Reset Your Mac's Printing System to Fix OS X Printer Problems

If you can't add or use a printer, try resetting the printing system.

Reset printing system screen on Mac

You may have times when something goes wrong and your printer fails to show up in the Print dialog box, no longer appears in the Printers & Scanners preference pane or shows as offline, and nothing you do brings it back to an online or idle state.

First, try the usual printer troubleshooting methods:

  • Check the printer for ink/toner and paper.
  • Cycle your printer off and on.
  • If it's a USB printer, disconnect it and then reconnect it.
  • Use Software Update or App Store (under the Apple menu) or visit the printer manufacturer's website to see if there are any newer versions of your printer's software or drivers available.
  • Delete and reinstall the printer in the Printers & Scanners preference pane.

If you're still having problems, it may be time to clear out all of the printer's system components, files, caches, preferences, and other odds and ends and start over.

MacOS includes an easy way to restore its printer system to a default state, just the way it was when you first turned on your computer. In many cases, sweeping out all of the aging printer files and queues may be just what you need to successfully install or reinstall a reliable printer system on your Mac.

These instructions apply to computers running macOS Mavericks (10.9) and later.

Before You Reset the Printing System

This reset process is the last-ditch option for troubleshooting a printer issue. It will remove and delete quite a few items. Specifically, it:

  • Deletes all printer queues and any print jobs in them.
  • Resets all printer settings to the factory defaults.
  • Removes all printer preference files.
  • Resets the permissions on your Mac's /tmp directory.
  • Removes any printers or scanners you've added to the Printers & Scanners preference pane.

How to Reset Your Mac's Printer System

You reset the printer system on your Mac through the System Preferences section. Here's what to do.

  1. Launch System Preferences by selecting it from the Apple menu or clicking its icon in the Dock.

    System Preferences under a Mac's Apple Menu
  2. Select the Printers & Scanners preference pane.

    Printers & Scanners in a Mac's System Preferences
  3. In the Printers & Scanners preference pane, place your cursor in an empty area of the printer list sidebar, and then right-click and select Reset Printing System from the pop-up menu.

    Reset Printing System option on a Mac
  4. The system will ask if you want to reset the printing system. Click the Reset button to continue. If the system asks for your administrator password, type it, and then click OK.

What to Do After You Reset the Printer System

Once the printing system is reset, you'll need to add back any printers, fax machines, or scanners that you want to use. The basic process is to click the Add (+) button in the printer preference pane, and then follow the onscreen instructions.

You can find more detailed instructions for installing printers in:

The two guides listed above were written for OS X Mavericks, but they should work for OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, or later.

To install printers in versions of OS X earlier than Lion, you may need the printer drivers or installation apps provided by the printer manufacturer.