What is Cryptojacking and How Do I Stop It?

You know about malware and ransomware. You know what a computer virus is and probably had one. But do you know about cryptojacking?

Cryptojacking is a bit like ransomware, but stealthy and potentially worth more money to the criminals that use it. While ransomware takes your data hostage until you pay the ransom, cryptojacking uses your computer or phone’s resources to mine cryptocurrencies like Monero or Ethereum.

You may never know that it is there. The only thing you might notice is that your computer isn’t working as well or fast as it used to.

Why is Cryptojacking a Big Deal?

You might be thinking, “If I won’t even notice
cryptojacking, it doesn’t cost me anything, and it doesn’t harm anything, why
should I care?”

The money made from these sorts of criminal operations don’t
just go to hacker’s living in the basement buying expensive booze and fancy
watches. The money could be supporting organized crime or state-sponsored
cyberwar.

According to hackmageddon.com, over 81% of hacking events in 2018 were cybercrime based and almost 3% were classified as cyberwarfare. They’ve got to pay for all that hacking somehow.

How Does Cryptojacking Malware Get on a Computer?

Cryptojackers invade your computer in several ways. Sometimes you can get it from opening an infected attachment in an e-mail or clicking on a phishing link on a website. Or it might show up inside of a browser attachment that you installed for a legitimate reason.

That’s like the traditional way that viruses were spread. If the cryptojacker gets on your computer this way, it will run in the background on your computer all the time, quietly digging up cryptocoins.

The drive-by cryptojacking is more devious. It will hide on
a website or in an ad just waiting to show up on your computer. Then it will
start mining with your computer if you are on that website or that ad is
showing.  The cryptojacker is unloaded
when you leave the site, leaving no trace that it was ever there.

Do I Have a Cryptojacker on My Computer or Phone?

It used to be obvious. Your CPU usage would spike to near 100% and your computer would crawl when you only had maybe one program open or just browsing a website.

Hackers using cryptojackers are getting wiser though and it
will get harder and harder to stop. When they first started, they would consume
as much of your CPU power as they could. This alarmed people to its existence
though. Now, they’re using less resources on any single computer, but trying to
hit as many computers as possible.

How Do I Stop Cryptojacking?

Keep practicing good computer security and use your smartphone’s security features. Make sure you’re using an antivirus app, keep your operating system up to date, and allow your browser to update freely.

Most major security apps have cryptojacker detection and protection now. Look at getting antivirus and security apps like ESET, Avast!, or Norton.

If you want to make sure a drive-by cryptojacker isn’t running in your browser, you can try extensions for Chrome like Coin-Hive Blocker, No-Coin, or minerBlock. Try No-miner or minerBlock for Firefox. All major browsers are continuing to bake-in security features with each update, so let those updates happen.

Is There a Good Use for Cryptojacking?

There might be. It could be used as an alternate revenue
source to support web sites and apps. Some sites will ask you if they may use a
javascript-based cryptominer on your computer while you’re on their site, some
will not.

The Pirate Bay, Salon.com, UFC.com, and others have tried
this in the past. People did not respond well. As a method of revenue
generating, it appears to have small gains for the high cost of user
alienation.

The Future of Cryptojacking

Is cryptojacking going to be an ongoing threat? If cryptocurrencies
continue to have real world value, it will. But how much of a threat will it be
to you?

Hackers are getting wiser. They’re realizing that stealing
pennies from millions is much harder to stop than stealing thousands from a
few. Cryptojacking will be a minor nuisance to you and your computer use. The
social cost from it being used to fund more evil schemes may continue to grow.

Do what you can to stop it. Keep your antivirus up to date
and continue to update your operating system and browser. If most of us can do
that, we’ll keep cryptojacking a minor threat.

7 Ways to Print Documents When You’re Out of the House

Printing when you’re on the road is never a simple matter.
Where you choose to print depends on when you need your printed document.

