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 via Apple's wireless AirPrint technology or by a USB cable. AirPrint-compatible printers connect automatically to your 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 connects to the Mac automatically too, although it requires a couple of extra steps.

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

Adding an AirPrint-Compatible Printer to a Mac

No setup is required if an AirPrint-compatible printer is already 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 already connected to your Mac via AirPrint, turn on the printer, open a document and choose File > Print from the menu bar. If the printer's name appears next to Printer, you don't need to do any more work.

How to Add the Printer to a Mac

If your printer's name doesn't appear next to Printer, you need to know how to add a 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 and click Add.

The Add Printer screen on a Mac

The Mac's 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, and 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installation guide, but if you are used to installing drivers for peripherals, you may get carried away and install out-of-date drivers by mistake.

Adding 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 your Mac. 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 may not 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 your 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 your printer's 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, you may need to install the printer manually. The Mac detects any compatible printer you connect to it, but you may have to add it in the Printers & Scanners System Preferences, particularly if the printer is old.