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?

Update: The RAM I ordered for $10.00 (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. For your situation, as they say, your mileage may vary.

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    They print through the network (LAN). Mar 13, 2016 at 19:57
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    This is on the LAN, with it's own IP address. It is not connected to any computer. The workstations on the network are Windows 7, Macs and Linux Mint, and a CentOS server. We have no Windows servers, but the CentOS server supports Samba, but we don't do Samba printing. Mar 14, 2016 at 3:10
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    Memory upgrade would only help the buffer to spool documents. So if you are sending large, complex documents it would store them easily. However, the PPM or the startup time will not be affected. Mar 14, 2016 at 10:11
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    BTW Don't forget the cost of electricity. I had an old laser printer and used a power meter to see how much energy it used in stand-by mode (quite a lot). I decided it made financial sense to scrap it and buy a more modern low-standby-power model.
    – brewmanz
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:53
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    @Edward_178118: Please stop flagging things you don't like to hear.
    – Sven
    Mar 15, 2016 at 2:48

6 Answers 6


On a HP4050 the First Page Out is rated at 15 second minimum. This number does not count if the printer is in sleep mode before.

Per the service manual

17 pages per minute (ppm)

100 MHz RISC microprocessor

First page out = 15 sec.

Like other told the RAM would help to buffer big document, but the actual warming up of the printer would not get speedier.

For such older printer, make sure the jetdirect support 1000 connection, as I would not be surprised to see a 10mb jetdirect card in it.

For my part I would try to upgrade it as I serviced such printer and they are easy to maintain and take care of.

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    A 10/100 jetdirect card worth about 20US$. 10$ for the RAM, 20 bucks for the card and this printer is up for 10 more years.
    – Emmanuel
    Mar 14, 2016 at 10:39
  • But just because you can run the printer for so long doesn't mean you should. Given that the OP is basically complaining about performance, I think it's wrong to keep promoting the use of such old equipment.
    – ewwhite
    Mar 14, 2016 at 11:31
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    @ewwhite My opinion is based on the fact the OP already have other network printer and the memory cost nothing. That model come from the 'golden 'era' of HP (as the plastic cover would break before the mechanic), as HP stopped selling part in 2007 for that model. Officially stopping to sell part force the user to buy other printer, but aftermarket still sell some part for that model. As before suggesting that to the OP I double-checked that the fusing assembly was still available, and yes it's. (the main part that can break the printer)
    – yagmoth555
    Mar 14, 2016 at 12:45
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    If the machine is still fit for purpose, and fit for its environment, e.g a small business office where business impact of failure is minimal - then there is fair argument in using equipment until failure. Reducing avoidable wastage and landfill on our planet should also be a factor in the decision making process. (and that particular printer is a very well built machine indeed)
    – Mtl Dev
    Mar 15, 2016 at 10:58
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    Update: The RAM I ordered for $10.00 (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. For your situation, as they say, your mileage may vary. Mar 19, 2016 at 16:07

I used to have a HP LaserJet 5000 (64MB) with a 10Base-T network card for printing A3 CAD drawings. It took around 2 minutes for the printer to process a single drawing.

I decided to add memory (196MB total). The effect was that the first drawing still took around 2 minutes to process, but I could send many drawings consecutively to the printer and after the first delay, they all come out in short intervals, so I think adding RAM was worth it.


RAM can help improve the ability to handle complex documents (we don't know what you're printing), but not overall processing time...

However, the 4050N was discontinued 15 years ago in 2001.

Just because you can make this printer be in service this long doesn't mean you should.

There aren't too many good reasons against moving to a more modern variant of the printer, especially with performance issues you've described over the past few years.

There may be other efficiencies in power, performance, features and consumables costs involved in doing so.

