Can’t Add a Printer? Reset the Mac Printing System



Many printers from Epson, Canon and Hewlett-Packard come with instructions to NOT install the software that comes with them on CDs. Rather, the instructions say, get the software from Apple, and indeed that is excellent advice. Apple long ago tired of waiting for printer manufacturers to provide software compatible with each new version of OS X, so they started doing it themselves, and on the whole this has been a good thing for Mac users.

In general, the process is

  1. Connect printer to Mac with USB cable (or wirelessly)
  2. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then click on Print & Scan
  3. Click the “+” at bottom left of the Print & Scan preference pane
  4. Let Apple deliver the software over the internet (totally automatically)

It almost always works. But sometimes it just won’t. Usually the failure happens when getting the software from Apple: everything seems to be proceeding apace when all of a sudden, during the download, a message pops up saying something about the software not being available, and to “Please try again later.” Try later all you want, but once you see that message it is NEVER going to work. Never, that is, unless you know what to do next.

The thing to do next is to “reset the printing system.” That gives you a fresh start, and in my experience, resetting the printing system ALWAYS solves the problem, allowing the printer software to be downloaded successfully from Apple. I’ve never seen it not work. It’s easy:

  1. Go to the Print & Scan preference pane (Apple menu/System Preferences)
  2. Control-click in the list of printers (outlined in red below)
  3. Choose “Reset printing system…”
Resetting the Printing System in the Print & Scan Mac preference pane
Resetting the Printing System in the Print & Scan Mac preference pane

The trouble is, resetting the printing system wipes out all of the printers in your Print & Scan Preference Pane. You can see what mine looked like before I Control-clicked in the printer list area (three printers).

Here’s what it looked like after. No printers. But, that’s what “reset” means.

After resetting the Printing System in the Print & Scan Mac preference pane-- no printers!
No printers, after resetting the Mac’s printing system

After you’ve reset printing (and wiped out all of your printers) you can click that little “+” (the one in the lower left corner of the window, next to the “-“, not the one in the middle of the screen) and add your printer, the one you couldn’t add a few minutes ago. It’s going to work this time. You can also go back and click the “+” to add your other printers. It’s easier than it sounds and will take just a few minutes per printer. No one likes making extra work for himself but sometimes it’s the only way, and like I said before, in my experience resetting the printing system always works. So, as a last resort, now you know what to do.



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