Did Snow Leopard leave your old AppleTalk printer out in the cold? Grab a hot cup of cocoa and warm your printer up with some of these handy tips to continue to use your classic AppleTalk printer with your state of the art operating system.
Print Via USB
Of course! Get a longer USB cable if possible, but what if your printer doesn’t have a USB port? It may have an old-style parallel port probably marked “LPT.” For those people who have not seen them, here is a picture of one of these ports. Support for laser printers with these can be spotty, so use at your own risk. Not all the USB to Parallel Port adapters work well with the Macs, so do some research beforehand or buy from a place with a generous return policy.
Print Over IP
Some printers that support AppleTalk support other protocols such as IP. Many old LaserWriter workhorses such as the 16/600 fall into this category. If you are in a large office, ask your IT staff for help, but for those in a small office environment who are their own IT person, follow along! The hardest part is figuring out how to configure the IP address of the printer.
Step one is to find an open IP. Don’t try to use DHCP settings because if the IP address changes for some reason, it will be invisible on the network. Look at the IP address on your Mac by going to System Preferences and then Network. Your IP address will be in the format XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX. If you are using an Airport router, it’s probably 10.0.1.x, other routers will most likely be 192.168.1.x or 192.168.0.x. I always make printers .150 simply because I was taught that in school. Why? Just because. Avoid numbers in the low single digits, one hundreds, or two hundreds. Other devices may use these. To be extra safe, open up terminal and ping the address you decide on just to make sure nothing else is using it.
Actually configuring the printer may be tricky. Some will let you do it in the printer’s control panel in a “Network” or “TCP/IP” sub-menu. Let Google be your guide and simply search for your printer and TCP/IP settings or address. I wish I could be more specific. Some printers will have a “Printer Utility,” but those may not work in Snow Leopard. Try and print a test page so you confirm that you set the IP address correctly. Since HPs are such popular printers, here’s a link that covers most of its printers.
Next, go to the “Print & Fax” system preference pane and click the plus icon and then “IP” icon. Which do you choose from under the “Protocol” options? First try “HP Jetdirect-socket,” even if it’s not an HP printer. If it’s an older printer, start with LPD. Newer printers might accept IPP. Just type the IP address. Even if the IP address says valid and complete, that doesn’t mean you are talking to it. Most likely, Snow Leopard won’t be able to figure out which driver it to use. You’ll need to select it manually from the “Print Using” drop down. Since the printer worked in Leopard or Tiger, you’ll most likely have the driver already. Click “Add” and then run a test print. One of those three protocols should work. If not, you have other options.
Personally, I’ve had to do this with quite a few clients lately, printing to the larger business machine class multifunction copy stations, and it works like a charm.
Use a Parallel (or USB) to Ethernet Print Server
These boxes cost around $50. In my experience, I’ve rarely seen an Ethernet-only printer. As stated earlier, they usually have a parallel port as another port option.
You’ll need to confirm the print server supports printing over TCP/IP, but I’ve found that most do. It may have a Windows-only configuration utility, so be sure to check if it supports Mac out of the box, if you don’t have access to a Windows machine. Follow the procedures in the Print Over IP option above to pick an IP address and add the printer.
Alternatively, if you have a Airport Express or Airport Extreme, hook the printer up to that if the printer supports USB.
Use a Windows Machine as a Print Server (GASP!)
If you’ve tried everything else and it just doesn’t work, or you happen to have an old PC lying around, you can make it into a print server. Install the printer normally (if there is such a way) in Windows and make sure it works. Then go to “Add Printer” and click on “Windows” and your PC and the associated shared printer should appear. If it doesn’t, additional info can be found in this Apple Support document. Not all printers can be shared over Windows, but if it worked over ethernet, it should work over Windows via Print Sharing. Setting this up is not easy nor for the faint of heart! Often times a firewall needs to be configured on the PC to allow printer sharing.
Buy a New Printer
If your primary method of printing was via AppleTalk, your printer is probably pretty old, so maybe it’s time to buy a new one. A new printer has easier-to-find consumables and is most likely more energy efficient than your old one. Sure, you’ve already got money invested in the toner for the old one, but check its specs as compared to a new printer. Look at the material and labor cost of retrofitting your old printer versus buying a new one. You might be surprised at the ultimate value of buying a newer printer.
None of these solutions are a perfect guarantee you will be able to use your old printer forever, but they might help you get life out of the old bucket of bolts for a while longer, saving you money while letting you enjoy the features of Apple’s latest and greatest cat.