How to Connect Your Mac to a Printer?

Connecting your Mac to a printer allows you to print documents, photos, webpages and more right from your computer. Setting up a printer can enhance your productivity and workflow.

How to Connect Your Mac to a Printer?

Identifying Connection Types

The first step is determining what type of connection your printer uses to connect to your Mac. The three main options are:

USB Connection

Many consumer printers connect via USB cable. This is a direct wired connection that is simple to set up. You will just need a USB printer cable to connect the two devices.

Wi-Fi Connection

Wireless all-in-one printers and Wi-Fi enabled printers can connect to your Mac over Wi-Fi without any cables. This gives you more flexibility on placement but requires wireless connectivity and proper network configuration.

Network Connection

Network printers connect to your overall network and allow multiple computers to access printing services. This requires an existing wired or wireless network that your Mac and printer can both access.

Adding a USB Printer

If you have a USB printer, connecting it to your Mac just takes a few simple steps:

  1. Start by directly connecting your printer to your Mac with a USB cable, typically USB-B on the printer side and USB-A on the computer side.
  2. Turn on your printer and load any necessary paper or ink cartridges.
  3. Open System Preferences on your Mac and select Printers & Scanners.
  4. Click the + icon below the listed printers to add a new device.
  5. Your connected USB printer should automatically appear after a few moments. Select it and click Add.

You can now print directly to that printer from any application on your Mac.

Adding a Wi-Fi Printer

To add a wireless printer to your Mac over Wi-Fi:

  1. First, connect the printer to your wireless network by following the instruction manual to access the printer’s network settings menu and selecting your SSID.
  2. Open System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners on your Mac.
  3. Click the + icon to add.
  4. Instead of USB, make sure the Connection Type menu is set to Wi-Fi or Bonjour.
  5. Your wireless printer should now appear in the list if connected to the same network as your Mac. Select it and click Add.
  6. You may need to install drivers from the manufacturer’s website if available to enable full functionality.

Adding a Network Printer

If your office or home has a dedicated network printer set up, adding it entails a couple extra steps:

  1. First, ensure your Mac and the network printer are both connected and active on the same local network.
  2. Navigate to System Preferences > Printers & Scanners.
  3. Click the + button below your listed printers.
  4. Click the IP icon at the top. Any discovered network printers will now populate in the resulting list.
  5. You may also manually add an IP address or printer name/queue if known. Select your target printer and click Add.
  6. Follow any on-screen dialogues and prompts to finish adding and configure the network printer.

Now print jobs will be routed from your Mac to that network connected printer automatically for truly hands-free printing.

Key Takeaways

Following are some key points for easily connecting a Mac to a printer:

Identify Connection Type – Confirm if your printer uses USB, wireless Wi-Fi or network connectivity to establish the right setup method.

Direct Connect USB Printers – USB printers physically tether to Macs using a USB-A to USB-B cable for plug and play connectivity.

Configure Wireless Settings – Wi-Fi printers need to join your existing wireless network first before your Mac can detect and communicate with them.

Leverage Existing Networks for Network Printers – Adding network printers relies on both devices already being on the same local network.

Review your particular printer model’s documentation for any further specialized instruction for accessing advanced configuration, drivers or functionality.


Connecting a printer enhances your Mac capabilities, allows printing of documents and images directly from nearly any application and avoids needing to take portable storage to outside print centers. USB offers reliable simplicity. Wi-Fi presents more flexibility. Full network printers enable multiple computer access simultaneously. Ensure the proper software drivers are added as well for full functionality. With these key steps, getting your printer communicating with a Mac is quick and seamless.


  1. What printer connection type allows the furthest distance from my Mac?
    Network printers can have run cabling up to 100 meters to place printer stations conveniently distant from work computers.

  2. Do I need separate software drivers for each Mac connecting to my wireless printer?
    It depends on the printer, but often the software installation is needed once on the initial computer before others can simply detect and add the shared printer.

