If you want to send a fax from your Mac including on macOS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave and Catalina, here we show you all the options available in 2020.
There are various ways to send and receive faxes from a Mac in 2020 although only the first option works on macOS Mojave and Catalina due to the fact that Apple has removed support for modems from the latest versions of macOS.
- Use fax software on your Mac such as our top rated choice RingCentral which offers all the advantages of a fax machine, home office and more on your desktop. This works on all versions of macOS including Mojave and Catalina.
- Connect a multi-function printer to your Mac with fax capabilities. This only works on macOS El Capitan or lower as Apple has now removed support for all-in-one printer faxing from Macs and it requires a phone line.
- Use an external modem with either El Capitan or Windows installed on your Mac. This also only works on El Capitan or lower and you need a landline. If you install Windows, you can then use Windows based fax software.
Using a Cloud based fax service like RingCentral is by far the most convenient way to fax from a Mac in 2020 because they work on all version of macOS, do not require a phone line and you can start sending and receiving faxes from your Mac in minutes with no extra hardware or software required.
Online fax platforms even allow you to send faxes from your email for added convenience.
Methods 2 and 3 only work on El Capitan or lower because Apple removed support for all types of modems from macOS Sierra onwards including those inside all-in-one printers.
For most people that use their Mac for faxing, Apple’s decision to drop USB modem support is mainly just an annoying frustration but for medical facilities and other businesses that handle customer data, it’s a more serious problem.
Medical institutions that use EMR software on Mac for example need to be able to have on site faxing facilities as most online or third party fax services do not comply with strict HIPAA regulations regarding the protection of customer data.
This is another reason to use online fax services like RingCentral & eFax as they are also HIPAA compliant so they’re also suitable for medical centers and other organizations handling confidential data.
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With this in mind, here are the 4 best ways to send and receive a fax from a Mac in order of ranking.
1. Use An Online Fax Service
By far the easiest way to send a fax from a Mac nowadays is by using a Cloud faxing service.
In fact if you’re using macOS Mojave and Catalina, it’s the only way to send and receive fax documents from a Mac in 2020.
Most Cloud based fax tools even allow you to send and receives faxes from your email which is about as convenient as it gets.
There are also some apps that allow you to send a few faxes for free although they are not suitable for professional or serious use as they don’t allow you to receive faxes, they insert ads or watermarks and are often unreliable.
Check out our in-depth look at the best fax software for Mac and you can start sending and receiving faxes from macOS in minutes.
You can also read our review of how to fax from a Mac with RingCentral here.
2. Install El Capitan Or Windows
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to restore USB fax modem support to the latest versions of macOS.
El Capitan was the last version of OS X to officially support USB modems and installing it as a secondary OS on your Mac is possible if a little complicated nowadays.
There is also a more complicated way to add USB modem support to Mojave and Catalina but it is very difficult for the average user.
It involves using Terminal and disabling SIP security features and can be very tricky to get working properly.
It’s also possible that it will not work with future versions of macOS so the following method is more future proof if you want to use a USB modem on your Mac.
Before you start this, you’ll need some kind of external storage device with at least 8GB of storage space on.
This is needed to create an El Capitan boot disk first.
This will be used to create a bootable version of El Capitan which you can install in Parallels.
If you’ve got this ready, here’s how to fax from El Capitan with a USB modem.
- Download and install the Parallels software which is the easiest way to run Windows on a Mac and older versions of OS X such as El Capitan. The great thing is Parallels Desktop Lite is completely free to use – you only have to upgrade to the full version of Parallels if you want to run Windows in it (which we don’t for the purposes of this tutorial).
- You then need to create an El Capitan Boot Disk. This will download a 6.09GB “Install El Capitan” file to your Applications folder and allow you to make a bootable drive to install it.
- You then need to make it bootable from your external drive. The easiest way to to this is to download the free boot utility DiskMakerX. Simply open and install it and it will automatically search your Mac for the El Capitan file you just downloaded and prompt you to use it.
- Click on “Use this copy” and DiskMakerX will then automatically search and locate your attached storage device. You’ll see a warning message that it will wipe the drive and create the boot disk. Click on “Erase then create the disk”.
- When the disk is created, open Parallels Desktop Lite. In the setup wizard, select “New Virtual Machine”.
- Parallels will then automatically detect the El Capitan boot drive inserted into your Mac and prompt you to install it.
- Once installation of El Capitan in Parallels Lite is complete, you’re done. Simply insert any USB modem into one of your Mac’s USB drives and add it to El Capitan in your Network preferences. You should notice that El Capitan detects it automatically anyway. You can now fax from El Capitan within Sierra or High Sierra anytime you want.
3. Use An All-In-One Printer
If you manage to install El Capitan, you can use an all-one-printer to send faxes from your Mac as long as you have a landline to connect it to.
To check whether your printer supports faxing on Mac, you can check the useful Apple Printer Fax compatibility page which shows which brands and manufacturers are compatible with Mac and which support faxing on Macs.
