Mac 101: Connect your printer (Mac OS X v10.5 or earlier)

Learn how to set up a printer with your Mac, so that you can print.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Note: This article applies to Mac OS X v10.5.8 Leopard and earlier. For Mac OS X v10.6 Snow Leopard or later information, see this article instead. If you don't know which version of Mac OS X you have, choose About This Mac from the Apple () menu and look at the "Version" number.

Connecting your printer

Connect the printer to your computer's USB port or FireWire port, using the appropriate cable. Be sure to check the documentation that came with the printer and turn it on. Mac OS X includes built-in software for many printers that allows it to recognize a printer when you connect it to your Mac. You may not need to install printer software that was included with the printer.

The printer should appear in the printing sheet that appears when you print, as well as in Print & Fax preferences. Here is a sample:

To see if your Mac recognizes your printer:

  1. Open any file that can be printed, such as a photo, text document, or PDF.
  2. From the File menu, choose Print (or press Command-P).
  3. In the resulting Print dialog, see if your printer is in the Printer pop-up menu. If it appears, select it, and you should be ready to print.

If the printer does not appear in a Print dialog:

  1. In the Print dialog, choose Add Printer from the Printer pop-up menu; Printer Setup Utility opens.
  2. Click the Add button in the Printer List window.
  3. A list of printers that are available to you should appear in the Printer Browser window. Select your printer and click Add.

    If it still does not appear:
  4. Make sure the printer cable is firmly connected, and that the printer has power.
  5. Use Software Update to check for available updates.
  6. You may need to download and install the latest drivers from the manufacturer's website.

Connecting to a network or wireless printer

If your Mac is part of a network, you can print to shared printers that are on your network. Note: You access a network printer via Ethernet or wirelessly. It is available to others on the network, and is usually not directly connected to your Mac.

To add a networked printer to your computer's printer list

  1. In the Finder, choose Utilities from the Go menu, then double-click Printer Setup Utility to open it.
  2. Click the Add button in the Printer List window. While connected to the network, your Mac automatically displays a list of all available shared printers on your network in the Printer Browser window.
  3. Select the name of the shared printer in the Printer Browser list, then click Add.



Once your Mac recognizes your printer, you're ready to print. Anytime you want to print out something, just choose File > Print, or press Command-P.

Tips for getting quality prints

For the best quality photos, be sure to choose your paper media and your printer's highest print resolution in the Print dialog. 

  1. Open a file that can be printed. For example, open an image file in iPhoto or a PDF document in Preview.
  2. From the File menu, choose Print (or press Command-P).
  3. In the resulting dialog, make sure that the printer that you want to print to is chosen from the Printer pop-up menu (you may have more than one printer available).
  4. In the Rotate section, select the appropriate button icon for your document's or image's orientation.
  5. In the Print dialog, you should see several menus that allow you to choose various print settings, you may need to click an Options or Advanced button to see these. Be sure that you choose settings for the following. Please note that the labels and content may vary:
    • From the Media Type pop-up menu (if you have this menu), choose the type of paper you're using, such as Premium Glossy Photo Paper or Plain Paper.
    • From the Print Quality pop-up menu (if you have this menu), choose a setting. If you want a high quality photo, choose your printer's best setting. If you're printing a black and white text document, choose a lower quality setting.
    • From the Resolution pop-up menu (if you have this menu), choose your preferred printer resolution. This should correspond with the setting you chose for Print Quality.
    • Make any other changes you wish for your print job at hand.
  6. When finished, click Print to print, or Preview to see a preview of the printout before you print it.

Here are some tips to ensure that you get the best prints.

  • To get a photo-quality print, use your image editing application to set the photo's image resolution to 200 ppi (pixels per inch) or a greater resolution. Then, set your printer to its highest quality setting in the Print dialog.
  • Be sure that your document's size doesn't exceed the size of the paper in your printer—a message will appear if your file is bigger than the printable area. If you need to scale down your file, you can either resize the document in its application, or select the "Scale to Fit" checkbox in the Print dialog to have your Mac automatically make the adjustments.
  • If you are using a different type of paper other than plain paper, be sure to choose the correct media in the Print dialog. This allows the printer to dispense its inks for the media at hand. If you don't, you could end up with a smeary print.
  • If your printer doesn't seem to want to print the job at hand, cancel the job and turn off the printer. Wait at least 10 seconds, and then turn the printer on. Then try printing again.
  • If your printer isn't working as expected and is displaying blinking lights, be sure to consult its manual to find out what those indicate.

For more information

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