Printing on a Mac usually just works. But sometimes it doesn't. Here's how to navigate connecting printers and troubleshooting Mac printing failures.
When needing to install a new local printer, the process is typically as simple as connecting the printer's USB cable to the Mac, responding to the OS X Software Update window that appears asking whether you wish to download and install the corresponding printer's software by clicking the Install button. In my tests and field experience, the local printer then appears within the Printers & Scanners Systems Preferences.
Adding a wireless or network printer is typically as easy as opening the Printers & Scanners within Systems Preferences and clicking the + icon that appears in the bottom left corner of the screen. OS X's Bonjour service leverages multicast DNS service records to locate and identify network printers, which display within the Add printers window. Selecting a displayed printer and clicking the Add button subsequently installs the printer software and makes that printer available to the Mac.
Before troubleshooting further, it might be a good idea to perform a quick double-check for a common error that's easily overlooked. Occasionally the wrong printer is set as the default. Ensure you're not actually sending the print job automatically to an incorrect printer by opening System Preferences, clicking Printers & Scanners, and ensuring the printer selected within the Default printer drop-down menu is the device you intended to use.
After confirming the proper printer is selected, Apple's recommendation when troubleshooting a Mac that doesn't see your printer or says the printer is unavailable, is to first check the printer to ensure the printer is ready to print, possesses paper and proper supplies, and possesses no error messages. Next, Apple recommends disconnecting the printer's USB cable, if the printer is connected via USB, and reconnecting the cable. After confirming the printer is connected via WiFi, if printing wirelessly, Apple recommends proceeding to open the item you need to print and clicking Print from the File menu.
Of course, sometimes that's the problem, the print job won't print successfully. Assuming there are no physical issues with the printer itself, Mac users can open Printers & Scanners from within System Preferences to remove the problematic printer, by clicking the - icon, and installing the printer fresh.
If those steps don't resolve the printing failure, Apple recommends resetting the printing system by opening System Preferences, selecting Printers & Scanners and pressing the Control button while clicking the list of devices that appear in the left pane. Click Reset printing system that appears within the resulting pop-up menu.
Last, Mac users can rename the printers library in an attempt to reset the Mac's printer configuration. To rename the folder, users should open Finder, select Go from the File menu, select Go to Folder, type /Library within the box that appears and click the Go button. Next, highlight the Printers folder (don't double-click it) and rename the folder, such as Printers-old. Proceeding to repeat the steps outlined above necessary to add a printer then provide a clean-slate fresh printer install.
- Office for iPad gains built-in printing capabilities (TechRepublic)
- Turn any printer into an AirPrint-capable printer with Printopia (TechRepublic)
- Lantronix: Wireless printing that actually works (TechRepublic)
- Pro tip: Print from your iPad (TechRepublic)
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.