The Easy Way to Add a Printer to Your Mac

Plug a Printer Into Your Mac, Then Let the OS Automatically Install

The Easy Way to Add a Printer to Your Mac
The Mac supports many different makes and models of printers. If you have a fairly current printer, chances are it will be supported by the current version of OS X. If in doubt, check the manufacturer's web site to see if the printer supports your Mac. Courtesy of Canon USA

We frequently receive questions about how to connect a printer to a Mac, especially right after Apple announces new Mac models. Individuals who are getting their hands on new Macs are just as likely to be new Mac users as long-time Mac users.

But since Apple changes the printer configuration process quite often, even old hands may find the newest printer setup process a bit different from the last time they added a printer to their Mac.

This guide will cover setting up local printers that are directly connected to your Mac via cabling, usually a USB cable. Local printers also include printers you connect to an Apple AirPort router or an Apple Time Capsule, as well as printers that support AirPrint technology. Although these last printers actually connect to your network, Apple treats them as locally connected printers, so you can use the same setup process outlined here to get them up and working.

If you need instructions for setting up network connected printers other than those involving Apple AirPort or Time Capsule, we'll have instructions for advanced network printer setup available soon.

If you want to make use of a printer connected to a Windows PC, we've got you covered:

How to Set Up Printer Sharing with Windows Computers

We'll update this guide to adding printers whenever a significant change occurs in the printer setup process.

We're going to start with OS X Mavericks and the printer setup process it uses.

If you need instructions for setting up a printer in an older version of OS X, we suggest you read through this guide anyway, as the process is similar for many of the earlier versions of OS X.

OS X Mavericks and Later: What You Need to Add a Local Printer

  • First up, a printer. The Mac supports many different makes and models of printers. If you have a fairly current printer, chances are it will be supported by the current version of OS X. If in doubt, check the manufacturer's website to see if the printer supports your Mac.
  • A means of connecting the printer to your Mac. This can be a USB cable, an AirPort router, or an Apple Time Capsule.
  • The process should take about 15 minutes or less. In fact, you'll probably spend more time unpacking the printer and finding a place to put it than performing the setup process.

The Mac's printer support system is very robust. OS X comes with many third-party printer drivers, and Apple automatically includes printer driver updates in its software update service.

Because OS X includes most of the printer drivers Mac users need, don't install any drivers that may have come with the printer. Most printer manufacturers mention this in their installation guide, but many of us are so used to installing drivers for peripherals that we may get carried away and install out-of-date drivers by mistake.

Update System Software

  1. Make sure your printer has paper and ink or toner and is connected to your Mac, AirPort Router, or Time Capsule, as appropriate.
  2. Power on the printer.
  3. From the Apple menu, select Software Update.
  4. The Mac App Store will open and change to the Updates tab.
  5. OS X will check for updates for the new printer connected to your Mac. If any updates are available, the information will display in the Updates section of the Mac App Store. If there are no updates listed, it may simply mean that OS X is already up to date for that particular printer.
  1. The Updates section may list additional updates for your Mac. If you wish, you can take this opportunity to update your software as well; you can also do it at another time.
  2. Click the Update button next to the printer update item to update your printer driver, or click the Update All button to update all of the software listed in the Updates tab.
  3. Depending on the type of software that is being updated, you may need to restart your Mac. Follow the onscreen instructions to complete the software update.

Check Whether Your Printer Auto-Installed

Most printers for the Mac will auto-install any necessary software or drivers, with no input from you.

When you turn on the connected printer, you may discover that your Mac has already created the printer queue, assigned the printer a name, and made it available to any app that uses the Apple printing services, which includes nearly all apps.

You can check to see if your printer has auto-installed by simply opening an app and choosing Print from the File menu. If you see your printer listed, you're all set, unless you want to share the printer with others on your local network. If you do, take a look at:  ​Share Any Attached Printer or Fax With Other Macs on Your Network

If your printer fails to show up in an app's Print dialog box, then it's time to resort to manually installing your printer using the Printer & Scanner preference panel, which we cover in the following guide:  Manually Install a Printer on Your Mac

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