Home » What is printer memory and why should I care?

One of you guys reached out to me on Facebook, in regards to the error code sheet list, and asked what is Printer Memory, the function of it and how to expand it, so to not answer each of you individually, I decided to cover the question within this post.

And although most of the regular users will not even know that their printer has a dedicated RAM slot, (I sure didn’t until a few years ago) life can happen and in most cases we found it out the hard way  – through error codes.

Luckily, it’s nothing which can’t be fixed, and to start off the article, let’s first cover the official definition of printer memory.

What is the clear definition of printer memory?

What is printer memoryRandom Access Memory, or also known by its abbreviation RAM (pronounced ramm), is a type of memory, and as the name implies, it can be accessed randomly by the operating system.  The main difference between normal Storage Memory and Random Access Memory is that RAM is being used temporarily by the device, to store data which needs to be processed right now, and once the device which holds the RAM is shut down, it deletes everything from it – there is no storage of data happening.

The most common setup which includes RAM memory is in our desktop and laptop computers, which is combined with the motherboard, CPU and GPU, but can also be found in all sorts of devices which host an operating system, ranging from mobile phones, cars and even fridges.

Does my printer have RAM?

Yes, there are currently no printers on the market which do not feature this, not only does RAM make it easy for the printer to access the file, it also offers faster printing speeds. Most of the devices use inline memory modules (SIMMs), which are usually in-between 2 to 16 MB on older devices, but on newer can go up to 256 MB. Some devices also accept third-party SIMMs, with options of expanding up to 1GB, while others accept only genuine modules form the manufacturer and are, thus, limited to the manufacturers idea of how much RAM you actually need.

What is printer memory and how to upgrade it

Some printers have a handy door at the side, so you can access the DIMMs with ease

How does my printer use the memory?

Let me give you an example, let us say you have 20 separate documents, and you want to print them all in one go, what happens once you send the job to your printer, is that the computer first transfers the data over cable (or wireless) to your printer, the printer stores it in to RAM, warms up the ink or toner, and then starts reading and printing the file from its RAM. Let’s see it in steps:

  • Step 1: You send 20 separate documents to your printer
  • Step 2: Your PC is packing it and sending it to the printer (cable or wireless)
  • Step 3: Your printer is accepting the file and checking for compatibility
  • Step 4: If the file is compatible with the printer, the device stores it in to its memory
  • Step 5: The printer starts preparing the ink and loading paper
  • Step 6: The printer reads the data and prints out the documents
  • Step 7: Once finished, if the device is shut down, the printer deletes the stored file

If this wouldn’t be the case, let us say that your printer wouldn’t have his own dedicated memory, you would need to send print job per print job (if you have 20 documents, you would need to send and print them 20 times separately).

How does the scanner use the memory?

In a similar way, just reverse the process. Once you put something in to your scanner, to scan it, the device first scans it, stores it on it’s own memory, packs it and then sends it to your device/e-mail. Since scanned images can go up to 100 MB, most multi-functional devices which do have a high quality scanning option come with 256 MB of RAM (or even more).

What is printer memory upgrade

How much memory do I need? Can you give me an example?

I can, let’s check out this setup now. Let us say that you own one of the Epson WorkForce Pro series of multi-function devices, and you want to scan the whole A4+ glass, which is a lot of pixels, around 138,9Mpix or equal to 9906 x 14022.  Since the printer has five choices to present the document (black, cyan, magenta, yellow or white), we’re coming to the conclusion that it uses around 3 bits per pixel, or around 1200 DPI.

So with those 3 bytes per pixel, we are coming to 417 MB in decimal, or 397 mb in binary. So if you had less memory then that, you wouldn’t be able to scan and send the document to your computer, the device would just refuse to do scan it at all without an error about low memory pooping up. As I said, it first on to his memory, packs it and then sends to your device of choice.

What should I do if my printer doesn’t have enough memory?

RAM memory for printer buy priceThis error usually occurs when you’re sending to many documents to your printer, and the little fella can’t store it on his own RAM, so he signals you an error, asking for help. Imagine that your device has only 2 MB of memory, and you’re sending over a PDF file with over 10 MB, it can’t store it within his RAM, so it gives out an error.

The simple solution is to just lower the DPI of your print job, which in return lowers the quality of the file and, thus, the print job asks for less space. Or you can print document per document, leaving him enough air to breath in-between them.

The other solution, which can be either complicated or simple, depending on your printer and skills, is to upgrade the printer memory modules, which usually goes like this:

  1. Find out if your printer has upgradable memory, check the PDF manual
  2. If yes, check if you have an older laptop somewhere, usually the modules are compatible with printers
  3. If you don’t have a module nearby, check the maximum supported RAM (usually it’s 512 mb with older and up to 1GB with newer devices)
  4. Go to Amazon and buy the right RAM, prices start at around $20 for 256 MB
  5. Upgrade your machine

That’s all from me guys, let me know over Facebook if you have any more questions.