HP LaserJet Pro M280 M281 Printer series 20200612 firmware downgrade

The source of the solution is here, my problem was real!
After a firmware upgrade for my HP M281fdw all-in-one printer, it suddenly started complaining about communication problems with one of the supplies. “Supply problem.” on the screen and “The indicated supplies are not communicating correctly with the printer. Try reinstalling the supplies. If the problem persists, replace the supplies to continue printing.” in the help-text. Uncertain about the level of toner in my K container I simply ordered a new one. Of course no one wants to pay ridiculous prices, so I go for the home-brand of 123inkt.nl
Since I knew my CMY had been low for months I decided to change those three at the same time. To my surprise this suddenly gave errors on all four supplies, making me go ‘hmmmm’.

I started googleing and getting more frustrated about my printer not doing what it is supposed to, I remembered I clicked something about a firmware update and forgot about it. Then I found this article which gave me the option to downgrade… AND IT WORKED! My toner was actually still at 90%

So, HP, Hewlett Packard, you F@!^%#$-ing B@#&$%ards, blocking non-HP toners is so stupid, low-blowing and unbelievable, I am thinking about calling my lawyer to see if that is even legal, blocking me to use the more enonomical printer-supplies-brand I prefer and costing me a day of waiting for a newly ordered toner and a couple of hours of aggravation before I could solve this issue with finally a firmware downgrade.
Anyway, below the solution, which I copied and corrected from the other website:

Since HP scrubbed the software from their site (Bastards) and someone posted a drive link in the HP Form, which I figure will get taken down…I linked it below and added the steps.

The latest firmware upgrade forces you to use genuine toner.

I didn’t type the steps or try them, but I walked someone through them and they worked.

Downgrade steps from HP Support Form: Since HP is the culprit here by updating the firmware to block all users who use after-market toners, I believe. I downgrade the firmware driver with this version and it worked. HP_LaserJet_Pro_M280_M281_Printer_series_20200612 *
* please note that I did not post that file on Google Drive, I just copied the link from elsewhere. As always, be careful with what you download from the Internet and make sure you have a virusscanner active! It is a Windows executable and does not run on a Mac. If you have an Apple, you may need (to borrow) another computer to run it.


  • on the printer, go into the printer’s Setup | Service | LaserJet Update | Manage Updates
    • set Allow Downgrade = yes, Allow Updates = yes
  • download (HP_LaserJet_Pro_M280_M281_Printer_series_20200612) and run
  • Point that to your printer, mine took few times since my printer connected wifi.
  • After downgrade 
  • on the printer, go into the printer’s Setup | Service | LaserJet Update | Manage Updates
    • set Allow Updates = no (so the firmware doesn’t auto-update again and break compatibility again!)
    • (also check the other options, like ‘prompt before install’)

Final note by My Brain

After running the .exe I actually had to turn the printer off and on before it started the firmware ‘programming’ routine on the printer. This takes a bit of time, just be patient. I think somewhere in the process I also reset the settings on the printer back to default; I don’t know if that is also a neccessary step in the downgrade, so just mentioning this to be complete. Use these instructions at your own risk!
Anyway, I hope this helps anyone with the same problem and…
Have a nice day!

…except for you guys and girls at H:-P

P.S. (added 14-11-2020)

I just received an e-mail from someone with a question:

” Hi. I ran the .exe and it seemed to connect with the printer… and I got the Smiley face. Yet, the firmware still shows the latest version. I don’t know how to get it to transfer over. I rebooted multiple times. “

As disclaimer; My blog is here to function as my own personal knowledgebase, so no guarantees on what I post here, but this was my answer back:

” It seems to be a big problem 🙂 I also had to try more than once. What I did: After ‘the smiley’ I waited a couple of minutes, then turned the printer off (unplug power), waited another minute, then plug in and power on… after a couple of minutes the little screen on the printer said ‘programming’ and started installing the firmware. That also took a couple of minutes, so be patient.
PS. I did not put that software on that Google Drive, so as always, be careful with what you download from the Internet and make sure you have a virusscanner active! And also don’t forget to turn off the ‘automatic update’ setting on the printer after the firmware downgrade.
Good luck! “

And found this comment elsewhere: “don’t forget to change the printer settings “accept downgrades” to “yes”. If this is done, the downgrade should work. (settings\service\update laserjet\…) Then use the older firmware and it should work”

P.P.S. (added 20-11-2020)

Just got this one again… so a warning to everyone: JUST HIT CLOSE!