If you only need to pick up your printout when you get home,
printing over the Internet to your home computer is the way to go. This is
possible from either your laptop or your cellphone.

However, if you need a printout immediately, there are lots
of kiosks and printing centers around the country where you can send your
printout and pick it up immediately.

In this article, you’ll learn about all the options
available to print documents whenever you’re out of the house.

1. Using Google Cloud Print

One of the best services ever offered by Google is Google Cloud Print. This service lets you safely and securely connect your wireless printer to the Internet. Once connected to the Google Cloud Print service, you can use your Google account to print anything from your laptop or your smartphone.

Setting up this service is very easy if you have a printer supported by the service. Just visit the Google Cloud Print page to get started. You’ll need to log into your Google account if you haven’t already.

If this is your first time setting up one of your printers
with Cloud Print, click Add a
Cloud-Ready Printer
to see if your model of printer is compatible.

If your printer isn’t a Cloud-Ready model, then click Add a Classic Printer to see the setup
instructions for adding a regular printer to Google Cloud Print (see simple
instructions below).

Connecting Your Computer to Google Cloud Print

To set up your Google Cloud ready printer:

  1. Make sure your computer is turned on
  2. Open your Chrome browser, click the three dots
    in the upper-right, and select Settings.
  3. Scroll down and select Advanced.
  4. Scroll down further to Printing and expand Google
    Cloud Print
    .
  5. Select Manage
    Cloud Print Devices
    .

You may be prompted to sign into your Google account. If you
see the cloud-ready printer that your computer is already connected to, click
the Register button. Otherwise,
under the Classic Printers section, click the Add printers button.

If you register a cloud-ready printer, you’ll need to confirm the registration on the printer itself. Adding a classic printer will detect printers connected to your computer and walk you through a wizard to add them to Google Cloud Print.

Printing to Google Cloud Print

Once you’ve set up your printers on Google Cloud Print,
using the service is very easy.

In the Google Chrome browser, you can print as you normally do by clicking the three dots in the upper right and selecting Print.

You’ll see the Google Cloud printer available to print to
along with its internet address.

Select this printer and click the Print button to print.

Having a Google Cloud Print connected computer, you’ll see
the same printer available on different Google services like Google Docs,
Google Sheets, and Gmail. It’ll also let you print from your Chromebook if you
own one.

On your mobile phone, printing is typically available under
the Share feature in different apps.

When you choose the Print option, you’ll see your new cloud
printer available.

Send your printout to that printer, and it’ll show up on
your home printer, no matter where in the world you are.

2. Set Up a Home VPN

Another, slightly more complicated solution to print to your
home printer from anywhere is setting up a VPN network you can connect to from
the internet.

You can do this using a hidden VPN service included with
your Windows 10 computer. You’ll need to follow this procedure from your
computer that has access to print to your home printer.

First, you’ll need to allow users to connect to your
computer through the internet.

Open the Control Panel and select Network and Sharing Center. Select Change Adapter Settings and press Alt-F on the keyboard.  Select
New Incoming Connections.

Enable the user accounts you want to give access to, or
create a new ID and Password you want to use to allow incoming connections.

Click Next and
enable Through the internet.

Click Next to finish off the Wizard. You’ve now provided access to your
computer through the network via VPN.

Next, you’ll need to log into your home network router and add port forwarding for VPN connections. If this sounds hard, read our post on understanding what port forwarding is and how to setup port forwarding. Make sure to use port 1723 if using PPTP. LT2P uses port 1701.

The Windows VPN uses PPTP so
select that as the service. Type the internal IP of your computer that’s
connected to the printer for the Server IPv4 Address, and leave all other
fields as is.

Now, when you want to connect to your computer for printing,
you can connect to it via VPN. First, click the Start menu and type VPN. Click on VPN Settings.

Click on the plus icon to add a new VPN connection.

Before you can fill out the fields, you’ll need your computer’s public IP address. You can see this by visiting a site like WhatIsMyIP.com.

Fill out the VPN form as follows:

  • Provider:
    Windows (built-in)
  • Connection
    Name
    : Name the connection anything you like
  • Server
    name or address
    : Give this your computer’s public IP address.
  • User name
    and password
    : Provide the ID and Password you created when you enabled
    Internet access to your computer.

Once you’re done setting this up, you’ll see the VPN
connection listed in the VPN settings window. Just click connect while you’re
connected to the internet away from home to connect to your home computer. Once
connected, you’ll have access to all the network devices, like your home
printer.

There are several issues that may cause a VPN setup like
this to not work. Your virus software, firewall settings, or other computer
security settings could block the connection.

3. User Free PrinterShare Software

Another solution that’s a whole lot simpler than trying to
figure out what security settings is blocking your VPN connection is just
installing free software that will share out your connected printer to the
Internet.

Install the PrinterShare software on a computer on your home network. To use the web printing option, you’ll need to create a free PrinterShare account and password.

The software will randomly generate a user account number
that will display in the software. Remember this ID, and the password you
configured for it.

Launch the software on the computer and share the printer
that you want to allow internet printing to.

Install the PrinterShare application on the second computer
that you’re using outside of your home. Next time you run the software while
you’re sitting in an internet café somewhere, you’ll see the printer you shared
under the Remote Printers list.

Now, when you try to print a document or anything else on
your computer, you’ll see the PrinterShare printer available under your list of
printers.

Printing to this printer will send the print over the
internet to the printer connected to your other computer on your home network.

As you can see, you don’t have to configure the router or
change any security settings. The print is transmitted directly over the
internet via the internet connection on your home computer.

4. Online Printing Services

If you don’t mind spending some money and you won’t need the
printout for a few days, you can order printouts online.

There are several services where you can upload documents
and have the service print them and mail them to you.

A few of these services include:

  • PrintDog: Order anything from brochures and greeting cards to posters or color and black and white document copies. Prices are very reasonable at just a few cents per page for regular documents.
  • UPrinting: You can use this service to print regular documents. But you can also order flyers, posters, brochures and more. You can even order a design printed on t-shirts or mugs.
  • Best Value Copy: If you just want fast and cheap copies, this is probably the best service for it. Prices are just a few cents a page at a flat rate. There’s also no minimum order, so if you want to just print a few pages, you can.

5. Shipping Print Kiosks

If you want your document printouts immediately, using a
local shipping service is the best option.

These companies offer either web-based file transfers, or
you can transfer documents from your computer using a memory stick to a
computer in the shop. There, you can use their printer to print out your
document.

A few of the most popular print kiosks you’ll find all
around the country (and in some cases the world) are the following:

  • UPS: You either print online or at your local UPS shipping center.
  • FedEx: Print using their website and pick it up at a local FedEx center.

6. Local Print Shops

Beside large shipping services, there are also lots of print
shops around the world where you can bring in a memory stick with your
documents on it and print those documents for very cheap per-page prices.

A few of these include:

  • Staples: Use the website to find a Staples print center near you.
  • Office Depot: Do in-store document printing quick and easy.
  • CVS: Visit the CVS photo center where you can also print documents.
  • Costco: If you have a Costco membership, visit a location for your document printing needs.

7. Your Local Library

One of the most overlooked resources is the local library.
Almost every town in the country has a library. Even the smallest libraries
offer printing services for their patrons.

Usually, you can buy a card that works on the printer and
you load the card with a set amount of money that you can use to make copies.
Modern printers at libraries have a memory card slot so you don’t even need a
computer to print to the library printer. Or, you connect to the library
network and print to the printer that way.

Usually, library printing services are dramatically
discounted from the prices you’ll find at commercial printing centers.

Wiping a Hard Drive in 4 Easy Steps

When it’s time to
sell your computer, you’d want to wipe out the hard drive completely. After
all, you don’t want to leave any personal or work-related files that other
parties could exploit. In this post, we’ll show you how you can delete all the
data in your PC permanently.

Deleting vs Wiping Data

Anyone can delete
data. Moving items to the Trash Bin is not hard to do. But that’s not the same
as wiping data. A deleted file can be recovered through a file recovery program
or hardware. Formatting a hard drive before selling is good practice but even
that won’t be enough to wipe out data.

That said, you
need to be sure that you want to wipe out your hard drive before you proceed.
You will no longer be able to recover the wiped data after the process is complete.

Wiping Your Data

Follow the
instructions below to wipe data off your Windows 10 computer.

Step
1: Do some prep work

Before you begin,
you need to prepare for the hard drive cleanup. Here are some of the things you
will need.

Data destruction software

You need to do some research. Some sanitization software can only wipe hard drives but not SSDs (solid state drives). You should also look for software that can work on bootable drives like flash drives if you’re wiping the entire computer.

We have already written an in-depth guide on the 5 best hard drive wiping utilities, so read that after you finish this article.

Data Backup

Needless to say,
back up all important files before you proceed. You can copy-paste all your
data to a temporary location outside of the drive you’re wiping.

Explore your
backup options. In Windows 10, go to Windows
Settings
> Update & Security
> Backup. Here you’ll find
several options for backing up your files.

Product Information

Be sure to have
all your product information on-hand. Make sure you secure serial numbers for
your Windows 7 OS, for example. You will need those if you’ll be reinstalling
software on another machine down the line.

Bootable Disk

You will need a
dedicated USB drive for your data destruction software. You won’t be able to
run an application in your computer if you’re wiping it clean. That’s why you
need to save the program on an external drive. Saving it on a CD would also
work.

Most sanitization
programs are saved as an ISO image file. Simply copy-pasting the ISO file
wouldn’t work. Look into how to burn an ISO file to a CD or flash drive if
unsure how to continue.

Step 2: Do a Windows Reset First

Go to Windows Settings > Update & Recovery > Recovery. Under Reset This PC, click Get
Started
.

You will then be
asked to choose an option. You can either keep all your files or remove
everything. Click Remove Everything.

Windows will
proceed to delete all your files.

Note: If asked whether you’d
like to not only remove files but also clean the drives, select Remove Files and Clean the Drive.

Step 3: Run the Data Wiping Program

Each program runs
differently but most come with easy-to-follow instructions. You will likely
need to reboot your computer to run the program. Insert the CD or flash drive
and then restart your PC. As it restarts, your PC should give you access to the
data destruction software.

If you’re having
trouble loading the program, you’ll likely need to make some changes in your
BIOS settings.

To access BIOS,
go to Windows Settings > Update and Security > Recovery. Under Advanced Startup, click Restart
Now
.

On the next
screen, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Select UEFI Settings > Restart. This will open BIOS after the
system reboots.

The BIOS
interface will vary depending on what motherboard you use. However, all BIOS
will allow you to revise the boot order. Edit the order to prioritize CD/DVD or
removable devices. This will let your computer run the content of your CD or
flash drive respectively.

Step 4: Physically Wipe the Hard Drive (optional)

If there are no
plans to use the hard drive again, you should consider physically wiping it.
You can use a rare earth metal to do so. Others resort to dismantling the drive
by screwing it apart before disposing of the entire thing.

Best Ways to Text From Your Computer

Texting from a computer can be convenient in
certain situations, and it’s really easy to do from both an iPhone and an
Android. However, there are some specific steps you have to take, and your
setup might not be compatible with computer-based texting.

Sending texts through a computer can be helpful if your phone is causing too many distractions for you but you still want to be reachable by text. Or maybe you can type a lot faster from your computer with a full-sized keyboard versus the small on-screen keyboard on your phone.

Another reason for texting from a PC or Mac is if you’re just too lazy to pick up your phone from across the room!

