* How To Print OS X To XP

How to print from a wireless Apple MacBook running OS X 10.4 (Tiger) to a shared printer on a Windows XP computer.

It’s hard to share printers on a network. Always has been, always will be. Of course, it should not be this way. Computers should be easy to use, and they have gotten easier through the years, but it puzzles me that something so simple is still so difficult.

In any event, here’s the scenario:

  • You have a printer, perhaps an older printer. Said printer is connected to your Windows XP computer. You have given said computer a short name with no spaces and shared it. Other Windows computers on you network can happily print to it.
  • You have a Mac. Perhaps connected to your network wirelessly. Perhaps you don’t like lugging a laser printer in your computer bag. Perhaps you don’t want a printer in every room in your house. Or cables strewn across the floor. So you have decided to try to print to the shared printer.
  • You are completely insane. OK, maybe not completely insane. Maybe Apple is insane. Maybe it’s Microsoft. In any event, you think this will be easy. Bwah hah hah! Wrong.
  • You Google for answers, disappointed at the shreds of information here and there that provide only pieces to the puzzle. Then you find this article. Your problems are solved.

First, in OS X, open System Preferences and select the “Print & Fax” option. Click the “+” button to add a new printer. As you mouse-over the button, the words “Click here to add a printer” will display. (Hmm, hidden options. I sense foreshadowing.)

Next, from the “Printer Browser” window, click on the “More Printers…” button. (Note that “more” also means “more than zero”.)

From the first pop-up menu, select the “Windows Printing” option. From the second pop-up menu, select the “Workgroup” option (or whatever you have named your Windows workgroup). As you may know, OS X doesn’t always play nicely with workgroups that are not named “WORKGROUP.” Ain’t networking grand?

Next, select the computer with the shared printer attached to it and click the “Choose” button.

You will be prompted (ironically) for a username and password. Enter those, optionally check the “Remember this password in my keychain” option, and click the “OK” button.

You’ll likely get an error message that says “Unable to connect to server with the provided password and user name.” that is labeled “Error: 256”. (Isn’t “username” one word?) Note the lack of helpful information in this error message. Do you know what error 256 is? I sure don’t. Hmm.

Now comes the magic, silly, undocumented, user-hostile trick that you were supposed to just guess. I added a sticky note to my screen to capture the beauty of this trick. Here it is. Go back to the Printer Browser window. You have to option-click on the “More Printers” button to get the (usually hidden) “Advanced” menu in the next screen. Now why didn’t I think of that?

From the first pop-up menu, select the (now unhidden) “Advanced” option.

For the Device option, select “Windows Printer via SAMBA.” For the Device Name option, select the name of the shared printer (no spaces, and there is probably a maximum number of characters, like 8 or something, but I’m not sure). For the “Device URI” option, select an address of the form “smb://guest@” where “” is the IP address of the Windows computer with the shared printer and “hplj4ml” is the name of the shared printer. From the Printer Model pop-up menu, select your printer manufacturer (this menu should be called “Manufacturer Name” menu). From the Name windows, select the printer model (this window should be called the “Printer Model” menu). Then click the “Add” button.

Now you’ll be able to print from your OS X computer to a shared printer on a Windows XP computer. But, honestly, this should be a lot easier. Attached shared printers should just be discovered by OS X, and advanced options should not be hidden by default. Memo to Apple: fix this. Apple computers are supposed to be easy to use.

34 Replies to “* How To Print OS X To XP”

  1. Thats a great trick.. I had the exactly same problem. A trick might be to hold down the command key, while pressing “more printers” that showed the “advanced” option right away.

    Thanks alot.

  2. You’re a gentleman and a saint. As a technology professional I do expect to be paid for my time and knowledge. But I’m always willing to share for free this kind of advice. It helps us all by allowing us to continue using the technology before us and moving forward.

    This solution was available on another site, which ranks higher in Google, but only for a monthly member ship. They’re called the experts exchange, and I’m glad I didn’t need to cough up change to hook up my printer.

    Many Thanks,

  3. that’s a neat trick….but here’s a question: what do i do if i want to share a printer that’s attached to a XP computer that’s on a wired LAN that dynamically assigns IP addresses? The IP address of the computer hosting the printer will be changing, yes?

