How to Easily Set Up and Use Printers on a Mac

Tim Chawaga 27-03-2019

Even in the digital age, sometimes you just need to put some good old-fashioned ink on paper. Setting up your printer on a Mac is usually straightforward, but there are still some tips that you should keep in mind in case you run into trouble.


Here’s the lowdown on using printers with your Mac.

1. Install the Correct Driver

Before you check out any of these steps, make sure to stick within your budget and buy a printer that has all the features you want 8 Things to Check When Buying a New Printer Planning to buy a new printer? Here are several things you need to consider before spending any money. Read More .

But let’s assume that you’ve already run that gauntlet, and made the printer purchase that’s right for you. How do you get it working?

If you purchased your Mac after 2016, your first challenge might be installing the driver. The driver is the piece of software that tells your Mac exactly what kind of printer you have. This gives your computer access to any unique features the printer might have, such as scanning or double-sided printing.

While your printer may come with a CD containing Mac-compatible software, it is likely that you do not own a Mac with a disc drive. Fortunately, the driver software is almost certainly available on the manufacturer’s website.


If you cannot find the proper driver for whatever reason, you might be able to use what’s called the Generic PPD (Postscript Printer Description). Keep in mind that even if this works, it may prevent you from using your printer’s unique features.

2. Wired Printer Connections: Know Your (USB) ABCs

Most printers can connect to your machine via USB Type B, or Standard-B. USB Type B is closer to a square shape than Type A, which is a flatter rectangle and more readily associated with USB.

Often, a new printer will no longer include this cable, so you’ll need to purchase a USB Type B cable if you want to connect this way. While the printer’s port is USB Type-B, the port on your computer will either be USB Type A (if it’s older, or a desktop) or USB Type-C (if it’s a newer laptop). You’ll thus need a cable that has the correct end for your machine.

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Confused by all this? Check out our guide to the different types of USB cables Understand USB Cable Types and Which One to Use Why are there so many different USB cable types? Learn the differences between USB connector types and how to buy the best cable. Read More .

You may need to connect your printer before installing the printer software. Usually, after installing the software, it should connect automatically, but you can check by going to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners.

3. Connect to Your Printer Wirelessly

Most printers these days, of course, have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities. You should be able to simply turn your printer on, make sure Wi-Fi is enabled, and then set it up directly from your Mac.

It’s possible that the software that came with your printer has an auto scan feature that can automatically search your network. If not, you can still set this up manually.


Go to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners, and hit the Plus button in the bottom-left side. It should open the Add window, which will display all the printers available on your local network via Bonjour. Just select your printer here; you can name it whatever you want.

Under Choose a Driver, you can either use Auto Select to have your computer scan for compatible software, or you can choose one yourself. If your computer can’t find a compatible driver, it will try to add it with the Generic PPD.

As mentioned above, while this will give you general functionality, it may prevent you from using your printer’s unique features. It’s thus always preferable to use the driver recommended by the manufacturer. To finish up, hit Add.

Use the IP Address

If you don’t see your printer immediately, you might be able to look it with its IP address. You can usually find this by checking the network settings on your printer.


Click the IP tab in the Add window and type in the IP address. If it finds a match, it will let you fill out the rest of the settings and add it.

Mac Printers add by IP window

4. How to Use Printers and Scanners on Mac

Now that your printer is all set up, you’re ready to go! When you have something ready to print, go to File > Print or hit Cmd + P. Use them responsibly.

If you would like to customize your printer settings, this is best done in System Preferences > Printers & Scanners.

Printers and Scanners main window

When you’re in the Printers & Scanners window, you can select your printer and choose Options & Supplies to get more information or adjust settings. It’s possible to change the name under General, or adjust the settings under Options.

Depending on what your printer is able to do, you can turn on double-sided printing, choose the default paper tray, and more. Finally, under Supply Levels, you can see how much ink or toner is left in your printer’s cartridges. Some printers will even have the option to take you to the manufacturer’s website so you can order more.

Back in Printers & Scanners, at the bottom you can choose which printer to set as default, which is helpful if you use more than one. Below that you can choose your default paper size (US Letter is the most standard).

You can also choose to share a printer over you network. A common scenario for this is when your printer is connected to your machine via USB, but you have another computer on the same network that wants to use it. Essentially, this option allows your printer to utilize your Mac’s Wi-Fi to make it available on your network.

5. The Printer Queue Window

Finally, double-clicking on a printer in Printers & Scanners will open the Printer Queue window, where you can check the status of all your printer jobs. This is a good place to check if you try to print something but it’s not working. It can give you valuable information on what the hold-up is.

If you need to, you can even hit Pause to halt your printing jobs.

Print Queue screen on a Mac

Treat Yourself to an All-In-One Printer

Now you know how to get a printer working on your Mac and take advantage of its features. Remember that no matter what printer you have, you should use the software from the manufacturer. That Generic PPD won’t cut it!

Looking for a new printer? We’ve looked at the best all-in-one printers The Best All-in-One Printers for Homes and Small Offices on a Budget Printers are amazing tools that don't get much love. But when buying budget printers for a home or small office, how do you choose the best? What are the features to look for? Read More that let you scan, copy, and print. Whether you work at home or in a small office, use your newfound knowledge to take advantage of all the features an all-in-one printer offers.

Related topics: Drivers, Hardware Tips, Mac Tips, Printing.

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