“For the best product experience….” Whaaahaaaha, it is almost funny! F@!^%#$-ing B@#&$%ards H.P. firmware updates.

P.P.P.S. (added 21-11-2020)

The saga continues… Just received a question from another HP-firmware-victim asking this:
I tried following your instructions to downgrade firmware on HP MFP M281fdw. But firmware version is still the latest one and i have a BIG problem. Printers keep restarting over and over and say Fatal error code 200. Now I think there is no sense to try to run downgrade from computer again because printers restarts few times during transfer process. Can you help?
After I suggested that a printer reset to default settings may help, I received the solution shortly after:
… in meantime I managed to make everything work fine. I do not know exactly what solved the problem but this is some steps I done. I reset printer to defaults, unplugged it from power for 3-4 minutes, I also unplugged USB connection from computer. i am not sure but i think when i unplugged it from computer it stopped rebooting. I switched it off an on again…and… Calibrating process started. No supply memory error any more, I checked firmware version and it is downgraded to version I downloaded. Thank you very much! Maybe my experience can help somebody.
One more thing, I am thinking now about the unplugging of the USB cable; There was a page that was sent to be printed during transfering firmware to the printer. Of course it can not be printed because of the memory supply error and it stayed in the queue. Maybe that was the cause of that 200 error… And when USB cable was disconnected nothing more was sent to printer…

Duly noted and added to this blog for everyone to read. Thank you.

P.P.P.P.S. (added 22-11-2020)

Actually found a firmware version on the HP FTP site mentioned in this article. I have not checked if this works, but here is what they described, using a .rfu file and send this to your printer using ftp. Below is what I copied as instructions from the other website:

The Process

In this process we will be downgrading the firmware from the offending version (20201021) to the previous working version (20200612).

1. Before changing the firmware, make the following changes to your printer using its touch screen control panel. In the control panel, navigate to: Setup > Service > LaserJet Update > Manage Updates

Then make these changes to each option:

  • Allow Downgrade: Yes
  • Check Automatically: Off
  • Prompt Before Install: Always Prompt
  • Allow Updates: Yes â€“ N.B. After you have complete the firmware change return to this setting and change to No to 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_20200612.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 Setup > Service > Firmware Datecode.

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.

And more emails…

A lot of people have this problem and I also received this:
I also have a tip that may be helpful to others.  I was having trouble sending the new firmware because the printer kept rebooting during the transfer.  I solved that by waiting until the display showed the toner supply was non-HP and then opened the front door of the printer.  This paused the initialization and interrupted the reboot cycle so the firmware was able to transfer.  When the transfer completed, I closed the door and the system rebooted and started the programming mode successfully.  Perhaps this will help someone else get past that problem.

P.P.P.P.P.S. – Final note from My Brain:

Enough about this issue.
I am now closing the subject, so good luck and…
Have a nice day!

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. – December 31st, 2021

A year later and I still keep getting messages and thank you’s for this little post.
The latest one included another useful tip. Below the uncensored message I received.

“Hi, Thank you for this blog post. I was so pissed when this started happening to me. I PURCHASED THIS PRINTER, I OWN IT, The manufacturer HAS NO RIGHT TO TELL ME what to feed it. In any event, I didn’t even have empty cartridges – my aftermarket cartridges were still half full and I had 4 non HP new in the box cartridges still sitting in my office not used. I found out that there was no way the bastards would let me downgrade my driver via wi fi. They f*&^%$! BLOCKED the wi fi on the printer!!! So, at my wits end I was going to purchase a new one, swear up and down that I WOULD NEVER BUY HP AGAIN, but tried a last ditch effort of hardwire connecting this printer to my computer WITHOUT the wi fi. This worked for me and I just wanted to thank you and let you know that a hardwire via the USB printer cable is an option for your readers versus going out and spending $300 for a new printer. Thank you again, Marie”

Have a nice day and a very good New Year!