Sending and Receiving Faxes with Mac OS X

There are three primary ways to fax with Mac OS X.

The first is with an online fax service, which operates as a virtual fax machine located accessed through the internet.

The second is through a connected fax machine or multifunction printer (print / scan / copy / fax) that allows for faxing from the computer through the multifunction device attached to a land-line phone line.

The third is with OS X’s fax software and the Apple fax / modem – Note: this method only works with OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard – the 2007 version of OS X) and earlier  – Apple’s fax modem is not longer compatible OS X from 10.7 (Lion) onward.

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Online Fax Services Compatible with Mac OS X

An online fax service is a dedicated fax number that is hosted by a service provider.

Compared with a fax machine, an online fax service offers the ability to fax directly from the internet without a dedicated phone line in your house, as well as the ability to access or manage fax communications from anywhere you can access the internet.

Interfaces are very much similar to a web-based email account (with the exception that you have the ability to send and receive faxes), and features such as faxing through email, the web, and integration with popular programs such as the Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) are available.

Online fax services can also be combined with other devices – for example faxing to and from another computer, a tablet, or a smartphone through the same account.

Mac OS X users should note that while many features are listed by online fax services, not all of them are always available on the OS X platform (sometimes a system is listed as “mac friendly” however that is for basic functionality only – some advanced features may not be completely compatible with the OS X system).

For full details on online fax services compatible with Mac OS X and other operating systems, see our page on Online Faxing.

Fax through a connected fax or multifunction (copy / print / scan / fax) printer

Many connected fax and multifunction printers have the option to fax through the machine from the computer.

While specific options depend on the fax machine’s manufacturer (and the software they offer), many units are able to send and receive faxes directly to the computer through the fax machine. 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

To send an receive a fax from a Mac OS X computer through a connected fax or printer with fax, you’ll need the following:

  • A computer running Mac OS X
  • A fax machine or multifunction (print / copy / scan / fax) printer that
  • An active land-line phone line to connect the fax / mutlifunction printer to. The phone line should not be a VoIP phone connection as VoIP signals usually scramble a fax signal – for more details on faxing with VoIP, see our page on “why does my fax machine not work on my VoIP phone line?
  • A document to send

Things to be aware of

  • You will still need to connect the fax or multifunction printer to an active land-line phone line for this to work
  • A fax or mutlifunction printer with “wireless” (such as wifi or bluetooth) does not allow you to send and receive faxes without a phone line – the “wireless” portion of the fax / printer is only for communication between the computer and the printer – not between the fax / printer and the phone system. A “wireless” fax / printer cannot connect wirelessly to the internet to be able to send and receive faxes.
  • When setting the system up, double check to see what happens with received faxes when the computer is not active. Some models will store a received fax in the fax / printer’s memory until the computer is reconnected – the challenge with this approach is that if the power is lost, any stored faxes (that have already been acknowledged as received) may be lost as well.
  • While many fax machines and printers are listed as “Mac Compatible” at times that is for basic functionality only. Sometimes advanced features (such as forwarding through a

Fax From Mac OS X with the Apple fax / modem **only OS X 10.6.8 and earlier**

Note: The Apple fax / modem only works with Mac OS X versions 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard – released in 2007) and earlier. Versions 10.7 (Lion) and later are not compatible with the Apple fax/modem.

System Requirements

To send (or receive) a fax from an Apple computer using Fax software you’ll need the following:

  • A computer running Mac OS X versions 10.4.3 through 10.6.8 – earlier and later versions are not compatible
  • The apple USB fax modem
  • A land-line phone line to fax with. The phone line should not be a VoIP phone connection as VoIP signals usually scramble a fax signal – for more details on faxing with VoIP, see our page on “why does my fax machine not work on my VoIP phone line?
  • A document to send

It’s important to be aware that to use your computer as a fax machine, the computer needs to always be on and connected to the phone line to receive a fax.

As well, the computer will not be able to use your internet connection to send and receive faxes – only the phone connection.

How to fax

Faxing in OS X is done through the print menu.

Instructions directly from Apple can be found at http://support.apple.com/kb/PH6990

Sources and Additional Resources on Faxing with a Mac:

Other Resources on Computer and Online Faxing: