How to fax with a Mac in 2019

LAST UPDATE: July 6th, 2019

There are three ways to fax with Mac OS X:

  1. An online fax service, which operates as a virtual fax machine accessed via the internet.
  2. A connected fax machine or multifunction printer with fax.
  3. 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.

Option 1 – online fax service compatible with MacOS

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.

Option 2 – Fax through a fax or multifunction (print / fax) printer connected to a macOS computer

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

How to send a fax

  1. Load the document you want to fax.
  2. Open the print driver (File -> Print).
  3. Select the “fax” version of your printer.
  4. Fill in the destination fax number and fax information.
  5. 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.

Option 3 (Advanced) – Fax using a Windows or Linux virtual machine or Bootcamp

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

How to set it up

  1. 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.”
  2. Install the fax modem on the Windows or Linux virtual machine.
  3. Connect the fax modem to a landline phone line.

How to send and receive a fax

Follow our guide on how to fax from a Windows computer or how to fax from a Linux computer to send and receive faxes by using the fax modem within the Windows or Linux VM.

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.

Option 4 (No longer works) – Fax From Mac OS X with a fax/modem

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.

Sources and more resources

More resources on computer faxing: