What are Cricut Cartridges? And How to Use Them

In a crafty time, not so long ago, Cricut developed a machine so exceptional that it took the DIY world by storm. Now, thousands of DIYers across the nation could purchase a device specifically for their needs, start an online business, and launch their crafting studio at a more affordable price point. An included feature of these first Cricut machines: Cricut cartridges. 

These cartridges opened up incredible design options for users, but, as with everything, all good things must come to an end. As of 2017, Cricut stopped manufacturing cartridges entirely. Those who still have an older model, like the original cutter, the Expression series, or select Explore models, can still use cartridges the good old-fashioned way. And if you somehow inherited a giant box of cartridges and only have a newer model, it’s okay. This Cricut article will tell you how to use them with older and newer machines.

What are Cricut Cartridges?

Unlike printer cartridges, these cartridges don’t contain ink. Cricut Cartridges are small, plastic data cartridges that contain themed sets of fonts and images. Once loaded into the machine, you can link them with your Cricut ID online and gain access to whatever theme you purchase. 

Unfortunately, users found them limiting and ultimately expensive, as much of a great resource as they were (and are). Whenever you wanted a new font or set of images, you’d have to pay for them. Now, they probably wouldn’t be as expensive since they’re almost obsolete to newer machines. But back then, $20 a pop for however many you needed to expand your design options was an expense. Still, this was the way to go for those DIYers who didn’t necessarily want to create their own design.

And they had plenty to choose from.

Cricut made over 350 cartridges, and once loaded into Craft Room (the design software before the cloud-based Cricut Design Space), you could mix-and-match themes. Themes varied from Disney, Anna Griffin designs, props for photo booths, and more.

Why Did Cricut Stop Making Cartridges?

Cricut stopped making its cartridges for one very important reason: cloud technology. There was no manufacturer recall; public dislike of the cartridges didn’t lead to the decision–it was strictly technology.

Every newer Cricut machine model (new generation machines) comes complete with Cricut Design Space, a cloud-based software with preloaded fonts, images, and themes. The basic Design Space app (which is available for iPhone and Android) is free. If you want more than what the basic app includes, instead of having to purchase cartridge upon cartridge, you can pay a small fee for an expanded set of templates and more.

Newer generation machines also include Bluetooth technology, USB charging ports, and USB device storage.

Using Your Cricut Cartridges

Okay, but what about the cartridges? Don’t judge–some of us aren’t ready to part with their older generation machine or received one of them as a hand-me-down. Or, if you’re like a few of my Cricut user friends, you just never needed to use your cartridges until now. 

Preparing Your Machine

Before you start linking your Cricut cartridges, there are a few things you should understand about the process:

  1. You cannot link the cartridges using the Cricut app. Though you are using Cricut Design Space, the cartridge does not have wireless capabilities. You must go to cricut.com/design and log in to Cricut Design Space with your Cricut ID.
  2. To complete the process, you’ll need to connect your Cricut machine to a laptop or desktop computer. This process won’t work with smartphones or tablets.
  3. Make sure your Cricut machine is turned on and hooked up to your computer. If your desktop computer isn’t recognizing the cartridges, this should be your first troubleshooting strategy. Make sure it’s on and plugged in!
  4. You cannot link a cartridge to multiple accounts, only one. And once it’s linked, there’s no way to undo it. 

Once you’re sure you have the right ID, you can go ahead and link your cartridge.

Linking the Cartridge

When you link your cartridges, you are essentially turning them from physical to digital ones. Your cartridges should also have automatically transferred from Cricut Craft Room to Design Space.

Important: don’t insert your cartridge first. Wait for the prompt.

