Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fixing "Jam in Area A" (E3-6) on Xerox Phaser 5500

My Xerox Phaser 5500N has been failing to print with phantom "Jam in Area A" errors for the last few days. No paper is actually jammed in the printer, it just reports a jam after printing the first page. When viewing the jam log or the web interface, the jam code was "E3-6", which is documented in the manual only as "fuser area".

It turns out that the Xerox 5500 has a common failure point - arguably a design flaw - in the fuser exit switch.

Xerox support wanted $210 to come and look at the printer, wouldn't guarantee to even bring appropriate parts, and said it'd cost another $210 plus parts if they had to come back with parts to repair it. They wouldn't talk about the jam code or do any phone support of any kind at all. Payment for the site visit was to be made up front before they'd even book a tech, and they wouldn't give me an ETA before I paid. They don't sell parts, and won't provide service manuals. This made me very, very angry.

Instead of paying Xerox over $400, I paid the supermarket up the road $3 for some super-glue. After removing the fuser I could see that the fuser exit switch lever had broken, so I just glued it back on and got the printer working again. Depending on the nature of the fault, you might not even need the glue.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DIY data recovery

While perusing ZDNet Australia I encountered this article about data recovery, which appears to be a thinly veiled piece of advertorial about a data recover firm.

The article pissed me off. It doesn't mention the importance of preventative action like good, well-tested backups. It certainly doesn't bother considering the possibility that you can recover from common cases of data loss yourself or with help from a techie friend, avoiding paying huge sums to the DR firm.

Here are a few tips for recovering lost pictures, documents, etc from a hard drive that's in reasonable physical condition but isn't readable from the computer. The same techniques apply to flash media like Compact Flash, MMC, SD Card, USB memory keys, etc, many of which have the unreliable FAT32 file system on them by default and are very prone to being rendered unreadable by minor file system corruption.

You should not attempt these tips unless you can accept the small risk that you might actually make the problem worse. Most importantly, do not attempt any of these steps if you suspect your hard drive has a serious mechanical fault - say it stopped working after being dropped and now makes sqeaky scratchy noises, it was immersed, it was burned, etc. Attempting to power on a hard drive that's damaged like that will make later recovery harder, so you should take drives with serious physical damage straight to DR pros.

For the other 99% of cases, read on.