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Do Printers Have Memory? How to Clear Your Printer History

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Here’s a little-known fact about printers: Almost all printers built in the last 30 years or so have built-in memory. In fact, most printers have many of the same features found in computers and mobile devices—hard drives, system memory, operating systems and applications. In other words, your printer has similar capabilities—and security risks— as any other device you own.

Are you replacing your print devices or simply want to improve your data privacy? In an age of rampant cybersecurity and compliance risks, protecting your printer history and print data is critical.


TAKE A DEEPER DIVE: Quick Guide to Print Security [GUIDE]

Why Do Printers Need Memory?

Printers need memory and storage to make them print faster. Memory allows a printer to receive files from a computer as fast as the connection allows. So, even if the computer slows down, the printing won’t.

Where is Printer History Stored?

Just like computers, printers have volatile memory (RAM) that is removed when you turn the printer off. Volatile memory requires power to store the information. Deleting volatile memory is easy: Simply shut down or unplug your printer for a minute or so.

Most printers also have non-volatile memory (a hard drive) that is stored until you physically delete it. Even if you power your printer off, memory on the hard drive will remain. This type of memory can be concerning if you frequently print confidential documents and data. If you need to replace your printer, you’ll want to make sure any non-volatile memory is removed.

How to Remove Printer Memory

Before getting rid of or transferring ownership of any electronic device, you need to make sure you’ve wiped it clean of any personal information. An all-in-one printer might have saved documents, scans, print logs or fax logs stored in its memory. The first step when disposing of a device is to remove any memory cards from the card reader slot, if it has one.

To do a basic reset on most devices:

  1. Turn the printer ON
  2. Unplug it for 15 seconds
  3. Plug it back in

These steps will remove volatile memory, but will not address non-volatile memory on a hard drive.

How to Remove Print History From Home Printers

Some printers hold memory in a “circular buffer.” What this means is that data is stored sequentially up until a finite amount. When the memory is “full,” it starts over at the beginning and overwrites the previous data incrementally — and the process repeats itself.

To overwrite any sensitive data like copies of credit cards, you’ll need to print sufficient non-confidential documents to use up the whole circular buffer. The problem is, you’ll never really know how many pages you need to print to reach that point. Thankfully, someone probably isn’t going to go through the work of manually retrieving data from disposed devices. Data thiefs much prefer the easy route of capturing data available through a network. This highlights the importance of maintaining firewalls and other security measures.

Removing Data From Office Multifunction Print Devices

Multifunctional devices often have hard drives as well as memory. Before purchasing new multifunction devices, check with the manufacturer or your Managed Print Services provider to see whether they can wipe any saved data from your old machines.

Gordon Flesch Company ensures all printed document history is destroyed at the end of a machine's useful life or service, even if the machine didn’t come from us. We’ll also review any applications and service logs to ensure they’re properly configured and don’t contain a list of failed prints or previously printed data.

The type of machine matters, too. All Canon imageRUNNER devices are equipped with hard disk drives and have standard features in place that protect information on their internal hard drives. Image data is temporarily written to the hard disk data (HDD) in a proprietary Canon file format. These security measures prevent the misuse or theft of stored data.

Canon’s file format is not compatible with commonly used file systems and is unreadable outside of the imageRUNNER device. Additionally, the HDD directory information is stored on a separate system board, meaning a hacker will be unable to reconstruct any previously printed files if the HDD is removed.

Each imageRUNNER device also has a standard security feature that ensures the hard drive is wiped clean before returning it at the end of a lease term, changing its location, or disposing of it altogether. Be sure your system administrator or Managed Print Services provider activates this feature.

You don’t need to go it alone and risk exposing yourself to unnecessary print security risks. We’ve developed a helpful guide to get started, so be sure to access that below.

Learn more about protecting personal data or adding robust security features to your company’s printer fleet by contacting the print security experts at Gordon Flesch Company. 

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