How to fix printer error 1203 for good

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • Printers are essential peripherals in any office. If you think that every employee prints around 40 pages every day, you realize just how important printers are.
  • A printer ink cartridge contains the ink that is then transferred onto paper during printing.
  • If you’re using your printer and you’ve come across error 1203, it more often than not indicates a cartridge error. In this guide, we'll show you how you can quickly fix it.
  • Bookmark our collection of printer troubleshooting guides just in case you might encounter other errors later on.
1203 dell printer error

If you’re using a Dell printer and you’ve come across error 1203, it more often than not signifies a cartridge error.

Now, some of these errors come when we really aren’t anticipating them, in any case, who reads printer manuals?  That’s what we’re here for – to simplify the stuff in the manuals and make it easier to use.

Anyways, error 1203 on your Dell printer simply means you need to replace your ink cartridge as soon as possible.

You also need to check whether the cartridges you’ve been using, or are using, are genuine Dell ink cartridges, or cut-rate ink cartridges.

Error 1203 also means that your Dell printer’s ink cartridges overflow, whether they’re brand new or not, either after you’ve done several prints, or just after you refilled the cartridges.

In both cases, you need to check and see whether the ink is smeared on the copper contacts of your printer’s holder.

You can easily do this by opening your printer while it’s off, then the holder with the contact panel slides across where you can see everything clearly.

Here are some solutions that can help you fix it.

Fix error 1203 on Dell printers and other printer models

1. Clean the copper contacts on the printer’s holder

Before you run a print job, do the following:

  • Take a lint free cloth, pour a few drops of water to dampen it,
  • Clean off the copper contacts on the printer’s holder.
  • Check if the printer works again.
  • Make sure you align the ink cartridges a few times, then run the cleaned up cartridges.
  • Print a test page to see how the print job looks

Note: make sure you don’t leave any debris of the lint-free cloth on the contact panel of your printer.


2. Replace your ink cartridge

If your ink cartridges are brand new, you can go back to where you purchased them then ask for a refund, or a replacement.

If the ink cartridges are old, try purchasing a new Dell Series 5-ink cartridge. These ink cartridges have a sensor in them that cannot be reset, therefore, even if you do a refill, the print job will not give the same output.

Usually, the error 1203 shows you which ink cartridge is causing the error.

The sensor in the cartridges reports the ink levels once they reach a certain level, so if you refill such a cartridge, you may get a print job done, but the cartridge’s sensor will still report low ink.

The only way around this is to replace it with a new, genuine Dell Series 5 ink cartridge.

Another reason not to refill ink cartridges is because it may lead to print quality issues, and eventually your printer experiences hardware problems.


3. Contact Dell Support

In case the error 1203 message persists, kindly get in touch with Dell’s Customer Support team with specifics on your issue and they’ll be glad to assist you.

We sure hope one of these solutions helped you. Let us know your experience in the comments section.

FAQ: Learn more about printer cartridges

  • Is it worth it to refill ink cartridges?

Refilling ink cartridges is worth it as you can reduce the amount of office waste and you save a few dollars in the process if you choose to refill the same cartridge several times.

  • How many times a printer cartridge can be refilled?

You should refill a printer cartridge up to three or four times. Ideally, refill them before the ink runs completely out. Refilling a cartridge more than four times leads to printing issues and irregularities.

  • Is refilling ink cartridges bad for printers?

Refilling ink cartridges is not necessarily bad for printers but you may notice the printer quality is not the same. A refilled ink cartridge won’t provide the same printing quality as an original OEM cartridge.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has since been updated for freshness and accuracy.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in October 2017 and was revamped and updated in April 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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