Only half the printer's RAM available

We have a printer (HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M476) that's kind of slow. It's connected by USB (it's not networked). It has 256 MB of RAM. I did some research and it looks like we can't increase the RAM; I think 256MB is the maximum it can have.
     Anyway, I had the printer print out a spec report and the report said only half of that 256 was available. Why is that? It doesn't have any print jobs in the que. I restarted it, still only half of that 256 is available. Anyone know how I can free up that other half of the memory? I'm guessing that's causing the slowness.
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Scott CSenior EngineerCommented:
Physically check to make sure you have as much memory as you think you do.  Also, try removing the RAM and reseating it.

Also make sure you are running the latest firmware on the printer as well.

There may be a physical reason the memory isn't showing up.  Is the printer still under warranty?  You might want to have a HP tech service it.
Gerwin Jansen, EE MVETopic Advisor Commented:
Is the memory shown exactly 128Mb? If so I suspect a defect, any warranty?

If it's not exactly 128Mb the I think this is normal, a printer uses memory for normal operation besides storing pages before printing them.

Have you got any older status pages maybe for comparison?
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:

Is it possible that you or a technician has put the memory into this machine and it didn't come standard like this?

If so and it only shows 128 Mb memory then quite possibly memory of the wrong density has been put into this machine.  For example, you may have put in a single sided 256 Mb chip where the machine requires a 256 Mb chip with double sided memory.
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVETopic Advisor Commented:
The information about the printer on the HP site mentions 256Mb as memory. No other configurations possible:
dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:
OK, that kills my idea.
time to get it serviced it seems  -probably they'll replace the ram board
While losing 128 MB may be exorbitant, I suspect there is nothing wrong with your printer.

Printers use memory for all kinds of things. To start with, it sets aside at least one full-page bitmap at the current resolution. At 300 dpi for an A4/Letter colour page, that's 4MB - for 600dpi it's 16MB. If the printer can duplex it will set aside at least 2 pages. Most printers will set aside double that, to enable them to start imaging a page while the previous one is put on the paper. As yoy can see, you can easily lose 64MB here. Various other things will take additional memory. They include input queues for every port the printer has, and it has many: USB, lpr, raw, telnet, ftp, etc. It requires these queues because jobs can alternate between all of them, and the printer has to be able to manage them all at once.

If the printer supports PostScript its Virtual Memory will also grab a large chunk of memory. PS-VM is not like VM in a PC. Instead it is just a scratch pad for all kinds of things. For example, every PS printfile starts by defining a huge number of new operators. All these need to be stored - even if they are not actually used in the print job. Other languages (PCL5, PCL6, PDF, etc, whatever the printer supports) all require memory before they can be used by the printer. Your printer supports all those languages, so they will all grab whatever memory they require. This happens even if you have no intention of using them, as the printer needs to be able to mix and match languages at any time.

The M476 is a scanner/copier as well, and it will set aside memory for at least 1 colour page at full scan resolution.

Yes, 128MB for all these functions is still a lot, but the designers probably felt that, since the printer has 256MB, and your job will never require more than half of that, why not dedicate the other half to essential functions.

As for the printer being slow, the first thing I would check is the type of document you are printing. Does it contain many images? They can (will) balloon in the print file. With PCL (but not PS), images are sent at printer resolution; and, if an image appears 10 times in a document, it will be sent 10 times (unlike the PC document which only needs to store 1 copy - or even just a link to it).

Check the size of the spool file when you feel the printer is slow; that may point to the reason for the slowness.

One last thing. Do NOT scan images at the resolution of the printer, unless you will print them at larger size. Instead, for B/W text or line art use 300 dpi, for colour use 200-300dpi. Your printer never requires more than that, no matter what its resolution is.

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I agree with hdhondt.

I have two LaserJet printers, and with both of them, the "available" memory is much less than the "total" memory.
... and I don't have trouble printing with them, albeit mostly text output, with occasional photographs or vector graphics drawings.

For the record, from power-on (before any jobs sent to devices):

LaserJet 1320n: 5.58 MB available out of 16 MB total.

LaserJet Pro 400 Colour MFP M475dn: 49.76 MB available out of 192 MB total.
john8217Author Commented:
Well said, hdhondt! Thank you.
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