Rescuing my LaserWriter

by Gordon Meyer

laserwriter-12-640.jpgMy trusty laser printer, an Apple LaserWriter 12/640, has been out of commission for more than a week. Every time I tried to print the paper would get jammed up, accordion-like, between the toner cartridge and the fuser. Oh, dismay! I've had the printer more than 10 years, it's the second-to-last laser printer model produced by Apple and its a major workhorse. It has reliably produced over 10,000 pages from its Genuine PostScript, 600DPI, 64MB RAM-equipped innards.

I'm handy with software, but laser printers are mechanical, messy, and mysterious to me. So I called all over Chicago looking for someone to fix it. I only found one guy who was interested in working on an Apple printer, and he wanted nearly $100 just to diagnose it. Ugh. I have a nice HP color laser printer too, so I was tempted to just send this one to the junk heap, but I knew I'd miss its fast and economic printing if I did that. (Not to mention feeling a good measure of disposable-society guilt.)

So I turned to the 'net. I read dozens of web pages about what might be the cause. Information about paper sensors, rollers, and bad fusers swirled around in my brain. Today, I decided to put some of it to use and really try to figure out what was hanging-up every sheet of paper. I opened up the printer and was surprised when a piece of broken plastic skittered across the floor as I removed the toner cartridge. It's an after-market generic cartridge that I put in a couple of months ago. It didn't fit as well as the Apple toner cartridge, but it seemed to work. I couldn't identify where the plastic part had broken off, but now when I put the cartridge back in the printer it fit better than it ever had before. And, to my delight, my printer worked perfectly again!

So, two lessons here. The first is that no-name cartridges don't necessarily fit this printer very well. And if the cartridge doesn't fit exactly right, it can cause confounding paper jams. Secondly, in all of the reading I did about troubleshooting laser printers, none of the sources mentioned the cartridge as a possible cause. So, dear reader, should you find yourself in the same situation, check the cartridge first.


Carla Schroder
2006-10-10 12:11:58
Good on you for fixing it. I'm sure you've seen the stories about users who get so fed up with their infected windows pcs that they junk the whole system and buy a new one.

Don't trust those outfits that want $100 for a diagnosis- any tech worth the time of day can perform a quick inspection for free, then tell you what your options are. A laser printer isn't that complex- there are a limited number of causes for the problems you were having.

Joel Fugazzotto
2006-10-10 12:56:56
I have a LaserWriter Select 360, which has served me well since September 1994. Last time the toner cartridge needed replacing, I had to go with a third-party product because finding an Apple cartridge was difficult. Any suggestions of where to find the Apple brand cartridges nowadays?
Gordon Meyer
2006-10-10 13:07:55
Searching Froogle ( with the Apple part number is probably where I'd start. I just did a search using the toner cart for my printer (M4683GA) and several places say they offer both new and recharged Apple toner cartridges. (Whether or not they have them in stock is always the next question.)
Paul Collins
2006-10-11 14:46:21
Yep, my 12/640 here is an old trusted friend that never seems to fail. I'm not even sure what I'd replace it with if it did. Does built-in PostScript still matter?

My last toner cartridge came from - a "compatible," it's doing fine.

Speaking of long-running equipment, it sits one shelf above a PowerCenter (clone) that's kept running pretty much continuously for 10 years (as a server). I think I replaced the power supply around '99.

Tom Munroe
2006-10-16 23:45:49
Glad you got it going again. My company makes remanufactured Apple 12/640 toner cartridges so I am familiar with both the printer and the cartridge. The first thing to check when a printer isn't working correctly is the cartridge. Most of the time the cartridge is the problem and not the printer. If you have an old empty laying around somewhere you can put it back in the printer and try it. The print might be light, but it will quickly help you determing if it is the printer or the cartridge. If the problem goes away its the cartridge, If you have the same problem its the printer.

All properly made remanufactured apple 12/640 cartridges should fit in the printer properly. Putting the cartridge in an Apple 12/640 can be a little tricky because it has to be angled in and then pushed down. If it's done roughly it is easy to break something - but that's a rarity. Glad you got it going again. They are rugged printers that work well.

Toner Cartridges
2007-07-04 15:59:28
Well first off congratulations on the patch job!

Printers are nothing short of trouble 20% of the time (or more) with jams, drum failures, nozzle plugs, etc... You'd think things would improve with time, but really we're just being oversold and under valued by the major companies. So it seems anyway.

Regardless we will have to cope and adapt as is normal in the western world. Great Tip on checking the cartridge first, it is indeed usually the first thing to go awry on any printer.

My Printer
2007-10-25 22:36:41
Good job in saving your laser printer. It is true that there are many poor quality toner cartridges being offer in the market. That's why i believe it is important that you get your printer supplies from a reliable supplier. This way, if there are any problems, whether it's cartridge faulty...etc, you can get your money back. I've notice some online stores that offers up to 1 year guarantee on their compatible and remanufactured products. Now, that's some sign of confidence in quality.