Adding a printer can sometimes be a tricky task; however, Apple has worked hard to make the task of adding a printer as simple as plugging one in. In this post, I’m going to run you through the basics and give some tips on connecting printers to your Macs running Lion.

In Mac OS Lion, Apple has simplified the process of adding most printers in the form of driver-less installs. Granted I’ve never had the opportunity to install every printer so it would be difficult to say that every printer installs as easily as the next, but in my experience, I’ve rarely met a modern printer that I simply couldn’t connect to my Mac and it just work. But to be safe, Apple makes available a comprehensive list of supported printer manufacturers and models available on the web. If your printer doesn’t appear in this list, it’s not an end-all. Simply head on over to your manufacturer’s website and check to see if they supply Mac drivers and instructions for your model of printer.

With Lion, the first action you want to take when installing a printer is running Software Update located under the Apple Menu. If you keep your Macs up to date this usually isn’t required; however, if you wait between updates, you’ll want to run it first and select any printer updates and install them. I suggest that you run all of the updates since some printer drivers may require the software update that is being supplied along with it.

Once you’ve updated your Mac to the latest version of software, you’re now ready to install your printer. Apple suggests that you do not use any software that ships with your printer as printers tend to sit on store shelves for months at a time and often times are opened after purchase with outdated software.

Start with the basics: set up your printer, check the paper and cables, and make sure the print cartridges are properly installed. If your printer is wireless, Apple suggests that you configure your printer to connect to the network first unless your printer’s instructions suggest otherwise. Apple has a great Kbase article providing instruction on how to connect a wireless printer.

Once you’ve set up your printer and have had an opportunity to read over the instructions, you’ll want to make sure that you are logged into an administrator account before installing. Simply plug in your printer and Mac OS will automatically install the printer and create a queue for you. If the correct drivers for the device are not installed, Mac OS will prompt you automatically to download and install the needed drivers so long as it is a printer found within the aforementioned list. In some cases the print driver may be installed under Mac OS X but the manufacturer suggest that you install your printer in a particular way.

Network printers

For networked printers or as Apple refers to them, Nearby Printers, open the System Preferences from the Apple menu and click Print & Scan. From here, click and hold the plus icon located under the left column and select any printers that appear in the list that are being shared on the network. If there are no printers in the list, there is a good chance that the printer is not configured properly to be shared over the network.

Mac OS works very well with nearby printers, and I often find that I have the best results with Windows PCs that are sharing printers over the network than almost any other configuration. In the event that you’re unable to install or see a shared printer with your current setup, consider using a PC as a print server and sharing out the printer over Samba.

If your printer doesn’t appear to be installing at all, consider installing it on another computer. There have been many times when I’ve installed a printer on a Mac only to discover that my OS had been corrupted in such a way that the Mac wouldn’t detect the printer. After installing it on a PC as well as another Mac to determine where the issue lay, I discovered that it worked exactly as expected. After reinstalling the OS and running all of my updates, I was able to connect the printer and configure it with no issues.