Old Parallel (LPT) Printers and Mac OS X

I have an HP LaserJet 5P that has been in the family for over 15 years and is still kicking butt. Today I wanted to get it to work on my Apple Macbook Pro laptops without having to fork out a ton of cash for a print server device.

I purchased a USB to Parallel adapter, which OS X naturally couldn’t use see. To get around this issue, I ran the CUPS Gutenprint installer and the usbtb installer. The base installer installs the print drivers maintained by Gutenprint and usbtb installs the core component that supports USB printers. On Leopard (OS X 10.5) the installation step that searches for printers gave me an error message about not being able to find any printers, but I just continued, and when asked whether to copy or create a new queue, I naturally opted to create a new one. On Snow Leopard (10.6) A printer called “Unknown Unknown” was found and I wasn’t prompted about copying or creating a new queue. Both installations appeared to work. However, on both flavors of OS X, I went to System Preferences... > Print & Fax and ensured the printer was named what I wanted and set to use the HP LaserJet 5P – CUPS+Gutenprint v5.2.5 driver.

Gotta’ love open source software! (If I remember correctly, Richard Stallman was trying to fix a printer driver when he created the idea of “free software”–now known as open source–because the driver was closed-source and wasn’t working.)

UPDATE: If you need to share your printer with Windows machines, this article from Apple does the trick.

31 thoughts on “Old Parallel (LPT) Printers and Mac OS X

  1. AWESOMEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I have been trying to make my 5P work on my MAC FOREVER!
    Thank you.

  2. Mr. Lotinsky: From using several other drivers, to learning that Gutenprint is formerly known as GIMP Print, to arriving to this page–thank you, thank you, thank you! My Mac Mini (Mac OS X 10.7.3 now prints to my beloved workhorse LaserJet 5P. yay!!!

    1. You’re welcome. It’s indestructible, isn’t it?! I’ve had mine for 17 years and only gone through four toner cartridges. They don’t make them like this one anymore.

      1. hi Ian
        ijust rec. a new mac sierra as a present and cant find a driver to connect to my HP laser jet 5p
        i was told HP no longer supports this wonderful machine and apple support is useless in this situation. I would appreciate it if you could walk me through downloading the software driver to my computer and then try to have Apple support team set it up.
        thanks & much appreciated

  3. Hi,

    I have Mac version 10.7.5, and I tried the same with mine printer (LaserJest 6L), and I have done everything according to your instruction hoping for a great and simple solution but it failed…. The printer is still unseen by my computer. My OS is Lion…. have you got any idea what could be wrong with it?

  4. ian,
    several years ago my laserjet 4mp stopped working after one mac os upgrade or another. i had given up on ever making it work again but as it is snugly installed on a desk shelf i’ve left in place all these years in honor of its decade of bullet-proof service. this morning i rolled up my sleeves committed to getting it working again and prepared for hours of research and testing to make it so. your mention of the parallel to usb cable reminded me i had one in the basement from a previously failed attempt so i resurrected it and got it plugged in. truth is i didn’t even need to install the supplemental software as connecting it over usb tethered it to the residual printer reference from many years ago (current os 10.7.5). i sent a test page and moments later i was looking at my printout, albeit heavily faded. thank you sir for greasing the track to get my 4mp back online. in the end it took me longer to read your instructions and the comments than it did to get me back online. you are right that they do not make them like this anymore.

    most appreciative.



  5. I was able to connect to HP LaserJet 6L as per your instructions. Thank you very much, very helpful! However, I think my printer powers off after so many minutes of non-use. Then the printer mapping is showing as off-line. I have to then disconnect the printer again and remove the mapping and redo the mapping again. Do you know if there is a solution for this?

  6. I am stuck with a HP2100 that I have been using for sometime. It is able to print a page or two and then goes offline for ever. It is driving me nots. This is on 10.10.2 sometimes cycling the printer/clearing an error on it recovers it and sometime just disconnecting/reconnecting does the trick. If GIMP is the best answer, I guess I will through a raspberryPI at running the print spooler? I hate it when commercial software doesn’t work and won’t support me.