    Thanks for your help!!

  4. Greetings John,

    I think DHCP and dynamic IP addresses are great for computers whose physical location changes frequently, such as laptops. But if your computer has a fixed location, it should have a fixed IP address. All of my desktop computers at home and at work have static IP addresses. It takes a little longer to set up, but it makes thinks like this possible. See also:



  5. Firstly, thanks for the tip!

    Then also if you need account, domain and passwords to print:

    1. Select Device: “Windows Printer via SAMBA”
    2. Device URL:

    The only problem with this is there is no way to just edit the URI quickly after it has been created, so if your forced domain password change comes, you have to re-create the printer.

    What a pain…

  6. Erik:

    You are my hero! I bought a new Macbook a few weeks ago and have been going CRAZY trying to figure out how to print to the printer attached to our home server. It was EXACTLY the scenario you had the the beginning of the article. I changed the name of the workgroup on the server to WORKGROUP, followed your instructions and everything worked perfectly. Thank you SO much.


  7. Just a note, to add to this issue:
    I am on an Active Directory domain, and was experiencing this problem. If you configure a Mac to bind to an AD domain via Directory Access, make sure you also configure SMB/CIFS to point to a WINS server in the domain.

    Doing this eliminated the need to go through the ‘Advanced’ Printer Setup utility. I was able to browse to and successfully add/install the printer(s) of my choice on my Mac. It still did prompt for username and password, but now it actually authenticated properly, and all is well! No more Error 256!

    Of course, if you are on a small workgroup network without AD, then this does not apply.

  8. Thanks! Just got the latest Mac Mini and was having a devil of a time trying to print. This should be easier out of the box. Are you listening, Apple?


  9. If your printer isn’t in the driver list, try the open-source HPIJS driver. Requires 2 other pieces of software installed first — again, NOT EASY. Sigh.

    Note so far this isn’t working for me (I’m trying to use the HP F300 driver on an F380) but it may work for some people.

  10. Hi,

    This info seams very usefull, BUT, could any body tell my why the “Advance” option doesn’t appear on my computer.
    I have a new MacBook with Mac Os X ver. 10.4.10

    Second question:
    The printer works fine when connected directly. I have downloaded the latest drivers
    Why doesn’t the printer appear on the list of available printer drivers? How can i tell my mac the driver is already installed?


  11. Greetings Daniel,

    You have to follow each step in order. The first time you go to the Printer Browser window, you have to click (not option-click) the More Printers button, select Windows Printing, and follow the rest of the instructions. The second time you go to the Printer Browser window, you have to option-click the More Printers button, then follow the rest of the instructions.

    Regarding why the printer does not appear. Perhaps a limited install was done on your computer. You should not have to download any installers since printer drivers are included with the OS X system software. I’d suggest re-installing the drivers (and perhaps the OS itself) from the install CD. If you do a custom install, you should be able to select just the components that you need to install or repair.


  12. I’m looking for something like this howto for a HP F380 All in one, i just want to print, the scanner will be used just in the host (of course it would be a pleasure if that option can be enabled). Have someone solved this issue?

  13. Hello, thanks for this tip, but I’m afraid it’s not working for me. I get the error Unable to connect to Samba host – ‘NT_STATUS_UNSUCCESSFUL’ when trying to print to my Samsung SCX-4200 printer/scanner AIO. I’m new to the Mac and have an iMac with 10.4.10 and my network is Windows/Workgroup with the printer attached via USB to a Windows Vista Home Premium PC. I don’t know much about networks so maybe I’m doing something stupid. I’ve tried the address you gave using ‘guest’ but I’m not sure if that should be my username, so I also tried with my PC username. I also tried the ‘username:Password@’ option but none of them worked. I can ‘ping’ the address of my PC and can print from it locally to the Samsung. Obviously I’m doing something wrong. Can you help? Thanks.

  14. I’m getting the same error of ‘NT_STATUS_UNSUCCESSFUL’ when I attempt to connect to the HP 4600 here at work. It’s on an XP box that was just rebuilt. I agree that it should not be this difficult.



