Mac OS X Mountain Lion: unable to add printers

Okay. This one took a long time to solve.

At some random point after upgrading from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion was unable to add new printers.

As I don’t really add new printers on a daily base, I have no idea when it actually happened or what might have caused it.

  • If I deleted an existing printer, and tried to readd it, it would throw errors at me.
  • Plugging in (known) printers would pop up the dialog “click here to install/download/search for the printer driver”, even though it was installed. Clicking install would give me an error no drivers could be found.
  • Dymo Labelwriter shizzle stopped working.
  • The driver list (system pref > printers > add > select printer software) would be empty, while on another Mac it was fully populated.
  • Mac would never find the printer driver for the printer, requiring manual intervention (but, yea, as the list was empty, there wasn’t much to select).

This is, as you might guess, quite annoying. Unable to print any new labels or print out any papers (and invoices ! -.-) ) I had to use another Mac just for printing.

Things I tried:

  • Thinking it was Dymo driver problem fucking up my ML: reinstall a million different version numbers: didn’t help
  • Thinking it was Dymo driver problem: remove Dymo from /Library/Printers and reinstall: didn’t help
  • Manually select the driver when trying to add a printer (Dymo printer in my case, under /Library/Printers/Dymo/bla/something): didn’t work
  • Reinstall Mac OS X ML without formatting: didn’t help
  • wipe drive, reinstall and restore all my files/settings: didn’t help
  • wipe drive, reinstall mac os x ML cleaning and start fresh: 50% of the newly installed apps were crashing (for example: Chrome was unable to start on a _clean_ system), but this is probably an entire different issue. Although I was starting to think my SSD or RAM was fucked.
  • wipe drive, reinstall and restore only a part of my files: after trying a few times I found out NOT importing “other files” (which was, the first time I tried, around 20-30Gb… no idea what that was) and “personal settings” (but network settings were just fine): this caused printers to appear in my printer driver list again. Hooray!

    • Installing my network printer at home (Xerox) worked, but caused the driver list to go empty again, and printing actually never worked (at this point I was blaming Xerox for having shitty drivers, but I was wrong)
    • (after retrying a wipe-reinstall-half-import:) Installing the Dymo printer worked, but the Dymo software couldn’t recognise any printer and this caused my driver list to be empty again
  • (by now you can guess how many hours I’ve spent on this shit while I definitely had more useful things to do).
  • Tried manually downloading printers
  • and probably a lot of other stuff I would rather forget about

The solution:

After thinking whether I should just buy a new Mac and start fresh (I did actually never wipe my data since, well, probably my Powerbook), and been carrying the same settings and files over my various Macs. But I am just not ready to spend another 2500 euro on a Mac right now.

For, perhaps the first time ever, I went to ~/Library/Printers with Finder… I noticed all my printers were still in that list (even if I hadn’t any printers in system pref). And they are executable packages. They were .app packages actually.

Do note the difference between /Library and ~/Library.

Double clicking any of them resulted in a new yet very useful error message: “print service is not available”.

After a quick Google I came upon this page (which, for some reason is outdated), and that leads to this page (which doesn’t include ML and the Lion explanation I didn’t quite understand). But after some more Googling: tadaaa (#3): Ctrl-click (or right click) in the (probably non existing) list of printers and select “reset printing system”. I have no idea what this does, but suddenly driver names populated my driver list again. Hooray.

Disclaimer: I have yet to add an other printer (I don’t have any printers in my apartment, only at my parents’ house or at the office).

Things I love more and more:

Time Machine!

Posted by


, ,


9 responses to “Mac OS X Mountain Lion: unable to add printers”

  1. Alessandro DalGrande (@aledalgrande) avatar

    Thanks man, resetting the print system saved me!

  2. David avatar

    Me too! Thanks for saving me from going through all the shit you had to go through.

  3. fearsum avatar

    Thanks, very helpful

  4. avatar

    Unfortunately I have tried all this and none of it works.
    I started off by resetting my printer system to delete a defunct HP printer….and then Have bben unable to add the new now with a completely blank list. I have reset it three timesand restarted my computer after every failure.
    Any ideas anyone?

  5. Ken Todd avatar
    Ken Todd

    Thanks. My Dymo printers wouldn’t install. They were listed in the “add” section but, of course, drivers couldn’t be accessed outside of the installation program. After resetting the print system, the printers installed without a problem after uninstalling the software, unplugging the USB cable of the hub where all of the printers USB cables are plugged in and plugging the hub in when prompted during the install.

  6. Francesca Finney avatar
    Francesca Finney

    OMG! This has just made me very, very happy! Thank You for putting this on it’s saved me a huge amount of time and stress!

  7. Diana Proctor avatar

    Ken Todd, thank you, your solution was exactly what I needed.

  8. Justin avatar

    Thanks for helping me also!
    This worked like a charm.

  9. D'arcy avatar


Leave a Reply…