There are various ways to send a fax from a Mac in 2018 but the official Apple method involves using the fax utility in macOS. Unfortunately, in the latest versions of macOS Sierra and High Sierra, this is now only possible if you have an all-in-one printer with fax capabilities as Apple has now dropped support for external USB modems. As a result, nowadays it’s much easier to use fax software on Mac instead such as eFax which allows you to send and receive faxes from your email account. However, here we show you how to fax from a Mac using the fax utility in all versions of macOS.
How To Fax From Mac Using The Fax Utility
If you’re using OS X 10.12 El Capitan or lower, you can fax from your Mac using the fax utility which is included for free on your Mac. If you want to use the fax utility with Sierra or High Sierra however, you’ll need to scroll down to the next section about how to fax from Mac using a multifunction printer-fax.
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 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with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and below and it also only works with iMac G5, Mac mini or Power Mac G5 making it quite a outdated for most users.
However the good news is that other modems, such as the USRobotics USR5637 56K modem, work fine with on all newer Macs and later versions of OS X and macOS (apart from Sierra and High Sierra as mentioned earlier).
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.
How To Fax From Sierra & High Sierra Using A Multifunction Printer
Since the release of macOS Sierra 10.12, USB fax modems no longer work with Macs. Apple inexplicably decided to drop support for USB modems with the release of Sierra. However, Sierra and High Sierra can still connect to multifunction printer-fax-scanner machines to send faxes which may be a better investment anyway as you also get a printer, scanner and fax machine rolled into one. There is also a workaround that enables you use a USB modem with Sierra and above although it’s complicated, time consuming and probably not worth the hassle unless you’re really desperate to use a modem. If you’re interested in doing this, scroll down to the next section about how to fax from Sierra and High Sierra with a modem.
An all-in-one-printer allows you to connect your Mac wirelessly to the machine so the only thing you have to plug in is the phone line. If you already have a home office printer-scanner-copier machine, it may already have fax capabilities so make sure you check before going out and purchasing one. 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. If you do decide to purchase an all in one printer-fax-scanner for your fax needs, don’t forget to read our guide to the best all in one printers for Mac first.
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 Canon Pixma Wireless Office All-In-One Printer costs less than $100 and allows you to send faxes.
The Canon Pixma Printer-Fax uses something called “Super G3 Fax” to send faxes via your phone line. This is a high speed fax standard for both black and white or color facsimiles and can perform up to 100 coded speed dials and receive up to 250 incoming pages. 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 Sierra or High Sierra using a multifunction 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 pluse 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.
How to Fax From Sierra & High Sierra With a Modem
For most people, Apple’s decision to drop USB modem support on the latest versions of macOS 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 software 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.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to restore USB fax modems support to Sierra and High Sierra but by far the simplest solution is to use the free version of Parallels Desktop Lite to run OS X 10.11 El Capitan alongside Sierra and High Sierra. El Capitan was the last version of OS X to support USB modems and installing it as a secondary OS on your Mac is relatively easy. There is also a more complicated way to add USB modem support to Sierra and High Sierra 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 tutorial, you’ll need some kind of external storage device with at least 8GB of storage space on. An external hard drive for Mac but this can be a bit expensive for the job and a cheap USB pen drive costing little more than $10 or an SD card (if your Mac has an SD card slot) will suffice. 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 Mac Serra & High Sierra with a USB modem.
- Download and install Parallels Desktop Lite. This is a basic version of the easy to use Parallels software which is the best way to run Windows on a Mac and older versions of OS X such as El Capitan at the same time as Sierra and High Sierra. 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 download El Capitan onto your Mac. This will download a 6.09GB “Install El Capitan” file to your Applications folder.
- 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.
We hope we’ve helped you fax from your Mac successfully using the fax utility in macOS. The reality is that nowadays you’re much better using one of these apps to fax from Mac than messing around with multifunction fax printers or fax modems. 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.