Regardless of your situation, we’ve got you
covered. Below are several ways to send and receive texts through your computer
on Android and iPhone. All methods are 100% free and most can be performed in
just a few minutes.

iMessage

The iMessage iOS texting service for iPhone
can be used from a Mac by logging in to Messages on your Mac with the same
Apple ID you’re logged in with on your iPhone. You can even take it a step
further and use iMessage on Android or a Windows computer by setting up special
software.

Let’s first look at how to text from a Mac:

Step 1: On your iPhone, go to Settings
> Messages and enable
iMessage by tapping the button next to it.

Step 2: Scroll down the page to Send
& Receive
and ensure that the correct phone number or email address is
selected. This is the method for which you will send and receive texts on your
Mac.

Step 3: Open Messages on your Mac and log in with the Apple ID and password
you’re logged in with on your iPhone.

Now you can view iMessage texts and send and
receive texts without using your iPhone. Messages will remain synced between
your Mac and iPhone as long as you remain logged in to both with the same Apple
ID.

With iMessage set up on your Mac, you can even
send and receive iPhone texts on Android via the AirMessage server software:

Step 1: Visit AirMessage and select AirMessage server for macOS on the bottom of the page.

Step 2: Install the program to your Mac and then open it and choose Edit Password to set your own password
for the iMessage server.

Select OK
to save and close that window.

Step 3: Install the AirMessage companion app on your Android.

Step 4: Enter the IP address to your Mac and the password you chose in Step
2.

Step 5: View your iPhone messages on your Android and send texts like you
would from an iPhone!

Tip: See the AirMessage install guide if you’re having troubles getting this to work.

Using iMessage on a Windows computer isn’t as
straightforward as the method for Macs. You can’t access iMessage from a
browser in Windows nor can you install official Apple software on Windows to
access your iOS texts.

Instead, the best way to go about sending iPhone texts through a Windows computer, without paying for the software, is to install a free remote access program.

Put AnyDesk or Chrome Remote Desktop (or something similar that supports both platforms) on your Mac and on your Windows PC, and then connect to your Mac to control the mouse and keyboard. This, of course, requires you to have a Mac set up with iMessage like described above.

Messages for Web

Messages is Google’s text messaging app for Android. Within it is a setting called “Messages for web” that you can enable to send texts through your phone via your computer. It works if both the phone and computer are on the same network.

Because Messages for web runs in a web
browser, it works on any computer, whether it be Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Note:
Although Wi-Fi is used between your phone and computer to send texts this way,
they’re still being sent from your phone’s messaging plan. In other words, if
you have a limited texting plan for your Android phone, this will count towards
your usage.

Step 1: Tap the vertical, three-dotted menu at the top right corner of the
app.

Step 2: Choose Messages for web.

Step 3: Tap QR code scanner.

Step 4: Visit https://messages.google.com/web on your computer and scan the QR code you see. This works in browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, but not Internet Explorer.

Optionally, you can choose Remember this computer before scanning
the code so that you don’t have to do this again the next time you want to send
texts from your computer.

Other Texting Apps
for Computers

iMessage and Messages are the default texting
apps in iOS and Android, but there are plenty of other messaging apps that can
be used from both a mobile device and a computer. If set up correctly, you have
lots of options for texting from a computer.

For example, if you like to use Facebook Messenger for texting on your Android or iPhone, you can access all the same messages and texting features from https://www.messenger.com, Facebook’s official website for Messenger.

All you need to log in with your Facebook account information. Texting like this works no matter where your phone is (i.e., it doesn’t need to be on the same Wi-Fi network).

WhatsApp is also a wildly popular texting app that can be accessed from a computer via https://web.whatsapp.com. It works like Android’s Messages app where you need to scan a QR code to log in to your account and ultimately send WhatsApp texts from the computer.

Just open the menu in WhatsApp and go to WhatsApp Web to open the camera you need to scan the code. Your phone must remain on the same network for this to work.