  3. My Wi-Fi printer connected but isn’t printing properly from my Mac. What do I check?
    If experiencing issues like garbled output or alignment problems, try reinstalling the manufacturer printer drivers directly from their website instead of generic macOS drivers.

  4. What cable connects a USB printer to my iMac?
    You will need a full sized, rectangular USB-B to USB-A cable. USB-A inserts into the iMac while USB-B provides the larger, more square connector that interfaces with the back of the printer.

  5. Can I access my workplace’s existing office printer from home?
    Unfortunately no. Printers relying on local networks can only be accessed by devices also currently connected on premises to that same local network. Remote access would require advanced networking configuration involving secure gateways and VPN for secure tunneling back into the intended network from outside connections.

  6. Why does my Mac not detect my USB printer?
    If your USB printer is not automatically detected in System Preferences after directly connecting with the appropriate cable, try power cycling both devices. Also confirm you have the drivers installed for that printer model if available and that the USB cable works properly when tested with other peripheral devices.

  7. How do I make a network printer on my small business network visible to employee MacBook’s?
    There are a few methods, depending on the network router capabilities and printer models involved: Set up and announce a static IP address for the printer to the network and distribute to employees; Enable network discovery protocols on the router like Bonjour; Or leverage cloud print servers to register the network printer to an Internet printing service which allows remote submissions from employee devices.

  8. Can I print wirelessly without a dedicated wireless printer model?
    Yes! Many modern Wi-Fi routers feature USB ports. By connecting a regular USB printer into these router USB ports, the router can then make that printer available over the local Wi-Fi network as if it had native wireless functionality. The router acts as the intermediary, receiving print jobs via Wi-Fi and completing them through the USB cable to the printer.

  9. My parents have an old USB printer from 5 years ago. If I get a brand new MacBook Pro, will it still likely work when connected together?
    The good news is that BOTH Apple and printer manufacturers tend to maintain impressively lengthy backwards compatibility for legacy hardware peripherals like printers. It is very probable that a classic printer will still function just fine when paired to the latest brand new Mac device. USB standards provide consistent Crosstalk even between rapidly evolving computer technologies from different release eras.

  10. I switched wireless routers and now my Wi-Fi printer won’t print! Help? 
    Unfortunately, Wi-Fi printer connections can be sensitive to network changes like SSID name changes. You will want to first reconnect the printer to your NEW wireless network manually by following the steps to connect with the new settings like refreshed SSID and passwords associated with your new networking hardware. The printer may have old credentials saved that are no longer valid, preventing communication.

  11. Can I plug in multiple printers at once via USB splitter?
    In general, no. USB ports allow connecting only a single device per port. Specialized USB hubs can SPLIT a single USB connection into multiple ports, but two printers still cannot share a single USB controller connection simultaneously. Each printer would need to connect to a respective available USB port one at a time on the Mac directly.

  12. Where should I order replacement ink cartridges for my wireless printer?
    Always check directly with the printer’s hardware manufacturer about official replacement parts like cartridges. Third party inks may underperform, clog printer heads or even leak/damage printer internals in some cases. Genuine factory cartridges guarantee proper fit, ink chemistry and branding calibration – resulting in optimal print reliability and quality during replacements.

  13. Why does my printer connection fail when waking from sleep?
    As part of the power savings process, USB and network connectivity may temporarily disconnect during sleep states. Simply waking the computer and allowing 30 seconds or so for the printers to automatically reconnect resolves this behavior for most models. If intermittent connectivity persists, you can disable sleep in Power Settings to maintain constant communication at the expense of battery runtime.
  14. Can someone remotely submit print jobs from their smartphone if I share my printer on our work network?
    Printer server technologies enabled by some enthusiast or enterprise Wi-Fi router equipment can permit securely opening up printers for remote submission to validated devices outside the physical location. This advanced configuration goes beyond typical home networking setup complexity but enables versatile productivity solutions.

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