  7. I have an HP LaserJet 4L – even older! It has worked perfectly (fast & cheap) for 20+ years until El Capitan arrived and stopped it. It is connected to an iMac via a USB/Parallel converter cable. I get one print job done and then it goes off line. To get it back I have to turn it off, count 10 and turn it on. Sometimes I have to reboot the entire system. Any ideas or is this just Apple’s way of increasing land fill? :-)

    1. I’m sorry, David, I don’t. Looking over some of the older comments, it looks like a few people are having similar issues. I wonder if the root cause is the USB port going into suspend mode after the first print job, while waiting for the second. An alternative might be a driver crash (maybe check your OS X log Console app). Both fairly wild guesses.

  8. Thank you Ian!
    I experienced the same difficulties with our “vintage” 1995 Laserjet 5P printer. I solved the issue with the CUPS Gutenprint installer and the usbtb installer, as was posted here. I already had a USB to parallel adapter. It works with OS X El Capitan on an Imac mini. The guy from the Apple store told me that it would most definitely be impossible to install that kind of ancient printer from the dark ages.
    I’ll go for another 20 years…

    Greetings from Belgium,


  9. Hi, this process is valid with parallel port scanner (ex. Plustek OpticPro P12) too ? Where can obtain an universal driver for this and another scanners?. Thanks

    1. I too was told by Apple Support that it was impossible to connect using a USB to Parallel converter cable. This was after a lengthy period of trying the Gutenprint solution, talking to HP support and a whole hour on the phone to Apple trying all they had to offer.

      Life however is far too short and I decided to call it a day. I bought a Brother HL-L2340DW that does everything I need and works with Air Print etc. The HP 4L is now in land fill.

      1. Hi. Probably have you heard something about SANE-PROJECT?. Searching in the internet I found this alternative to use old parallels scanners. The problem is that the driver, the twain software and the parallel drive software can’t download, appear exist a problem into the TWAIN SANE INTERFACE web’s page. I send you the links.
        For mac

        Into the SANE-PROJECT, I downloaded the scanner “frontend” driver for this scanner (plustek OPTICPRO p12) but in source code (not an Installer app). I can’t obtain the installable app to the USB driver and TWAIN SCANNER.

  10. Dear Ian
    I cannot thankyou enough for your posting. I have managed to get my HP Laserjet 6L working on MacOS Sierra, even though everywhere else on the web says it is not supported anymore.
    Kind regards

  11. WOW! Thank you!
    9 years later the article you wrote is still relevant!
    With your discription I made the LaserJet 5P work with Mac OS Sierra Version 10.12.6

    Best regards from Germany!

    1. Frede, I have the same Laserjet 5P and the Mac OS Sierra 10.12.6. Please tell me exactly what cable adapter you used. I plan to try the Tripp Lite USB to parallel printer cable to Centronics 36 IEEE-1284. It has firmware built into the adapter so I hope the Mac will detect it. What drivers did you install ? Danka.

  12. Using this software, instructions and a bit of praying, I was able to use the CUPS Gutenprint installer and the UGREEN USB to IEEE1284 CN36 Parallel Printer Adapter Cable to connect my 2016 15″ MacBook Pro (MacOS Mohave v10.14.5) to my 21 year old HP LaserJet 4000n printer! The usbtb installer didn’t seem to have my particular model’s drivers but I think the CUPS Gutenprint did. Took some trial and error to get it to work but now the printer is working like a champ after all these years. Thanks for this post!

  13. Hey guys. I found this article because I’m trying to load a driver for my very old but amazing workhorse HP LaserJet 6P so I can use on my new (used) iMac with OS 10.13 High Sierra. I see the link to “Gutenprint” but there are a lot of files on that link. How do I know which links to open and download? Before my research, I plugged in the USB from my LaserJet 6 into my iMac and “installed” it, and it shows correctly in the Printers/Scanners but it won’t print properly. I am thinking it has something to do with PostScript – something I know nothing about! The first line is PS-Adobe-3.0 Query….then it will print blank pages until I turn off the printer. I’m hoping the Gutenprint download is the solution but I need a little guidance as to what I should download! Thanks for any suggestions!

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