Would RAM upgrade for an HP 4050N LaserJet printer matter?

We have this real workhorse of a Laser Printer. It’s an HP 4050N and it’s been in use for many years. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that the processing time it takes before it starts printing can take a long time. In some cases, some print queues just process so long we end up killing them and sending it to a different printer on the network.

This HP 4050N printer has a total of 16 MB of RAM. I believe it has 8 MB built-in which I suspect is on the motherboard. There are three slots for RAM. One slot has an 8 MB stick of RAM there. I’ve looked in the User’s Guide and apparently this model can go up to a max of 200 MB of RAM.

I’ve seen RAM for this printer on sale very cheap in either 64 MB or 128 MB.

My question is, would upgrading the RAM on this printer by bringing the total up to 80 MB or 144 MB have a noticeable improvement on the processing time so that when printing output that contains modern graphics be worth doing? Or is RAM even the issue and it is the processing speed of the printer’s CPU that’s the actual bottleneck?

I wasn’t aware that printers had RAM upgrades available, but it certainly seems like this would be the sort of problem that the upgrade would be there to solve.

My belief is that printers don’t understand any particular file format (like .docx). The computer converts the contents of each page into a standardized format that it sends to the printer. Otherwise, you could just look at the size of your files and compare to RAM to see if there was any correlation. But, it it used to be okay and isn’t any more, then either people are putting higher resolution images into the documents than they used to or your fonts have more detail than they used to. I’d suggest finding a text-only document that won’t print, finding a few crappy, 1990’s looking fonts, swapping over to those, and seeing if that allows you to print. If that works then yeah, the RAM upgrade should help you. If not then…well probably the RAM upgrade will help, but it’s less guaranteed.

It would be fast to print if the printer language was dot by dot straight forward.
Because then the laser printer doesn’t ever need a temporary raster version of the file …
But then there’s little tricks that can be done to smooth out printing of fonts… which are best done by the printer itself.
For that reason, the best print language is a vector format. The printer driver in use is probably emitting “postscript”. The alternative is PCL.
Both are vector … or vector capable. . or they vary from being a simple raster, (Raster means just all the dots, first row,second row,… 30,000th row…)… I think that sometimes the pictures in a file are included as “print this picture here, at scale of 3.5334 times larger, rotation 85.34324345 degrees”… Or smaller allowed , any scale, any rototation.

The problem with slow prints occurs when the a high resolution vector file is sent to the printer… and the file sent to the printer takes up too much memory, and there’s not enough left for the full size temporary raster.
So when it can’t form a full size temporary raster, it can only form a partial raster, perhaps it can form a raster for a tenth … So it reads through the input and draws the first tenth of the print raster… So it has to read through and process the file 10 times to produce the whole page.

So if it it had room only for only 100th of the raster, it would be stuck there reading through the file 100 times !
So yes more RAM solves these problems.

Absolutely a RAM upgrade will help the printer print more complex drawings at higher resolutions. It will also help queuing from multiple users.

Will you notice it? Only you can say.

Years ago, I used to print a lot of large, multi-page TIFF files using an HP 2100M. Used to take a couple of minutes per page. Then I upgraded the printer from 8 MB to 24 MB, and each page started kicking out in about 12 seconds. So, if you’re sending large files to the printer, yes, a memory upgrade can greatly cut down the processing time.

Thanks for the post. This is encouraging. I placed an order today ($10.00 US) for 128 MB of RAM for the printer.

I think this has been subjected to graphic creep. At one time, bank statements and the like were just text. Now they have fancy graphics as part of the statement and this has caused the print output to bulk up.

I think in 2000 I paid $1500.00 for this HP4050N. Might have cost $200.00 or more to add 128 MB of RAM back in 2000. But I have to say, for many years the 16 MB of RAM in the printer was fine for 99% of the printing.

I really enjoy these stories of inexpensive upgrades breathing new life into old yet reliable equipment. Please keep us updated about whether the extra RAM helps.

I will report back when it arrives in another week or so.

I told a friend of mine who also works in IT about this, and he said “Send me a photo of the RAM you need. I might have some lying around to send you”. Another friend said, “$10.00 with free shipping for 128 MB? Why didn’t you order two?”. I had to explain that the HP4050N has a max ram capacity of 200 MB.:cool:

No. I tried the RAM upgrade on the HP4000, because it didn’t cost much and was worth trying, but no.

The 4050 is already a RAM upgrade from the 4000, so even more no.

Extra RAM is used to store extra fonts in memory, but unless you are using printer fonts, I don’t think the 4000/4050 can effectively use extra memory (I’d be glad to learn I’m wrong).

To make the 4000/4050 really go fast, you have to send print jobs in the lightweight native HP print language PCL. I’m not sure where the bottlenck with PostScript is with IOS and Win8+, but it doesn’t seem to be the amount of memory on the printer. Either the printer CPU is too slow (NEC VR4300, comparable to a Pentium or 486 ), or the preprocessing done by the client is too slow, or the files transfered to the printer are too large.

The other problem we have is that the postscript drivers which are all we can get for Win8+, OSX, are NBG. They drop fine lines.

In theory, probably any PCL driver would sort of work, but I don’t know how to go about that. Modern operating systems want to recognise the printer, and use the correct driver.

I found this in the User’s Guide for the HP4050N which was very nice of HP to have made this easily available online:

You might want to add more memory to the printer if you often print complex graphics or PS documents, print with the optional duplexer, use many downloaded fonts, or print at ProRes 1200.

I’m sure HP didn’t want to make a blanket statement that more RAM would produce superior results for all circumstances, but if this works for our needs, it will be a worthwhile effort. By the way, access to install the RAM is very easy. A side panel comes off, and behind a cover there are the three memory slots. Didn’t have to take the cover off or remove other installed components in the way to get to the RAM.

The RAM I ordered for $10.00 with free shipping (128 MB) arrived and I installed it. So the HP4050N went from having a total of 16 MB to 144 MB of RAM. I printed the test print which previously stayed in “processing” forever and never came out, but after this upgrade it printed as normal. This suit our needs.

Thanks to everyone who replied. For those interested, I purchased the RAM on eBay. The installation was easy. The side panel of the HP4050N slides off. You unscrew one screw, and a little door is opened to reveal the three RAM slots. After upgrading, I printed out the printer’s configuration page and could see it recognized the additional RAM. When powering it back up, it took longer to initialize, about a minute until it was “Ready”, but that’s to be expected since it likely does a memory check on power up. More RAM, the memory check is going to take a little longer.

A comparable printer replacement for this unit recommended by HP sales sells for $1K. And we didn’t have to haul it over to electronic recycling. We are calling this a success.