Mac Unable to Communicate With Your Printer? Try These Fixes

Mac Not Communicating With Printer Feature Image

Can’t print on your Mac? Technology is evolving all the time, yet printers still never seem to work when you need them to! Macs are notorious for connection issues with printers. Here we share a few troubleshooting tricks for when your Mac is unable to communicate with your printer.

By working your way through this tutorial, you should be able to resolve your printing problems with minimal fuss.

1. Rule Out the Obvious

Let’s start by ruling out all the straightforward fixes. These steps may seem obvious, but they’re easy to overlook – especially when you’re angry!

If you’re using a cable, first check that the printer is connected to your Mac securely. Even if the connection seems secure, it doesn’t hurt to unplug the cable and reattach it. Sometimes cables can quietly work themselves loose over time, which may be enough to resolve your problem.

If everything looks secure, consider testing a different printer cable. All cables wear out over time, and it could be that the cable you’re currently using has bit the dust. If you don’t have additional cables at home, you can easily pick them up from most major retailers or order them on Amazon.

You should also check your printer for any error messages or warning lights. It’s possible that paper may have become jammed inside or that it has run out of ink. This can sometimes make it seem as though you’re hitting “Print,” and nothing’s happening.

Even if your printer seems to be functioning correctly, it’s still a good idea to turn the printer off and back on again. All technology is temperamental and can usually be fixed with a quick reboot.

Finally, we’d recommend powering your Mac down, then booting it back up to see whether this resolves your connection problems.

2. Check the Network

If you’re trying to connect over Wi-Fi, then you should check that your network is online and functioning correctly. You should also verify that your printer and Mac are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Mac Unable Print Network

If everything seems okay but macOS is still struggling to connect to the printer, then a weak or spotty connection may be to blame. Wherever possible, you should try moving the printer closer to your router to strengthen the connection. You should also try disconnecting your Mac from the network, then reconnecting it.

If you’re still experiencing a weak or intermittent connection, you can often boost a weak signal by swapping wireless for Ethernet. If you have access to an Ethernet cable, try wiring your Mac and/or printer directly to your home network to see whether this kickstarts the connection.

If you suspect the issue lies with your Wi-Fi network, then another potential workaround is to connect your printer to your Mac using a physical cable. This may not be a permanent solution, but it can be a lifesaver if you need to print an important document.

If you’ve been battling your printer for a while, you may have created a print queue. When a print queue spirals out of control, it can cause your printer to become unresponsive. This can create the impression that your Mac and your printer aren’t connected.

To check whether you’ve inadvertently created a print queue:

  1. Select the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of the screen.
  2. Navigate to “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners.”
Mac Unable Print System Preferences
  1. Choose the printer you want to inspect in the menu on the left.
Mac Unable Print Select Printer
  1. Select “Open Print Queue”
Mac Unable Print View Queue

You can now see all the jobs that are currently queued for your printer.

Mac Unable Print Queue

If this window reveals a list of tasks, click to select each item in the queue, then select its accompanying “X” icon. Alternatively, if an item is paused, this could be blocking your print queue. You should select the paused task, then select “Resume” or “Start.”

After clearing your print queue, your printer may suddenly become responsive. If it doesn’t, you may get positive results by restarting your printer manually.

4. Access macOS’s Printer Diagnostics

Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper and perform diagnostic functions. The diagnostic process will vary depending on your model of printer. However, you’ll typically find diagnostic settings in your Mac’s System Preferences. Follow the below instructions to find them.

  1. Select the Apple logo in the upper-left corner.
  2. Navigate to “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners.”
  3. Select the printer you want to troubleshoot in the menu on the left.
  4. Select the “Options & Supplies” button.
Mac Unable Print View Options Supplies

This should launch a window containing various settings. Depending on your printer, you will find your printer’s diagnostic options in an area labeled “Utility” or “Diagnostics.”

Some printers will not offer these options on your Mac, and they will show up on the printer instead. However, it’s always a good idea to check whether it’s an option on your Mac.

5. Add the Printer Manually

Modern Macs do a pretty good job of automatically identifying nearby printers. However, there is a chance that your printer isn’t being recognized by macOS, particularly if you’ve recently added the printer to your network.

To add a printer manually, navigate to “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners” and select the “+” button.

From here, you have a few options:

  • Default: this lists any printers that are physically connected to your Mac.
Mac Unable Print Default
  • IP: if the printer is connected to your network, try entering your IP address. This may be enough to get your Mac to recognize the printer in question.
Mac Unable Print Ip
  • Windows: have you set up file sharing on your Mac? This tab displays printers that are connected to Windows PCs on your network.
Mac Unable Print Windows

6. Remove and Re-Add

Is your printer listed in the “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners” section, but macOS is still struggling to connect? You may get positive results by removing the printer, then re-adding it manually.

To remove a printer:

  1. Navigate to “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners.”
  2. Select the printer in question from the menu on the left.
  3. Click the “-” button. This printer will now vanish from your list.
Mac Unable Print Remove Printer
  1. Power down the printer and disconnect if it’s connected to your Mac via a cable.
  2. To re-add the printer, power it back up. The printer may appear in “System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners” automatically. If not, click the “+” button and follow the instructions to re-add it.

7. Update Your Printer Drivers

If your printer’s drivers are out of date, you may be encountering an issue that’s already been fixed in a subsequent update.

To check whether any updates are available, launch the App Store and select “Updates.”

Mac Unable Print Updates

Check the list of available updates and install anything printer-related.

8. Restore Factory Settings

If all attempts to regain a connection have failed, you can try restoring your printer to its factory settings.

The restore and setup process will vary depending on your model of printer. You should be able to find the instructions for your printer by referring to the manufacturer’s website or the physical documentation that came with your printer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did my printer stop working after I updated macOS?

Anytime a new version of macOS becomes available, there is a chance that some computer peripherals will not be compatible right away. If you notice that the printer stopped working right after an upgrade, it’s possible that it made your Mac unable to communicate with your printer. Try visiting the printer manufacturer’s website to check compatibility. Alternatively, try downgrading to the previous version of macOS to see if that fixes the issue.

What printers work best with Mac?

If you can find printers that offer AirPrint capabilities, those are often the best options for Mac users. HP, Canon, and Lexmark all offer great printers that include AirPrint and are compatible with Macs.

How can I reset my printing system from Mac?

Apple recommends using the “printing system reset” feature if you encounter issues while printing. You can access this by going to “Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Printers & Scanners.” Press and hold Ctrl on your keyboard as you click on the list to the left. Then, select “Reset printing system” from within the menu.

Image credit: cottonbro via Pexels. All screenshots by Megan Glosson.

Megan Glosson
Megan Glosson

Megan Glosson is a freelance technology writer based in Nashville, TN. She has extensive experience working with everything from printers to smart home systems, and serves as the go-to “tech guru” for a small business that sells digital products. Megan has created thousands of articles for online publications and company blogs, including How-To Geek, Clean Email, and Review Geek. When she’s not writing, you will probably find Megan playing board games with her partner and two children or swimming in the pool. You can check out Megan’s entire portfolio on her website,

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