All in one printers are definitely worth investing in rather than a USB modem, especially if you’re running a home office.
They often cost little more than a fax modem but also give you the advantage of having a printer, a copier and usually a scanner too.
For example, the wireless HP Envy 7855 is very good value for money and allows you to send faxes.
The HP Envy has a 1-LINE jack at the back of the printer which you can connect to a modem.
You can read more on how to fax from the HP Envy here.
There are of course other printer-fax machines available which do a similar job such as the Epson Workforce Business Fax Printer but prices and features vary.
Here’s how to send and receive a fax from El Capitan or lower using a multi-function printer.
1. Connect the printer to your computer and your Mac will automatically download and install the drivers. To check that the Printer-Fax has installed correctly, you should be able to see it by going to the Apple logo in the top left of your screen and selecting System Preferences and then Printers & Scanners. If you can’t see it, click on the “+” symbol at the bottom of the Printer list and add-it from the pop-up list of devices that appears.
2. Select Print from the File Menu of the application you want to fax from e.g. Word, TextEdit etc
3. In the drop down menu next to Printer, select Fax. You will only see this option if you have a modem attached to your Mac – in this example, No Printer-Scanner-Fax or external modem is selected as non were connected to the Mac:
4. You’ll see some Fax preferences which will vary in format depending on the modem you are using. Simply enter the recipient name and fax number of the fax machine you want to send the document to including any prefixes. The fax software may even be integrated with your Contacts already stored on your Mac in which case you can select the person you want to send it to, ensuring that the fax number is correct.
5. You can also usually add a cover page. Click the checkbox Use Cover Page if you want to add a cover letter to your fax and fill in the details. You can usually preview your fax to see what it will look like to the receiver by clicking Preview at the bottom. You may also be able to configure exactly how it sends the fax if it has Preferences. For instance you may be able to choose between dialing with touch or pulse tones or pulse tones, toggle on or off the sound of the modem dialing and whether you want to hear a dial tone before dialing. We recommend leaving these all on as it’s easier to tell if your modem is sending a fax if you can hear what’s going on.
6. Click Fax at the bottom and you’re done. You should hear the fax dial-up signal as it sends your document unless you’ve turned-off the dial sounds.
At the top of every page, the fax will imprint the time, number of pages and your fax number for the recipient to reply. If you sent a cover page with it, you can also add a subject heading for the fax.
Receiving faxes is also very simple once your printer fax scanner or USB modem is setup. As long as your USB modem or fax printer scanner is connected to your phone line and your Mac is not in sleep mode, it will receive faxes. To make sure your Mac is configured correctly to receive faxes:
- Go to the Apple logo in the top left corner of your desktop and select System Preferences and then Printers & Scanners. Select your fax device and you’ll see some details about your machine. Make sure that your fax number is correctly entered in the Fax Number field so that you can receive faxes.
- You can also get notifications of incoming faxes by checking the box “Show fax status in menu bar”. If you click on Receive Options, you can also configure whether you want your Mac to answer faxes before the answer machine cuts in, set the number of rings you want before answering faxes and choose whether you want faxes to be saved to a folder or printed automatically. Alternatively, you can answer faxes manually by choosing “Answer Now” from the fax status menu.
4. Use An External Modem
If you don’t have an mutli function printer, you can connect an external modem instead and use the El Capitan fax utility.
The advantage of using a modem is that there’s no need for an internet connection as both USB modems and printer fax scanners plug into your analog landline phone line to send faxes rather than use your internet connection.
To fax from macOS El Capitan using the fax utility, follow these instructions:
1. Unless your Mac was built in 2005 or earlier (in which case it already has an internal modem), you’ll need an external USB modem. All external modems simply connect to a USB port and enable you to plug your analog telephone line into the other end. There is an external Apple modem available but it only works with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and below and it also only works with iMac G5, Mac mini or Power Mac G5 making it quite a outdated for most users.
Note that this is the only way to connect a modem to your Mac – you can’t fax from a Mac using an iPhone as a tethered modem.
2. Plug in the modem. Go to Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Printers & Scanners. You will see the modem appear under the list of devices. If you don’t see it, click the “+” symbol and select your USB modem from the pop-up dialog and click Add. Your Mac will then automatically install the drivers and software needed to use the modem.
3. You then simply use the modem’s software or interface to send faxes. If you have problems, you should be able to download any drivers and software you need from the modem manufacturer website.
We hope we’ve helped you send a fax from your Mac successfully.
The reality is that nowadays with the lack of support for modems in Mojave and Catalina, you’re much better using a faxing application on your Mac than messing around with multifunction fax printers or fax modems.
Cloud fax software services are ideal if you’re going to send faxes regularly and give you the convenience of sending faxes from your email account.
If you have any problems, suggestions or questions faxing from your Mac using this tutorial, let us know in the comments below or get in touch direct.