How to fix Mac printing problems

Tame troublesome printers and get better results

Fix Mac printing problems

Printers can be frustrating devices.

If you're having issues with printing from your Mac, you're in the right place.

We've gathered together the most common printing issues experienced on Macs and attempted to solve them. Let's start the questions...

"Why can't my Mac detect my printer at all?"

Have you installed the driver software that came in the box? Also check the manufacturer's site and run Software Update to check for newer versions of the drivers.

If it's a wireless printer you've got, it needs to be connected to the same network as your Mac. Use the printer's control panel to make sure Wi-Fi is enabled and it's hooked up to the correct network – you can often print a network diagnostics page to get all the details at a glance.

"Why am I getting these lines across my printouts?"

Blocked inkjet print heads are the likely culprit, so use the utility software that came with your printer to run the nozzle cleaning tasks (you'll find the software in your Applications or Utilities folder). It may take several goes, but run the nozzle clean until the test page prints out perfectly.

While you're in the printer utility, it may be worth checking the print head alignment, which can also have an impact on your printouts. Blocked nozzles are caused by ink drying out in the pipes when the printer isn't being used, so try to use your printer at least once a week to prevent blockages. Faint areas suggest your ink or toner is running out – time to buy some more.

"Is it possible to check ink or toner levels on my Mac?"

"Am I able to print from my iPhone or iPad?"


While AirPrint currently only works with a limited range of printers, there's a utility called Printopia that enables you to print to any printer connected up to your Mac.

While we expect AirPrint to be opened up to more printers over time, using Printopia is a really easy way to run off hard copies from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch in the interim. And at under £7, it won't break the bank.

How to print troublesome docs

We'll assume your printer's on, not flashing any error lights, there's paper in it and you're not out of ink or toner – but you'd checked that already, hadn't you?

Have any error messages appeared in this window? If so, they should give you a clue as to what's not right. Type the exact message into a Google search to look for answers.

If there are print jobs waiting that won't roll off the press, delete the lot and try printing again. The problem could be linked to an individual file or app, so try printing a different document from a different app.

Quick tip

If you need to reinstall your printer drivers but you've lost the disc that came with it and can't find them online, Apple includes common ones with OS X. Pop in your Mac OS X DVD, run the Optional Installs app and choose the relevant drivers under Printer Support.


First published in MacFormat Issue 234

Liked this? Then check out Mac OS X 10.7 Lion features explained

Sign up for TechRadar's free Week in Tech newsletter
Get the hottest tech stories of the week, plus the most popular reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at

Follow TechRadar on Twitter * Find us on Facebook