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PC LOAD LETTER error on an HP LaserJet 4

PC LOAD LETTER is a printer error message that has entered popular culture as a technology meme referring to a confusing or inappropriate error message. "PC LOAD A4" is the equivalent message seen outside North America.

Early LaserJet models used a two-character display for all status messages. This printer is showing "00", for normal status. Paper out in the upper cassette would be indicated by alternating "11" and "UC".

The "PC LOAD LETTER" message is encountered when printing on older HP LaserJet printers such as the LaserJet II, III, and 4 series. It means that the printer is trying to print a document whose paper size is set to "letter" when no letter size paper is available, either through supply exhaustion or supply size mismatch.[1]

The error message comprises three parts. "PC" is an abbreviation for "paper cassette",[2] the tray which holds blank paper for the printer to use. These two-character codes are a legacy feature carried over from the first LaserJet printers, which could only use a two-character display for all printer status and error messages. "Load", in this context, is an instruction to refill the paper tray. "Letter" is the standard paper size (8 1⁄2 × 11 in.) used in the United States and Canada. Thus, the error is instructing the user to refill the paper tray with letter-sized paper. Variants are "PC LOAD LEGAL", meaning that the printer needs more legal size (8 1⁄2 × 14 in.) paper, and "MP LOAD [paper size]" meaning the printer needs paper in the "MP" (multi-purpose) tray, and "[paper size]" is the name of the size of paper specified for the print job.

The message confuses people for several reasons. The abbreviation "PC" may mislead because it is widely understood — especially in the context of electronic office equipment — to mean "personal computer", suggesting that the problem lies in the computer, not the printer. The word "LOAD" is also ambiguous, as it can also refer to the transfer of electronic data between disk and memory. Furthermore, the word "LETTER" is associated with paper size only in the US, Canada and some Latin American countries; A4 is the standard size used in the rest of the world. In this case, "LETTER" means data or content of a typed letter or document. Thus, users encountering this message may believe that they are being instructed to transfer their typed letter (as in correspondence) to the printer, even though they have already sent the job to the printer.

Older LaserJet printers do not automatically resize a page when the page size of a document does not match the paper that is loaded in the printer. When trying to print a document whose paper size is set to "letter" on A4-sized paper the message occurs. The error "PC LOAD A4" appears in countries using this paper size. However, as many (American-written) programs use "letter" as the default format, the confusing message is often encountered by non-American users who are unaware of the recovery procedure (empty print queue and printer buffer or press "Shift+Continue"[3] and in extreme cases, restart printer and repeat). The LaserJet 5 introduced an easy-to-find "GO" button to override the warning message.

Later LaserJet printers, with a number label on their paper trays, display a new message, "TRAY X LOAD PLAIN [paper size]" where "Tray X" refers to the number of the paper tray which is the setting for the print job, again "load" is the instruction to refill the tray, and [paper size] is still the size of paper needed for the job.

The error message's vagueness was mocked in the 1999 comedy film Office Space.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LaserJet Pro M402dn asks me to load Letter paper when I have A4". Archived Topics. Hewlett Packard. 2016-09-07. Archived from the original on 2016-09-08. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  2. ^ "One of many official Hewlett-Packard technical documents defining PC as a short-form of Paper Cassette". Archived from the original on February 3, 2009. Retrieved March 30, 2007.
  3. ^ "Instructions for solving printer errors". Archived from the original on March 12, 2007. Retrieved April 23, 2007.