The Easy Way to Add a Printer to a Mac

Add a printer to your Mac, and macOS installs it

Local printers connect to a Mac using Apple's wireless AirPrint technology or by a USB cable. The easy way to add a printer to your Mac is to buy an AirPrint-compatible printer. AirPrint-compatible printers connect automatically to a network and require almost no setup. If the documentation or packaging of your printer says it is AirPrint compatible, it can work with your Mac.

Not all USB printers are compatible with Macs. Check the documentation to confirm your printer is compatible. If it is, it also connects to the Mac automatically, although the setup requires a couple of extra steps.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) through OS X Mavericks (10.9).

Add an AirPrint-Compatible Printer to a Mac

No setup is required if an AirPrint-compatible printer is connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Mac.

Canon Maxify MB2720 Wireless Color Inkjet Printer.
Canon, Inc.

To find out if your printer is connected to your Mac through AirPrint, turn on the printer, open a document on the Mac, and choose File > Print from the menu bar. If the printer name appears next to Printer, you don't need to do any more work.

How to Add the Printer to a Mac

If the printer name doesn't appear next to Printer, you need to add the printer to the Mac. Click the arrow in the Printer field and select Add Printer.

Print screen on a Mac.

Select your printer from the list of printers the Mac can see, then click Add.

The Add Printer screen on a Mac

The Mac printer support system is robust. If you have an AirPrint printer, you don't need to check for system updates. OS X and macOS come with many third-party printer drivers. Apple automatically includes printer driver updates in its software update service.

Because the operating system includes most of the printer drivers Mac users need, don't install any drivers that came with the printer. Most printer manufacturers mention this in their installation guide. However, if you are used to installing drivers for peripherals, you may install out-of-date drivers by mistake.

Add a USB Printer to a Mac

Compatible USB printers are almost as easy to install on a Mac as AirPrint printers.

  1. Update the software on your Mac so that the Mac has the most recent printer drivers available.

  2. Load the printer with paper and ink or toner and connect it to the Mac. Then, power on the printer.

  3. Connect the printer to the Mac using the USB cable that came with the printer.

  4. Download any new software the printer requests and install it. You won't receive this message if no new software is needed.

  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the software update. You may be instructed to restart the Mac.

  6. Test that the printer is attached using the same method used to test AirPrint printers. Open a document and select File > Print. You should see the printer name in the field next to Printer. If not, select Add Printer and select the printer from the list of available printers.

These simple steps have most printers up and running in no time, but occasionally the automatic printer installation doesn't work. If you encounter problems, install the printer manually. The Mac detects any compatible printer you connect. However, you may have to add it in the Printers & Scanners System Preferences, particularly if the printer is old.