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How-To: Resurrect Your AppleTalk Printer in Snow Leopard

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Did Snow Leopard (s aapl) 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 (s goog) 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.

51 Responses to “How-To: Resurrect Your AppleTalk Printer in Snow Leopard”

  1. I too just got my LaserWriter 16/600 to work in Snow Leopard. First I assigned a static IP address for the printer in my router. Then went into Apple Printer Utility via OS Tiger, and set the IP address to that address. Wows perfect! Even works via wifi from my MBP. Woohoo. This adds a few more years to the life of that great printer.

    Thanks for everyone’s help here.

  2. Having great difficulty gettting AppleWriter 16/600 to work with my Mac Mini… although I used it as parallel toUSB when connected to a PC netbook it functioned great in HP Laserjet emulation(since that ios mostly what is is) How can I connect it to my Apple Time Capsule/router and use it as a network printer? HOW? I tried a IEEE parallel to USB cable when connecting to the Mac Mini but printer never shows up in list and doesn’t print as with netbook PC in HP mode? Stumped… any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Bob-

      Everything that I have read on the subject indicates that it simply won’t work when connected to a Time Capsule/Sase Station as a network printer. I tried it myself and No Go.

      One possible problem is that your parallel-to-USB isn’t compatible for some reason. Some people try it with another brand of cable and it works.

      Assuming that you have read all the above posts, you might try the Apple forum or Googling your question. An answer might turn up on another forum.

      Good luck!

  3. I love that no one else seems to have a problem with the fact that Apple ceased supporting Appletalk just as arbitrarily as they stopped using Firewire in the new models of their computers. Combine this with their ever-changing monitor ports, the dropping of UFS as an option in Disk Utility, and abandoning PowerPC and now their XServes…and you have a company far too fickle to rely on for a serious production environment.

    I’ve moved my network off of OS X Server for good. And this month I’ll be modifying the network settings of all the client machines and printers. Sigh.

    • pcs have floppies, too, for you…!

      anyway, giving it an ip address from a c:a year 2000 macos 9.2 powerbook, i was able to connect my trusted year 1997 lw 12/640 (now with its whopping third cartridge) over the network in the house and print from that machine (using appletalk), one powerbook g4 running leopard and two macbook pros running snow leopard…still trying to get the thinkpad running windows xp in the kitchen to print to it, though

      in short, thanks for this excellent write-up!

  4. Update: Over the weekend my LaserWriter 360 quit printing under Snow Leopard using the Belkin cable. It had been acting dicey for a week or two, often printing a blank first page with some text on the top that was unrelated to what was in the file.

    I have no idea why it quit printing and no combination of printer driver/DIP switch setting would resurrect the printer…

    Fortunately, just as I was beginning to think that I would have to throw in the towel I did one more Google search and discovered this thread on the Apple forum:

    So I downloaded USBTB ( and now my LaserWriter is back with the living!