instructions below are focused on downgrading the firmware, but can also be used to upgrade the firmware if you have no other method to do so, but I suggest using the printer itself to do upgrades.
In this process we will be downgrading the firmware from the offending version (
20201021) to the previous working version (
1. Before changing the firmware, make the following changes to your printer using its touch screen control panel. In the control panel, navigate to:
LaserJet Update >
Then make these changes to each option:
- Allow Downgrade:
- Check Automatically:
- Prompt Before Install:
- Allow Updates:
Yes– N.B. After you have complete the firmware change return to this setting and change to
Noto prevent updates.
If you have a printer other than the M281fdw then consult the manual to find the corresponding settings.
2. There are non-HP links out there to download firmware; however, I don’t recommend that. So check the HP FTP site first and if it doesn’t have the files you need, proceed to third-party downloads at your own risk.
I had challenges navigating the FTP structure via a browser, so instead I recommend using your favorite FTP client (mine is Transmit) and visit:
ftp.hp.com. No username or password is required. Navigate to the
pfirmware directory (
/pub/networking/software/pfirmware/) and look for your model’s
.rfu file. Here is the one for the M281fdw: HP_LaserJet_Pro_M280_M281_Printer_series_20200612.rfu.
Update: It looks like HP may have removed access to the firmware, so I have uploaded a copy here. Right-click to choose “Save Link As…” (or equivalent) to download to your local machine.
3. If you don’t have it already, go to hp.com to download and install the HP Smart application for your operating system. You only need this to identify the printer’s local IP address. There are other ways to identify the printer’s local IP, but I want this to be simple, so the HP Smart serves this purpose.
4. Open HP Smart application. On the left select Network Information and note the IP address of the printer.
5. Type the IP address from Step 4 into your browser of choice and hit enter. This should load the web interface for HP. Click on the green NETWORK tab at top of screen. On the left, click on ADVANCED (under Configuration). On the right click the FTP PRINTING checkbox. Scroll to the bottom, and click APPLY button to save changes.
6. Open your favorite FTP application and enter the IP address from Step 4 and connect (no username or password needed).
7. Using the FTP client find the local copy of the firmware file downloaded in Step 2 and drag-and-drop the HP_LaserJet_Pro_M280_M281_Printer_series_20190419.rfu file into the remote server FTP (mine was blank. No files were there.)
8. The printer should start to install the firmware and show the HP logo and PROGRAMMING… on the screen. Once it completes its update you should be all set.
9. Confirm the firmware date on the printer by using the control panel to navigate to
10. After I successfully updated I went back to the web interface and turned OFF the FTP printing, and then I disabled the auto updating setting in the printer’s settings as explained in Step 1. Since FTP Printing is off by default I assumed it was for security reasons and disabled it.
Hope this helps.
UPDATE: I am not providing any additional assistance, research, or help with this — especially for devices other than the one I own. As stated above, I know very little about printers. Please do not email or comment asking for help. Thanks for your understanding.
I will not approve any comments asking for help from me or attempting to use my site as a forum for assistance. Please visit the HP forums or Reddit if you need additional assistance.