    I was seeing that until I remembered that the guest account I was using to connect had a password and I hadn’t passed that parameter in the URL… oops…

    Also, remember that everything is case sensitive, so the XP guest account needs to be Guest for instance…

  16. Eric… thanks so much for posting this great article… it helped me get my MACBOOK PRO printing to a shared XP printer here at my home where I work… however, I have not upgraded to Leopard and can’t get it to work. I did find the “Advanced” setting in Leopard (you have to right-click on the toolbar after Clicking the “+” to add a printer, and add the “Advanced” item to the toolbar… this gets you into the advanced settings, but it does not quite work from there as you have outlined for Tiger…) PLEASE HELP!

  17. Also have HP F300 series…not listed in the dropdown list. I can only add the printer as a generic printer. Even though it looks installed, it won’t actually print.

  18. The best site, the best advice I’ve ever seen!! Works just GREAT! After many days of exploring the Net (printing from Mac via PC) I ended up here and this is my home for any problem matter. Thanks a lot Erik J. Heels!

  19. my printer doesn’t show up in the printer list. i’ve installed the driver, but it still doesn’t show up. what do i do?

  20. Great info but have a question. Trying to help my fiancé’s daughter (got Macbook as a gift-she had a cancer recurrence)…MacBook to print wirelessly to shared XP printer.

    Worked via USB but wirelessly garbage came out I guess since it is Postscript sending to a PCL HP Deskjet 5940 printer.
    Do I need a Gimp print driver or what do I do?

    Second question-I no longer can see an option to pick Windows Printing. Saw it once when we got computer and tried to print to XP shared printer. Only has the other options but not Windows printing anymore. Do I need to do an Option Click or go to System Preferences and click on Network???


  21. I used this article to install a printer a few months ago on a macbook, since then I have tried installing the printer again and in the the “Connect to the printer ‘[printername]’ as” box I simply entered guest as the username and left the password field blank and it seemed to work the same as manually adding the printer.

  22. I used Leopard, i new on mac,
    I have HP F300 series…not listed in the dropdown list. I’ve installed HP Installer DJF300 v9.7, but still not listed in the dropdown list.
    What should i do?


  23. Hi Erik, I have windows base PC with Shared printer through USB cable, I’m trying to connect the shared printer to my Mac I cannot seem to get the ADVANCE Option that you have mentioned I held down the command key and click MORE PRINTERS at the same time nothing. How can i get to unhide the Advance option right click something or what, thanks

  24. Wow, I really hope this works, but either way, thank you for the post and the detailed instructions and screenshots. I fought with this error last night and I finally walked away totally dejected.

  25. If I didn’t find your solution via Google in the past 5 mins, I’d have to leave the customer empty handed with my head hanging in shame.
    You are a god among men.

  26. This is a great article, but I’m having some trouble adapting this trick to my network situation. I’m on a network that dynamically assigns IP addresses, and I have no way of setting a static IP for my PC. My laptop (the Mac) is running OS 10.4, and the PC is running XP.

    I’ve tried nearly every combination I can think of, and I keep getting the generic NT_STATUS_UNSUCCESSFUL error when attempting to print to the shared printer, which I’m fairly certain means that the connection simply isn’t working with the location and credentials I’m providing.

    Any thoughts on how to make this work in a dynamic IP environment?

  27. Well, I’ve a friend with a new Macbook and she wants to connect it to her husband’s Windows-based printer via a WiFi network. I know just about nothing about Macs but I found this article and thought it might be the answer. Wrong…. I started Print & Fax, clicked on + to add printer but I don’t get a Printer Browser option and no Windows Printing option on the screen that does appear. Has the latest version of the OS got some other way of doing this? Oh, and yesterday the MacBook could see the PCs but today it can’t but they can still see it. I’m totally confused. Anyone got any hints?


  28. Eric. Great Info. I have mac 10.4 printing to XP printer. This actually was working for me and OS10.4 picked up printer no problem. Upgrade to Win7 and lost printer access. Using your method was able to configure printer but using LPD (Line Printer Daemon). Must activate LPD in Windows7 by Turn Windows Components On/Off.

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