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    The cost of the RAM with shipping is $10.00 (US) for 128MB. Mar 13, 2016 at 19:58
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    If the cost of adding some RAM is so absurdly cheap, it's definitely worth a try even if it doesn't improve things at all.
    – Massimo
    Mar 13, 2016 at 20:04
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    @Edward_178118 I'm really of two minds on this. On one hand the thing is ancient and you can probably do a lot better by buying a new printer. On the other hand if you really can get more life out of that beast for $10, it's not much risk; you may as well try it and see. Mar 13, 2016 at 21:44
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    Those older printers routinely shipped with too little memory. There is a reason that printer ships with 16 MB but takes up to 192 MB. Quite often on such printers print jobs simply fail because of running out of memory. Adding memory can definitely solve failed print jobs; I have seen that first-hand. Subjectively, it seemed like performance was also boosted though I have no evidence. For ten bucks, I would definitely install more memory. It certainly will not hurt (if you do indeed have the proper memory chips). A reliable networked printer with 1200 dpi is worth keeping. Mar 13, 2016 at 23:24
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    Age is irrelevant - the printer's a brick outhouse and will keep running as long as its fed toner and paper and power, and has a periodic service for pickup rollers and other wear parts. I have a LJ4 with a million pages on it, and it was killed by lack of windows 7/8/10 drivers. Still works perfectly from other OSs.
    – Criggie
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:41

It depends, but probably not by much, most of the first page wait time is on processing the PCL or Postscript. If you see multi-page stalls then RAM would help, but not that first page raster. If the majority of the print is text, and it's Postscript, RAM won't do much at all. For that you need a faster processor.


back in the early 2000's I worked at a company with lots of Color Laser Printers, Plotters, and other kewl print devices.

We had one that was upgraded to 128 MB of ram..

Their was no speed difference that I could see.

However one of the graphics designers used to print huge images(High DPI or lots of Vectors). Before the upgrade he would always complain about the failed prints. After the printer could easily print the larger images.

Perhaps the ram allows the printer to handle larger or more complex documents.

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    Yes, that is correct.
    – ewwhite
    Apr 2, 2016 at 7:54
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    Postscript requires a lot of memory and processing to rasterize images into print. For less complex documents, the built-in RAM is more than adequate.
    – user148298
    May 15, 2020 at 20:26

It's worth thinking about just what a remarkable job these printers are doing when starved of RAM. If you consider the amount of data it takes to represent a 1200dpi page, you'll come up with 135-139 million pixels, which requires around 17MB of RAM - in other words, it would entirely fill the printer's memory. So when you send a 10MB document to the printer, and it actually prints correctly, the printer is having to juggle raster output against system space, render scratchspace, and document storage, and uses on the fly data compression to pack the image, along with image segmentation and other tricks to make it all work.

Adding RAM will let the printer just get on with straightforward rasterising, without having to compress data or perhaps do partial writeouts to the drum in order to regain space. Complex documents will no longer compete with image space, and will print more quickly and reliably.

HP had a marketing name for the memory compression used in the PCL rasteriser - MEt - and claimed it doubled the effective memory. It only applies in PCL mode though, so Postscript prints are more likely to suffer memory contention. Hence, if you're able to reliably install a PCL driver or send PCL jobs to the printer, it's likely that complex documents will print more quickly.

I feel I need to respond to ewwhite's answer, which suggests that since this is an old printer, it should perhaps be discarded.

These really are some of the most reliable printers you'll ever use. I still use mine daily, with around 200k prints on it overall. I have masses of toner, and masses of spare parts should I ever need them, but it is economical on toner and the only parts I've ever needed to replace were some rubber feed rollers which were starting to slip after the 40 miles of paper that has run through the printer so far. Let that number sink in.

As a fully standard Postscript compatible network printer, I know I'll be able to use it for another 20 years, regardless of whether any model-specific drivers exist or don't exist on future systems. I will keep this printer until it falls apart, but they are so well built it will probably outlive me.

[I realise I'm answering this 5 years after it was asked, but I figured it's as relevant today as it ever was.]

  • The thing about rubber is that when it gets up to 20-25 years of age it gradually turns into a sticky gooey mess, and if it isn't replaced before that happens, it will get thrown everywhere and you'll have a massive cleanup job on your hands. Sounds like you caught it just in time. Aug 12, 2021 at 12:27
  • @MichaelHampton Thankfully the (presumably synthetic, rather than natural) rubber in these printers doesn't do that. It's more that it starts to go a bit hard or polished after so much use, that the pickup rollers don't always grip the paper properly in the input trays. I have 6 of these printers and none of the rubber components have softened or gone sticky. Where I have seen that, much to my frustration, is on camera grips. Exceptionally annoying when the rest of the equipment is made to a high standard.
    – Peskydan
    Aug 12, 2021 at 14:55

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