MacMost Now 343: Setting Up a Printer On Your Mac

It can sometimes be tricky to set up a printer on your Mac. Make sure you are buying one that is Mac-compatible and that you have a USB cable if you need one. Also, typically ignore the CD-ROM that comes with the printer and download fresh drives from the Web site. Check reviews and support sites for for tips and information.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. In today's episode, I'm going to give you some tips on setting up a new printer with your Mac.
[musical tone]
So, some printer manufacturers are still a little bit in the dark ages when it comes to Macs. There are actually some printers out there that don't work at all on Macs. So here are some tips for buying a new printer and getting it set up on your Mac. First of all, before you buy a new printer, make sure it works with a Mac. Most do, but the ways to verify are to go to the website for that printer manufacturer, find that model, and see if they if they say it's compatible with the Mac. Also, you can check the drivers downloads there to see if they have Mac versions. Another thing I like to do is read reviews, like the ones at Amazon.com. Usually somebody has posted about whether or not it works with a Mac.
When you buy a printer, if it's a USB printer, see if it comes with a USB cable. It should come with something called an A to B USB cable. Now, a lot of printers don't come with it in it, because a lot of us, like me, have tons of these cables lying around from old printers and scanners and devices. But if you don't have one, make sure you get one. Now, don't let a store overcharge you for them, because they should only cost a few dollars. If a store wants to charge you more than $5 for an A to B cable, consider just ordering one from an online site or getting one somewhere else.
So the first piece of advice I want to give you is to completely ignore the CD that comes with your printer. Chances are, it's got Windows software on it, and if it has Mac drivers on it, it's probably outdated drivers. You don't want to actually do anything special at first. You just want to see if the printer actually works. Both Leopard and SnowLeopard have the ability to seek out these drivers, or they may already have them, so you may not have to install anything. And you don't want to clutter your hard drive with things you don't need. Go to the System Preferences, the Print and Fax preferences, and under there, see if it automatically lists the printer on the left. It may just appear automatically if it's a USB device that SnowLeopard or Leopard has the drivers for. If it doesn't appear, use the plus button here at the bottom to add a new printer. Under Default, it will seek out new printers that are connected directly to the computer, or ones that perhaps it can see on the network.
If it's a network printer, I find that first you have to have to set up the printer on your network, which is usually done on the printer itself. After you think you've got that right, then you want to go and check for the printer, and maybe give it a few minutes. I noticed on a printer I recently installed, it took several minutes for it to automatically appear on the network, and from that point on I didn't have any trouble.
So what to do if the printer doesn't show up? Well, then you probably need to download something. Again, ignore the CD and try to get the latest thing from the website. For instance, here's the HP website, and you can see a link for Support and Drivers right there at the top of the main page. If you click on that, it will take you through the steps to download drivers for your printer. Usually it involves searching for the product by the number. Here's the Canon website for doing the same thing. You have to locate your area first, and then once you're in there, you can look for the downloads section, under consumer, and you can select different categories and different things to get to your printer and then look for the drivers. So, for instance, here I am at a specific printer page on the Canon website. Sometimes it takes some detective work to find the drivers. For instance, if I look here I can find only documents listed, and some other software. But if I look closely, I can see it asks me to select my operating system. I select the Mac OS and now I have all Mac drivers and documents here. I can see several different things here including pieces of software, things for the scanning part of this multifunction printer, and I could find the printer drivers themselves as well.
Now, usually you find three different types of things under downloads on one of these sites. The first one is documentation. Sometimes you can download a PDF of the documents that come with your printer. This could be handy if you just want to throw them away with the box later on. Second thing you come up with is custom software. Lot of times this is junk you don't need. It might be things like something to print out photos or the like. You can just print directly from any of the applications in Mac OS X, you don't need anything special. The third type of thing is what you're going to need, and that's special drivers. Before installing a driver, sometimes I do a search for the name of the driver or I look at different reviews to see if anyone has put a step to step guide for installing the printer for your Mac. If you're doing a little bit of research, sometimes that can save you tons of time.
But you usually end up downloading that driver, running it (sometimes it's a disk image that will open up and then you have to run the installer inside the disk image), and then it will go through the steps of installing the drivers. It won't actually install the printer. You have to then go and do the steps I showed you first, where you add a new printer, and this time it will recognize it because it has the proper drivers to recognize that printer.
So what happens if all that doesn't work? Well, there are hundreds or even thousands of different printers that you might be able to hook up to your Mac. So you want to go through the support material they have at their websites, sometimes troubleshooting guides or frequently asked questions. You want to see if there's a form there that you could post. Now, it doesn't really do you much good to post at forums like the one at MacMost or at other Mac websites, because if you have one particular printer, it doesn't mean that other people at that website happen to have that same printer. The chances are against it. So you want to do a search on the web for your model of printer, followed by the word Mac or Mac install or Mac setup, to see if anyone has posted anywhere else about similar problems and found a solution.
If you're sure the printer works with the Mac, but you can't get it to work, you may want to consider taking your Mac and the printer into the Apple Store and asking at the Genius Bar. If you're truly frustrated, don't be afraid to return the printer. Say it just doesn't work with my computer, and get one that's more compatible.
Hope you found these tips useful. 'Til next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with Mac MacMost Now.

Comments: 2 Responses to “MacMost Now 343: Setting Up a Printer On Your Mac”

    Gary McNeil
    1/11/10 @ 10:47 am

    I think this is a very helpful video. I got my first mac about 9 months ago and all I did was hooked it up via the same usb cable I used with my Gateway and worked great with the scanner and everything.

    OhWell
    1/14/10 @ 11:32 am

    I have to tell you that this is the area where I have to always tell my Dad to not think “Windows” but to think “Mac” when he installs new devices on his Mac Mini If he buys a new printer or device, I always tell him to plug it and don’t bother with the CD. But what does he do? He does what he always did with “Windows” and installs software from the CD that came with the printer. And that tends to screw up something else on the Mac because the manufacturer didn’t know what they were doing also. Then when I come over to the house to visit, I tell him I told him to not bother with the CD and just plug in the printer and let Mac do its thing. That’s when I pull out my Macbook and prove that mac does its thing without that damn installation CD. Just plug it in. And don’t bother with the CD at all. Same thing happened with the webcam, the scanner, etc. “Dad, just plug it in.” It’s either my Dad’s old age or his old windows habits or a combination of both where my Dad repeats the same mistake over and over. Oh well, I still love him.

Comments Closed.