A few other examples where the texting feature of the messaging app can be used seamlessly between a phone and computer include Telegram Messenger, Slack, Skype, Textfree, and TextNow.

There are also ways to send free texts from a computer over email and web services. Those methods work differently than the ones we’ve described above because they’re not used to view your own messages on a computer but instead to send a free text to someone’s phone even if you don’t have a phone yourself.

Printer Ink Wars — EcoTank, Instant Ink, MegaTank, INKvestment Tank , Instant Ink

Everybody has heard the adage that the major inkjet printer manufacturers—Brother, Canon, Epson, and HP—make more from the ink that keeps their printers going than from the sale of the printers themselves. This is not just simply an axiom; it’s absolutely true.

Printer ink is not the only consumable that fuels the profit margin of a particular industry. Another often-touted example is razor blade replacement cartridges. (How many others can you think of?)

For the longest time, though, the only choice we had was (except for using third-party or refurbished ink cartridges, but that’s another story) to suck it up and pay the price—if, that is, we wanted to keep printing. Over the past few years, though, due primarily to pressure from consumers and technology journalists, printer makers now offer us choices, many choices.

It all started with HP’s Instant Ink subscription program, but now each printer maker offers some kind of “bulk-ink” product that provides at least some relief to the price of ink itself and, better yet, increased transparency into what it actually costs to keep your printer churning.

Each printer manufacturer has its own bulk-ink product, as
follows:

  • Brother
    = INKvestment Tank
  • Canon =
    MegaTank
  • Epson
    = EcoTank
  • HP =
    Instant Ink

Except for EcoTank and MegaTank, these products are quite
different in approach and how much they actually save you in terms of the
per-page cost of ink. Depending on how and what you print, each product has its
own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Over an Ink Barrel

Without question, printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids, perhaps even one of the most costly substances, on the planet. You pay much more per ounce of printer ink than you do for, say, gasoline, most exclusive wines, the majority of fancy perfumes, and even, in some cases, gold.

Traditionally we quantify the cost of ink by its per-page cost, or the “cost per page” (CPP). For the many years that I’ve been writing about information technology, one of my biggest complaints (and that of many of my colleagues) has been the printer industry’s exorbitant CPPs—especially home-based and small-business office appliance CPPs, a.k.a. “running costs.”

Several factors, including the price of a printer, its
volume rating, and so on, influence a machine’s overall running costs, and the
difference between one machine’s running costs over another’s can be as much as
2-to-5 or even 6 cents per monochrome page and even greater than that—often
much greater—for color pages.

Doesn’t sound like much, you say? It’s just pennies! Look at
it from this perspective: for every 100,000 pages you print, a 1-cent
difference from one printer to another will cost you an additional $100.

Yeah, I know, you probably don’t print thousands of pages each month, or tens of thousands each year, for that matter. Okay then. Try this scenario: If you print and copy, say, 2,000 color pages per month, a 5-cent difference will cost you $100, or $1,200 per year.

Just think of how many consumer- or small-office-grade printers you could buy with those savings… As I’ve pointed out incessantly in hundreds of printer reviews, often, how much a printer costs to use is far more important than how much the machine itself costs to buy.

The good news is that all of today’s inkjet printers print
relatively well, thereby allowing you to worry more about features and running
costs. If you use your printer often, one or more of the following bulk-ink
products can save you money—sometimes big money. Which bulk-ink product is
right for you depends on how much and what you print.

Brother’s INKvestment
Tank

The newest of the bulk-ink technologies, Brother’s INKvestment Tank evolved from a previous product the company called simply INKvestment, which merely entailed traditional high-yield ink cartridges sold at prices low enough to deliver lower running costs.

In other words, the INKvestment AIO came with big ink takes, and when it came time to buy new ones, the cost per page was low—very low, for that matter, less than 1 cent for monochrome pages and about 4.75 cents per color pages.

