You got your new printing machine. You went through the HP printer setup process. No issues. You got some blank pages and are ready to print. In your mind, there’s nothing stopping you from dishing out neat-looking legal documents or awesome prints of photos and the like.

You try to print, only for the HP printer error code list to start brewing. Before long, you get the much-feared message that the HP printer alignment failed. You are puzzled, worried and perhaps angry, not to worry, as we’re here to help! Let’s start with the basics.

What does the “alignment failed” message mean?

In short, it means that your printer can’t receive ink from the cartridges properly. While this might tell you what’s going on, the truth is that this error can pop up for countless reasons, ranging from a simple lack of printing software to a hardware malfunction.

While this doesn’t say much, we’re going to go over each of the possible reasons why you might be getting this nasty error, together with possible solutions. As our article on what to do when your HP printer is not printing will tell you, a device that isn’t putting ink on paper is no good. No good at all. On the plus side, at least you know what’s wrong in this case.

InkEvolved Tip: The warning that your HP printer cartridge alignment failed can happen on both InkJet and laser printers. If you bought a laser printer and imagined space lasers burning the letters on paper, you’re in for a rough surprise. However advanced they might be, laser printers utilize nearly the same technology as ink ones do, except the cartridges are feeding toner.

First step: Try restarting the printer

Usually, there is no need for a hard reset with this error. In some cases, a simple reset of the printer will allow the printer to realign itself properly, and you’ll be off to printing in no time.

If you have no familiarity with HP printer troubleshooting, we won’t judge: turn off your printer, wait a couple of seconds and then turn it back on. Since this issue is also rarely caused by print jobs and the like, you can use the same print queue you did beforehand. You probably heard a whirring sound when you were restarting the printer, or at least, you should hope that you did. This means that the HP printer is attempting to align the ink or toner cartridges properly.

Whether it will manage to do so, however, is another matter, although you won’t have to wait long to find out. If the HP printer alignment failed Photosmart error is popping back up, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Second step: Double-check that the plastic tape from the cartridges is removed

You might have checked the HP printer manuals section for instructions how to use the printer itself, but what about its cartridges? Like our why is my HP Printer not printing black ink piece explained, all new ink and toner cartridges come with a plastic tape that covers the ink-feeding spot. Yes, this also goes for remanufactured ink.

This one is almost as easy to check: turn the printer off and remove the cartridges, then see if there is anything covering them. The ink or toner holes should be completely open, which includes any potential debris that could have gotten stuck in there. Re-insert the cartridges and retry the printing job. Still nothing? There’s another trick up this alley that you might want to try.

Make sure that the cartridges are inserted properly

Tape or not, the cartridge won’t do you much good if you didn’t insert it correctly. Not only are there multiple angles to choose from, but the cartridge sometimes won’t insert itself unless you push it all the way down (not too hard, as you don’t want to be voiding that warranty).

After checking the manual on how to insert the ink or toner cartridge inside your printer, turn the printer off, ensure that they’re set in order, then turn it back on. Once it’s on, you can try gently pushing the cartridge in a circular direction (key word being gently) just in case that the printer is a bit on the rough side. If you still aren’t getting anything, it’s time to move to software solutions.

Run the recalibration software

While you could have started with this step as the first one, following our troubleshooting steps allows you to eliminate all possible issues as you go. If this step fails, you’ll know that it’s not an issue of a working printer not being able to read working cartridges, and you’ll have very few options left.

The HP calibration software is available on both Windows and Mac, provided you’ve downloaded the correct drivers. Regardless of your operating system, navigate to the printers section through the Start menu (on Windows) or the Dock (on Mac), find your model and go to settings. Depending on the OS and the model, there will be a section titled along the lines of “Service your device”, which should offer three options: Calibrate the device, Clean the print cartridges and Align the printer. Run all three, then try printing again. This solves the issue in most cases: if it didn’t for you, it means you’re dealing with a more serious issue.

Check that your cartridges are working and are specific for your printer

Like we mentioned in our “What is remanufactured ink and should you buy it?” article, printer manufacturers insist on printers using the exact cartridge for the kind of printer model: if you thought you could do away with using ink cartridges made for other models or even other printers, you thought wrong. Double-check your cartridge documentation and make sure that your printer model is listed. If it isn’t, there’s a good chance that you got the wrong cartridges and will have to re-buy.

Regardless of how that panned out, you should get a set of replacement cartridges (be they new or borrowed) to ascertain whether this is a cartridge issue. If you’re still being told that the HP Photosmart printer alignment failed after getting new and correct cartridges and doing all of the above steps, you’ll know that there’s an issue with your printer.

Clear all the drivers and try again before sending the printer to a repairing shop

As a last resort, you can remove all the associated drivers from your computer and install the latest software before trying again. However, there’s a low chance that this will yield any results, as there is most likely a hardware fault with your printer.

If it’s under warranty, great: send the printer over to a local licensed repair shop and it should be back in your hands and up to speed pretty soon. If the warranty has passed, you’ll have to pay for the fixing costs yourself, which can vary greatly depending on your printer, where you live and the malfunction in question. Here is where you’ll need to decide on whether it’s better to simply buy a new printer or have the existing one repaired, as fixing shops will most often charge a fee just to tell you what’s wrong and give you an estimate on how much a retooling would cost.

If you’re thinking of doing away with your printer, our “Do this before you sell your printer” guide might have some useful tips for you. Remember that even a malfunctioned HP printer can still have working parts that you can sell and get some return on your investment. Our printer reviews should also help you pick a model that suits your budget range and desires.


While all InkEvolved contributors are printer specialists with many years of experience in the tech industry, we will sometimes refer to other articles and websites. This gives our users a chance to both verify the information they’re getting and gives them a chance to explore additional venues of knowledge.

To cite this article, please use:

Bazmarov, Anya in “HP Printer alignment failed” on InkEvolved.com, Published 9/08/2019, Last Accessed 18/10/2019, https://inkevolved.com/hp-printer-alignment-failed/

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