What’s the Difference between a Toner and a Drum?

If you use a laser printer, you probably have already heard the name of these two accessories: drum and toner.
But do you know their roles and differences? I’ve changed enough of them in my life to explain the differences for you.

As a whole, the toner contains the ink supply to a laser printer. It should be replaced frequently (every 1,000 to 8,000 pages depending on its capacity). The drum is the central mechanism, and should be replaced less often (every 20,000 to 100,000 pages).

In the following of this article, I will tell you how each part works and their differences.

The toner


Toner is the substance used in a photocopier or laser printer that forms the printed image or text on paper


So the toner is the equivalent of an ink cartridge on the inkjet printers that you probably know better
The difference is that the ink is stored under a powder form

To give you an idea, here is what it looks like:

How it works

The role of the toner in a laser printer is similar to an ink cartridge in an inkjet printer : the goal is to provide ink for the printing
If the toner is empty, you can’t print. So the toner is mandatory to make the printer work

I will show you a video explaining about the technical operation at the end of this post
It’s a bit complicated to explain in writing, it would be clearer with an animation
For now, just remember that the toner is the ink supply of your printer


The lifetime of a toner depends on the printer
On entry level printers, made for low print volumes, a toner can generally print around one thousand pages
On bigger printers, the capacity could increase a lot (sometimes over 10,000 pages)

Buying guide

The price will depend on two main factors:

  • The ink quantity inside the toner: the more the printing capacity is high, the more expensive the toner will be
  • The toner brand: like for ink cartridges, toners from the same brand are recommended, but they are generally much more expensive than compatible toners

Know that it’s not mandatory to buy your toners to a printer specialist or the printer seller
As often, will find the best prices online, on Amazon for example, with unbeatable delivery times

Choose the site you prefer, but don’t forget to compare :

  • Toners from the printer brand (HP, Brother, etc.) to the compatibles models to save money
  • Toners with a larger capacity: they are more expensive but the price per page is often better

Here is the direct link to the Amazon category if you need it
Once on the page, type your printer reference and compare the results

The drum


I find only very technical definitions, so I will try to explain to you the drum concept clearly
In any case, the following video will probably help you to understand everything

The drum is a cylinder that rotates at the same speed as the page print
This cylinder is covered with a photosensitive layer, on which the laser printer will burn the text to print
The toner will dispense ink only on those points that have been hit by the laser
While touching the paper, the ink will be placed at the correct place to print exactly the requested page

Here is what a drum looks like:

The toner will clip on the drum, and the entire block can then be inserted again in the printer
So the cylinder you can see on the picture, will touch the toner ink

How it works

Here is a video to explain to you how a laser printer really works
I like this video because it’s simple and obvious:


You can usually count the drum lifetime in tens of thousands of pages
On entry-level printers, it will be close to 10,000
But for bigger printers you’ll probably find some around 100,000

The printing is still possible with a drum over the recommended limit, you need to read the printer warning messages to change it at the right time

Buying guide

Like for toners, think to do your orders online (same link on Amazon)
Also, think to compatible kits, which are less expensive than official drums from the printer manufacturer

About the printing quality it depends on printers and kits you’ll find
The best way to know which one to use is to try a compatible kit once, and see if you notice a difference
If not, perfect, you will save a lot of money at each order!

Differences between a toner and a drum


The goal of the toner is to provide the ink needed to print your pages, it’s the ink supply
The drum est also an important part of a laser printer, it does the link between the toner and the paper


Toners and drums lifetime depend on the printers
Generally, you can print thousands of pages with a toner, and dozens of thousands for the drum


The price depends on the printers and manufacturers
It can also vary between the official brand and a compatible one
It’s not possible to make a generality about the price

But for example a white and black toner for the Brother MFC-8510 is available for $120, and a compatible equivalent for about half the price

Related Questions

Can I recharge the toner ink myself in a laser toner? I never tried, but I found companies doing this, so it’s probably possible.

What the difference for a color printer? It works the same, but there are 4 toners (one for each color: black, yellow, cyan, magenta). Each toner uses a different cylinder on the drum. Here is a picture of drum for a color printer:


That’s it, you know everything about the roles of toner and drum in your laser printer
You also learned a few tips for saving money on future purchases

Similar Posts