The second iteration of INKvestment, INKvestment Tank, consists of a tank within a tank. The technical name for this latest version Brother dubbed INKvestment Tank Extended Print or, again, INKvestment Tank for short.

INKvestment Tank is a blend between standard ink cartridges and a set of onboard reservoirs, as shown in the image above. When you’re low on ink, you still buy and install cartridges as you normally would, but the cartridges offload into internal secondary tanks.

Between the external cartridges and internal reservoirs, the printer holds thousands of pages worth of ink. And, rather than displaying those annoyingly inaccurate ink volume indicators on the control panel or the printer’s built-in webpages, INKvestment Tank sensors keep track of how many pages you have printed and then estimate how many prints are remaining, as shown in the image below.

In addition, similar to HP’s Instant Ink program, INKvestment Tank watches ink levels, warns you when they’re low, and offers to order replacement cartridges directly from the machine’s onboard website or its control panel.

You can buy Brother’s Business Smart and Business Smart Plus
AIOs in either standard INKvestment Tank or INKvestment Tank XL iterations,
with the difference being that the latter comes with twice as much ink, or two
sets of ink cartridges.

According to Brother, each set of ink tanks hold up to—based on a formula of 300 prints per month, 60 percent black pages and 40 percent color pages—a year’s worth of ink. That’s well below both the maximum monthly duty cycle and/or the recommended monthly print volume for most of Brother’s printers.

If you use the machine as it’s designed for, chances are you’ll be buying ink long before the one- or two-year period the cartridges are rated for. The good news is, that the per page cost of monochrome pages is still (like the original INKvestment offering) under 1 cent and color pages still go for less than 5 cents each, making Brother’s INKvestment Tank printers an exceptional value.

Canon MegaTank

Of the big four inkjet printer makers, Canon’s commitment to bulk-ink printers and AIOs has been the most tepid. Like Epson’s original EcoTank products, where onboard reservoirs are filled from bottles, Canon’s MegaTank products are sensible, easy-to-use, and highly cost-effective.

Unfortunately, since its release a few years ago, though, we’ve seen only five MegaTank machines, and one of them, the Canon Pixma G4210 MegaTank Wireless All-in-One Printer, is an update to one of the original four models.

Each of the company’s MegaTank, or G-series, Pixmas, while
they all come with slightly different feature sets, runs at the same speed,
capacity, and volume ratings, and all four are intended for home and family
use, though the Pixma G4210 supports Ethernet and comes with an automatic
document feeder for sending multipage documents to the scanner. But it, like
the others, is too slow for anything but low-volume printing and copying,
making it less than ideal for the majority of business settings.

Though they typically sell for two to three times more than their non-MegaTank equivalents, MegaTank Pixmas come with thousands of pages worth of ink in the box. With the G4210, for example, Canon includes enough ink to equal what the company says will print up to 18,000 black pages and 7,000 color pages.

That’s enough black ink to print 500 monochrome pages per month for three years. In any case, whether you use all the ink that comes with the printer and must buy more, or not, your cost per page for both black pages and color pages is less than 1 cent each.

Not only is this a terrific value, but it just doesn’t get
much better than this. However, printing 500 pages a month on a MegaTank
machine, while it is most likely capable, would be pushing one of these little
Pixmas to its limit.

Epson’s EcoTank

Epson is, of course, the first company to come up with the onboard reservoirs refilled from bottles, and the company has made a major commitment to its EcoTank product line.

EcoTank all-in-one’s and standalone printers come in all shapes and sizes, from the company’s lower-end home and family Expression and Expression Premium Small-in-Ones to some rather robust office-oriented WorkForce Pro office appliances.

The company has also engineered a stable of higher-end hybrid EcoTank WorkForce Pro iterations that get their ink from large aluminum bags, instead of bottles. These are laser alternative machines designed to, well, replace laser printers in the workplace. Two of the company’s monochrome laser alternatives, the WorkForce Pro WF-M5799 and WF-M5299, support XXL bags that hold up to 40,000 pages.

