Do I need to do anything to my laser/copier/fax printer before I get rid of it?
This question was answered on July 20, 2017. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Most of us are very aware of the dangers of disposing of our computers, smartphones and tablets without first wiping it clean of our personal information, pictures and files but not so much with our printers.
Depending upon the type of printer you have, you may very well have to take steps to ensure that your private information isn’t still being stored in the device’s internal memory.
What’s At Risk?
It may not be that obvious, but your printer/fax/scanner can potentially be storing some of the most sensitive information that you have ever printed, scanned, faxed or copied. Everything from tax returns to medical forms to insurance documents have likely passed through your printer over its life.
More sophisticated network printers that can e-mail documents directly can also be storing sensitive e-mail server configuration and passwords that you’ll want to wipe out.
Most consumer grade printers have very little storage memory and it’s generally considered ‘volatile memory’ which means that when the power is turned off, whatever it was storing is gone.
If your printer has no fax or copier functions, it most likely won’t have any type of persistent memory storage that needs to be reset, but just to be sure, check your printer’s ‘Settings’ menu for any options that allow you to reset the device to the factory defaults.
If you ever get a message during the reset process warning you that all your data will be lost, you’ll know that it was storing personal information.
If your device has memory card slots for things like camera cards, don’t forget to check to see if you’ve left any old cards in there.
Networked Multifunction Printers
While most consumers aren’t likely to have printers with internal storage, virtually every business grade copier/printer/fax device is highly likely to be storing a large amount of sensitive information on a persistent storage device.
If your company printer has the ability to receive faxes and route them via e-mail to the proper recipient, it first has to store the incoming faxes in some form of internal memory.
If your device can store addresses for sending scanned documents, you should assume that it can store more than just addresses.
Private printing, which refers to the ability for a printer to hold a print job until you are physically in front of the printer and type in a code, certainly points to an internal storage device.
The ability to re-order print jobs that are in the queue is another indication of internal memory capabilities.
Most of today’s printers that include large internal storage devices also include secure wipe options in their settings.
If you can’t find the reset instructions for your printer, a simple Internet search that includes your exact make and model with the word reset after it should yield the directions.
If you can’t find any info from a general search, try checking at http://resetprinters.com and if you can’t find anything there, you probably have nothing to worry about.
About the author
Posted by Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on July 20, 2017
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