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Failing to scan when an ink cartridge is empty is the normal behavior of most ink-jet printers. They are printers first and the manufacturers put in a lock to prevent air bubbles or dried blobs of ink stuck in the print system.
Replace the empty ink cartridge and then scan your document. To avoid the issue in the future, get a stand-alone scanner.
Unfortunately, all-in-one printers are printers/copiers. The scan to a computer function is a secondary function and the unit has interlocks to keep it from being damaged when the ink is out. There is a way to print with only one ink cartridge in place but this only allows print jobs from the computer. The copy and scan functions are locked. For details, see http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01673672&tmp_task=solveCategory&cc=us&dlc=en&lc=en&product=3742086#N2374 . See the section on Ink Level Indicator (!) and the bottom notch of the indicator blink fast and the Workaround: Print in ink-backup mode
You need a stand-alone scanner if you routinely want to scan to your computer without a printer ink level OK status report.
This is a common problem encountered by printer users and is in fact not a bug but considered a feature by manufacturers who build this function into printers to encourage consumers to buy their expensive ink cartridges. To fix this problem I would buy a 3rd party ink cartridge for use when your ink cartridge is empty. This way you can use your scanner when out of ink (be careful printing with 3rd party ink cartridges, many have mangled or destroyed their printers by using non OEM ink).
Some brands of fax machines and all-in-one printer/scanner/fax/copiers need the ink cartridge to be present and have some ink in it to perform functions which don't actually require ink.
My dad bought a Brother all-in-one, and he is unable to scan or send faxes unless he replaces an empty ink cartridge first. If you have a Brother fax machine, I'd suggest returning it and buying a different brand. They waste ink on unnecessary cleaning procedures and force you to buy more for stuff that doesn't need ink.
YES, it will scan without the printer cartridges. I picked up a Canon MP160 for free at a yard sale this morning. It didn't come with either ink cartridge. When I powered it up, both the cartridge lights came on but it didn't display any error codes. I installed the Mac OS X scanner driver, and MP Navigator. I then used it to scan a 99-page text document into a PDF file. I have not installed the Mac OS X printer driver for it.
I cannot help about the Printing problem, because it seems it needs to have all the catridges with some ink to Print.But i can help you about the scan problem.I was having the same issue as you and gave up trying to print, but when i needed to scan i realized the printer didnt let me touch any of the buttons, repeating the same message "change catridge".If you use the EPSON SCAN application that comes with the printer, it lets you scan directly from the PC. It takes longer, dont know why, but at least it scans.I hope it helps.