Like MegaTank machines, EcoTank models typically cost two to
five times more than their non-EcoTank equivalents. Depending on capacity and
features, consumer- and small-business-grade desktops run from about $300 to $1,000,
and, also like their MegaTank counterparts, they come with thousands of pages
worth of ink in the box.

Based on formulas specific to the product in question, Epson claims that each EcoTank model comes with the equivalent of two years’ worth of ink. Typically, though, these formulas are based on relatively small per-month quotas.

However, as with MegaTank machines, whether you use all the ink that comes with the printer and must buy more, or not, the per-page running costs are under 1 cent for both monochrome and color pages. (The aluminum-bag hybrids’ CPPs run somewhat higher than that, though.)

Granted, it may be difficult to justify spending $400 or $500 for a printer that, without the EcoTank upgrade, would normally cost two to three times less—you certainly don’t get $400- or $500-equivalent features, volume, or capacity; you just get very (relatively, of course) inexpensive ink.

It’s important to note that EcoTank printers aren’t for everybody, but if you plan to print hundreds (or thousands) of pages each month, they will save you hundreds of (sometimes even thousands of) dollars over the life of their non-EcoTank siblings and competitors. The more you print, the more you’ll save. Period.

HP’s Instant Ink

HP started the bulk-ink trend several years ago, now. Its
Instant Ink subscription program offers ink at a by-the-page flat rate, with
the cost per page dependent on the monthly subscription level you commit to.
The various programs have changed over the years, but as I write this the
company offers, depending on the printer you own, six subscription levels.

  • Free
    Printing Plan
    : 15 pages per month for, well, free
  • Occasional
    Printing Plan
    : 50 pages per month for $2.99, with each additional 10 pages
    for $1
  • Moderate
    Printing Plan
    : 100 pages per month for $4.99, with each additional 15 pages
    for $1
  • Frequent
    Printing Plan
    : 300 pages per month for $9.99, with each additional 20 pages
    for $1
  • Business
    Plan 1:
    500 pages per month for $14.99, with each additional 20 pages for
    $1
  • Business
    Plan 2
    : 700 pages per month for $19.99, with each additional 20 pages for
    $1

The smallest plan here runs about 6 cents per page, and the largest plan will run you about 2.9 cents per page, with each additional print beyond the initial 700 at 5 cents each.

Compared to some of these other plans that may not seem like that good a bargain, but the thing to keep in mind with Instant Ink is that that flat rate is for any page, black or color, 5% coverage or 100% coverage.

An advantage of Instant Ink is that, unlike the others listed here, this is not a one-product-fits-all solution; it can grow or scale back based on how your print and copy needs evolve.

Where this product becomes a terrific bargain is, though, if you print a lot of photos, especially letter-size (8.5 by 11 inches) photos, and/or full-page graphics that could easily cost 10 or 20 times 2.9 cents. Like INKvestment Tank, with Instant Ink, the printer monitors your ink cartridges and orders new ones from HP when they start to run low.

A Penny Here, A Penny
There

As I said at the onslaught, which of these bulk-ink products will work for you depends mostly on what and how much you print. Then, too, there is the suitability of the specific printers and AIOs themselves.

Canon’s MegaTank products, for example, while good printers and great values within their somewhat narrow target market, aren’t suitable for any business application with any volume of printing and copying to speak of.

The bottom line is, if you don’t print but a few pages every
month, most of these products, except perhaps the smallest Instant Ink
subscriptions, are irrelevant, and in some cases, a waste of money. You
wouldn’t want to, for instance, shell out $500 for an EcoTank AIO with
thousands of pages worth of ink in the box, if all you print is 10 pages a
month.

At least now you have the various products laid out before
you—the shroud of mystery remote, if you will—allowing you to apply the
economics appropriate to your specific application.