Getting a Brother HL-L2350DW to work

Early in the 2000s, I got way into photography and soon after into inkjet printing so I could print my images at home. But after a few years of spending money on Cyan cartridges, I realized I wasted lots of money on ink printing simple pages. Soon I realized I could send digital prints to professional printers and instead get a small home black and white laser printer version of the giant expensive ones I used in offices.

In the mid-to-late 2000s, HP or Brother made a lot of them, and I bought what was back then a $200 printer and I swear the toner that came with it lasted for the next ten years, dutifully printing tickets to scan at events, directions to houses, and every legal document I needed to sign.

In 2019, I moved to a new house, my dad's printer died, so I decided to send him my trustworthy old Brother (with a new toner cartridge) and I would buy whatever the newest version of it was. That was the Brother HL-L2350DW.

Taking it out of the box, the first weird thing I learned is the printer ships with a very small toner cartridge that is only good for about 100 pages total. After going years between toner replacements, I was getting warnings to buy a new one a month into owning it. Also? Without an ethernet jack, I had to get the printer on WiFi in order to work, but after a month or so it was very buggy, never visible on the network, and I mostly gave up, went back to a USB cable and only printed from one computer near it (after power cycling it to wake it up each time you wanted to print).

And that's where my printer has been for the past year and a half.

Today, I complained on Twitter, people joined me in solidarity, but a few people offered tips and I did some digging and eventually got everything working again. So I might as well write everything down that helped.

Kill the Deep Sleep

The first problem with this printer was that it would quickly become unresponsive to computers on the network. But when you looked at the status panel, the lights were on but the small LCD screen would say Deep Sleep. There doesn't seem to be a way to "wake up" out of it, so I spent the next couple years power-cycling the printer to use it.

I suspect there is a wake up problem over the network or USB cable (I've tried both), but here's how you turn it off:

  1. Tap the OK button until you see GENERAL SETUP on the LCD, then hit OK
  2. Use the arrow keys until you get to ECOLOGY in the menu, hit OK
  3. Use arrow keys to get to the SLEEP TIME option, hit OK
  4. It will display a time (default of 1min), push the down arrow and BACK buttons together at the same time, then press OK
  5. You'll see a DEEP SLEEP ON message on the LCD, use the arrow key to change to OFF, then hit OK.

That's it. Your printer will still go into a sleep mode after inactivity, but it won't go into Deep Sleep and be unresponsive.

Get on WiFi

With no ethernet jack in mine, I had to add the printer to WiFi to gain access to more settings and make it available to others. It's not fun, but you should only have to do this once.

  1. Press the OK button to get the menu, use the arrow keys to go through options until you hit NETWORK, then hit OK
  2. Use arrow keys to scroll options until you get to WLAN, hit OK
  3. Use arrow keys to scroll to SETUP WIZARD, then hit OK
  4. If you get a screen saying "Enable WLAN?" scroll to YES then hit OK
  5. It will search for available WiFi SSD, select your network, then hit OK
  6. It will ask you for your NETWORK KEY and you'll type in your WiFi network password. This will take a while, since each digit needs to be selected with the up/down arrow buttons, and the options will cycle through 0-9, then a-z and so on. My network password is just a bunch of numbers so this wasn't too tedious.

When you've saved the network key, the printer will attempt to connect to your WiFi. Hope and pray it works, and if not, go back and repeat the steps. Once it's on the network it should be found by your devices that also share your network.

Find the hidden web server

The next thing you want to do is figure out the IP address your printer uses on your network. Log into whatever router you use for WiFi and look for a list of all clients somewhere. In my UniFi setup, it wasn't too hard to find the device.

This next step is optional, but if you can, set your router so it always gives that same IP address to your printer so it's something you can always get back to. In my router there's an option to set this IP to static to this device.

Load http://{your internal address}/ in a browser. In my case, pulling up gave me the following screen:

From here, you can play with lots of settings. Go through each item in the nav on the left. The only major change I made was setting Auto Power Off to OFF to ensure it would work and not be in deep sleep.

If you set your printer to use a static IP all the time, you can bookmark this URL and save it in your browser to return to if you ever have printer problems.

Update your printer's firmware to the latest

If you've gotten this far, and put your Printer on the network, and found the secret web server inside of it, you may think you're done, but there's a whole new level to this interface. See the tiny LOGIN in the upper header area? You're going to login to your printer with a default password set by Brother to gain more control of it.

The default factory password is: initpass

Type that in, and suddenly you'll get a new line of tabs across the middle showing Print, Administrator, and Network options.

Select the Administrator tab. There you can change the default password or leave it as is. Next, you'll want to choose the Firmware Update option. There you can check for new firmware, and update it with a click.

You can check the Network tab and customize options like allowing printing via AirPrint (for iOS devices) or FTP or even email into the printer. I left everything at the defaults since it allowed almost everything. You can also tweak some deeper printer functions on the Print tab like setting higher resolutions for printing.

Hopefully you're good now?

After a test print, I could instantly get to my printer from my Macs on the network. I pulled up a screenshot image in my iPhone's Files app and was able to also print via AirPrint. I jumped on my kid's gaming windows PC and could print a web page. None of this ever worked reliably before.

After a few hours, with Deep Sleep canceled, it still shows up as a printer and prints instantly when you send a file. It still sleeps but doesn't deep sleep, and although this likely uses more electricity, I won't have to power down and power up my printer in order to use it.

I'm kind of amazed I put up with this being so buggy for so long, but for now, it seems that everything is working and if you own one of these and were also in the same boat, hopefully there's a tip in here you can also use to get yours working better as well.

Quick update a couple days later: Everything is still working great, I really think the Deep Sleep function was killing my printer before. I set the auto-off back to 1hr and it still wakes up instantly. I've printed a bunch of stuff over the past couple days since I got it working and this morning I got the most encouraging error message ever.

It's working so well I ran out of paper for the first time in months AND it's working so well on the network it was able to tell my phone when I was trying to print something from it.