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Overhead view of a Brother TN-243CMYK toner pack on a table alongside printed documents

What is the difference between a toner cartridge and a drum?

If you’ve recently invested in a laser printer for your business or home office, you should be aware you need to keep your device topped up with genuine supplies, including toner cartridges and drum units.

These two consumables are essential for the daily running and healthy functioning of your printer, and both are going to need replacing at some point in time. But despite common misconceptions, these two supplies are not one and the same nor are they necessarily sold together. They may well not need replacing at the same time either, so it makes sense to understand what these components do and how to tell if it’s time to replace them.

What is a toner drum?

Found within any laser printer, a toner drum is a component which transfers the toner powder stored within the cartridge onto the paper. It comes in the form of an electrically-charged cylinder. The printer will take toner powder from the cartridges and apply it on to the drum unit’s roller. From there, the toner will be fused from the surface of the roller to the paper, through the use of heat and pressure.

How is a drum different from a toner cartridge?

Unlike the drum which performs the action of applying toner to paper, a toner cartridge is simply a replaceable component where the powder material is stored. As a result, these two components rely one each other to get the job done. A cartridge supplies the drum with toner, and the drum uses the toner to produce a printout.

Can you buy a drum and toner together and is it cheaper?

Whether the toner drum and cartridge come together will depend on the type of printer you own, and in particular, the manufacturer who has produced it.

Some printer manufacturers opt to combine cartridges and drums into a single unit, which is then replaced whenever necessary as one component. Meanwhile, other printers require cartridges and drums that replace separately.

At Brother, our devices use separate drum and toner cartridge components which you will need to purchase individually. We do things this way for good reason.

Whereas it might seem easier and cheaper to use combined components, these can be something of a false economy. That’s because most toner cartridges will need replacing long before the drum has had full use, with it often taking three or four cartridges before the drum will need replacing. With Brother, you can replace these components individually as and when needed, as opposed to paying to replace a drum that still has some life in it each time you require a cartridge.

How can I tell if they need replacing?

In all Brother printers you are notified if they need replacing. If they have an LCD display you will be notified here, if no LCD display you get notified when you go to print. Therefore, depending on the specification of your printer, it may well send you a notification to let you know when either your toner drum or cartridges need replacing. If not, one common sign that your drum is on its way out is that you’ll notice black spots or unwelcome lines obscuring the pages that you print.

Meanwhile, if your toner cartridge needs replacing, you’ll find yourself receiving faded or incomplete prints, or the printer may not produce anything at all if the cartridge is entirely empty.

To get the best quality prints and consumables that last and last, it always makes sense to opt for Brother’s genuine supplies for your Brother printer. While there may be cheaper alternatives out there, these will not result in the same impressive yield when used in your machine, and could even cause it damage. Browse our online store and discover our leading toner drum and cartridge products today.


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