There are three ways to fax with Mac OS X:
- An online fax service, which operates as a virtual fax machine accessed via the internet.
- A connected fax machine or multifunction printer with fax.
- With a Windows (or Linux) OS as a virtual machine.
Apple’s fax modem is no longer compatible with MacOS from OS X 10.7 (Lion, released in 2010) onward.
An online fax service (or “cloud fax”) is fax service hosted by a service provider.
It can receive faxes via email, the web, or a smartphone. Interfaces are similar to email programs such as Mac Mail. There is no need for a landline phone line or a dedicated fax machine to fax online.
While many features are advertised by online fax services, not all of them are available on MacOS. Even systems listed as “Mac friendly” may be “Mac Friendly” for the basics only – advanced features may not work with MacOS.
For full details on online fax services compatible with Mac OS X and other operating systems, see our page on Online Faxing.
Many fax and multifunction printers have the option to fax through via a macOS computer.
Instead of having to print a document and then fax it (or receive a document over the fax then scan it), connecting a fax machine this way will let you send and receive faxes from the computer.
What you’ll need
- A computer running macOS.
- A connected fax machine or multifunction (print & fax) printer.
- An active land-line phone line. Do not use a VoIP phone connection as VoIP signals will scramble a fax signal -see our page “why does my fax machine not work on my VoIP phone line?.”
- A document to send.
How to send a fax
- Load the document you want to fax.
- Open the print driver (File -> Print).
- Select the “fax” version of your printer.
- Fill in the destination fax number and fax information.
- Press send and the fax machine will dial the fax
How to receive a fax
Most fax machines can receive a fax as hardcopy or send it to your computer.
With a desktop computer either option is good. With a laptop, we suggest setting the fax machine to print a hardcopy fax because it avoids faxes being lost while the laptop is closed.
Things to be aware of
- You will need to connect the fax machine to an active landline phone line.
- A “wireless” fax or multifunction printer is “wireless” the way it connects to the computer (typically over WiFi or Bluetooth). It still requires a wired connection to a landline phone line to send and receive faxes. A “wireless” fax/printer does not connect wirelessly to the internet to be able to send and receive faxes.
- Some machines will store a received fax in the fax/printer’s memory until the computer is reconnected – if the power is lost, any stored faxes (that have already been acknowledged as received) may be lost as well.
- Double check that your “Mac Compatible” printer/fax is able to fax via Mac. Some “Mac Compatible” devices do not have advanced functions.
A virtual machine can operate Windows or Linux within MacOS. It installs a new computer operating system running inside of your Mac device (running a computer within a computer). With this method, you can use the other operating system to send and receive faxes.
This method will add fax capability to the computer.
What you’ll need
- A macOS computer
- A copy of Windows or Linux (Ubuntu is the most popular distribution)
- A virtualization program (such as Parallels or Virtual Box) or install the operating system using Apple’s Bootcamp.
- A fax modem
- A landline phone line
How to set it up
- Load a virtual machine onto your Mac using a program such as Parallels or VirtualBox. See How To Geek’s “Beginner Geek: How to Create and Use Virtual Machines” and Lifehacker’s “How to Set Up a Virtual Machine for Free.”
- Install the fax modem on the Windows or Linux virtual machine.
- Connect the fax modem to a landline phone line.
How to send and receive a fax
Windows comes with the program “Windows Fax and Scan” that allows the computer to work as a fax machine. Linux distributions have other options for faxing.
Things to be aware of
- Faxing will take place within the virtual machine. There are extra steps needed to share files between the Windows/Linux and Mac part of the computer. Parallels and VirtualBox both have sections for how to share files between OS’s.
- A virtual machine takes up a lot of hard drive space (expect at least 20 GB) as it is an extra operating system.
Apple’s USB fax modem is no longer compatible with MacOS. Apple’s modem was compatible with Mac OS X versions 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard – released in 2009) and earlier. Versions 10.7 (Lion – released in 2010) and later are not compatible.
Faxing was performed via the print menu. Apple’s instructions can be found at http://support.apple.com/kb/PH6990.
- Apple Support – USB Modem – Frequently Asked Questions
- Apple Support – Printer and Scanner drivers for Mac – Apple’s list of printer and scanner drivers. Useful for older devices. It is no longer updated as devices made in the last several years will automatically install when they are connected.
- Canon Knowledge Base – Sending a fax from a Mac computer – MAXIFY – Instructions on how to send a fax from a Canon MAXIFY product.
- Canon User Manuals – Sending Faxes from Your Computer (PC Fax) – Canon’s instructions on sending a fax from a computer via their product. Includes notes for Mac users as well as PC.
- Epson Support – Sending Faxes Using the Fax Utility – Mac OS X – Epson’s instructions on how to send a fax from a Mac.
- HP Customer Support – Knowledge Base – HP Printers and Fax Machines – How to Fax – HP’s instructions on how to fax from their products.
- Dartmouth.edu Services – Konica Minolta Mac Setup – Instructions on how to install a Konica Minolta driver on a Mac.
- Lexmark Support – How to Print, Scan, and Fax Using Mac OS X 10.7 – 10.11 and macOS 10.12, 10.13 or 10.14 – Step by Step instructions on how to fax using a Mac and Lexmark product.
- Lexmark – macOS compatibility – Lexmark’s collection of compatibility information with macOS.
- Xerox Support Forum – Faxing from a Mac – Instructions on how to set up LAN faxing with a Mac and a Xerox product.