HP Photosmart Pro B9180 “All Print Heads are missing…”

We’ve got an HP Photosmart Pro B9180 printer on the office network. Whenever anyone prints, the printer queue flashes this error message, “All Print Heads are missing. Please install and snap print heads in completely,” then proceeds to print normally.

HP B9180: All Print Heads are missing. Please install and snap print heads in completely.

After going over this for about an hour on the phone with HP’s Tech Support, and after much cable swapping, HP sent a replacement printer. Which, of course, has the same problem.

I’m fairly convinced there’s a bug either in the HP printer’s firmware, or, more likely, in their Mac printer drivers.

Here’s what I know:

  • The error only shows if the printer is connected with an ethernet cable, either over a network or by direct patch to a single machine.
  • The error happens regardless of which application is printing.
  • I’ve seen the error on Intel and PPC Macs, running Mac OS 10.5.3 through 10.5.5.
  • Printer firmware is up to date.
  • Internal printer diagnostics report no problems with the print heads.
  • The printers seem to be working correctly in every other way. Prints look great.

HP’s support has been very good throughout this. My only gripe is that they probably should have sent replacement print heads alongside the replacement printer. The included instructions had me transfer the heads from the old printer to the new one. Since the print heads are, at very least, being reported as a problem, it would be nice if I could test those too. HP did include a full set of ink cartridges, which was generous.

My followup call to HP got me nowhere, which was what I expected. But hopefully that will get the issue promoted up to their engineering bug tracker.

Other references to this problem:

postmortem: After little more than a year, we eventually just gave up on the printer. Software bugs ended up being a small issue compared to internal ink spray, clogs, streaks and general malfeasance. The HP 9180 was replaced with an Epson 3800 which has been flawless for the past 6 months. I think I heard our ten year old HP 8000 LaserJet laughing as the still-too-new inkjet was escorted from the building.