  1. Once again, head over to cricut.com/design and log in with your ID credentials.
  2. You’ll see a drop-down menu on your screen (look for three horizontal bars). On this menu, you’ll see “Link Cartridges.” Select that option.
  3. On the screen that follows, choose your machine from the drop-down. You can select any machine (as almost all of them will take cartridges) from the Cricut Personal, Cake cutter, and Explore Air 2.
  4. A window in Cricut Design Space will prompt you to insert your Cricut cartridge.
    • In the cartridge slot on the top left of the machine, insert the cartridge. You can typically find it above the button that says “Open.”
  5. Wait a few seconds for the design program to detect the cartridge. A button will light up green to indicate that the computer has detected a cartridge successfully.
  6. Click the button to link the cartridge.

You have the option to keep linking cartridges or stop at one.

Accessing Your Cartridges

Once you’ve linked your cartridges, Cricut Design Space will file the data away nicely for you.

  1. Open a blank canvas.
  2. Access images by clicking “Images.”
  3. Select “Cartridges.”
  4. In the filter settings, go to “My Cartridges.” Here, you’ll see all of the cartridges you’ve linked (free and purchased) to your account.

What to Do With Used Cartridges?

Once you’ve linked your cartridges, you don’t need the physical cartridge anymore.

Troubleshooting Cartridges

If our technology worked the way we wanted it to, there’d be no need to troubleshoot a thing. This is, unfortunately, not the case. There may be instances when linking a cartridge proves to be more of a challenge than necessary. Here are some Cricut-approved troubleshooting steps you can try to fix your problem.

Make Sure the Cricut is On and Plugged In

Sometimes we can’t link our cartridges for a very basic reason: you aren’t plugged in, and your machine isn’t turned on. Be sure to do these things before you start the linking process.

Your Cartridge is Already Linked

If you can’t seem to link one of your cartridges, despite following all the proper steps, you may have registered it already.

  1. Check by looking for the cartridge in your “My Cartridges” list.
  2. If you registered your cartridge using a Gypsy machine, you can transfer it between personal accounts. Contact a Cricut customer care representative.
  3. Your cartridge may already be linked to a different Cricut account. Even if you own both accounts, you cannot transfer the cartridge. Copyright laws prohibit the sharing of the font and image license.

If you didn’t link your cartridge and are still having problems, contact Member Care. Be sure to have proof of purchase ready (a receipt or online confirmation).

Clear Browser History

Sometimes, to get the cartridges to work, all you need to do is clear your browser history, cookies, and cache. This will open up space on your browser and allow things to run smoothly.

Update Firmware

Another reason your browser may not be detecting your cartridge is that your firmware needs to be updated. Typically, Cricut users will receive update notifications for firmware. So if you’ve been ignoring updates, go back and go through the update process.

Cartridge Port Isn’t Working

If you’ve recently linked a cartridge, within a session, for instance, then you can be sure that your cartridge port isn’t working. However, if you haven’t been able to link a cartridge at all, your cartridge port may not be working. Call Member Care, and they can assist you through the process.

Ultimately, if none of these solutions work for you, Member Care is an invaluable resource. 

What is a Gypsy Machine?

You may have noticed that we mentioned transferring cartridges between the Gypsy machine and your usual Cricut machines. The Cricut Gypsy is a portable personal design device that can store cartridge information. It is compatible with several of the older generation Cricut machines (Personal, Create, Expression, Cake, Cake Mini, Expression 2).

The Gypsy comes with two electronic cartridges, to begin with: Gypsy Fonts and Gypsy Wanderings. To load your cartridges into the Gypsy, you’ll need to link them to the machine. 

  1. Keep the Gypsy machine off. Use the cable that comes with the device to connect the cartridge to the Gypsy.
  2. Next, turn on the machine.
  3. After you turn on the Gypsy, go to Application Launcher > Cricut App > Link Cartridge. You’ll receive a confirmation message if the link is successful.

Like other Cricut machines, you can only link a cartridge to one Gypsy/Cricut account.

Wrapping Up

Though Cricut cartridges are no longer in production, they are certainly not useless. Sure, there are currently more efficient ways to load fonts and images. But, if you only have older tech, you don’t have to worry about not being able to use anything you may have already purchased.

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