If you want to send or receive faxes from your Mac, we’ve taken a look at all the best ways to send and receive faxes from a Mac in 2021.
Due to changes by Apple to macOS, there are now very few ways to send and receive a faxes from Macs or MacBooks but it is still possible.
It’s important to be aware that Apple has removed support for modems and faxing from multifunction printers in macOS Sierra onwards so you can no longer fax using an all-in-one printer or USB modem in Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, Sierra or High Sierra.
However, you can still easily send and receive faxes in the latest versions on macOS including M1 Macs using the best Mac compatible fax services as we will show you.
We strongly recommend RingCentral for sending and receiving faxes from a Mac as it works on all versions of macOS including Big Sur and M1 Macs.
And unlike using multifunction printers or modems, RingCentral does not require a phone line.
Where Is The Fax Utility on a Mac?
Since Apple has removed support for modems and faxing from multifunction printers on a Mac, there is no such thing as a built-in fax utility in macOS anymore.
The last version of macOS to support a fax utility was El Capitan and the latest versions of macOS Sierra onwards do not support legacy fax modems in multifunction printers or external USB modems.
You can however use fax software to send and receive faxes from any version of macOS including Big Sur.
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With this in mind, here are all the ways you can send and receive faxes from a Mac in 2021.
By far the easiest way to send a fax from a Mac nowadays is by using an online fax 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.
They’re also more likely to be up to date with latest security protocols regarding sending faxes with client data on.
For example medical institutions that use EMR software need to follow strict HIPAA regulations regarding the protection of customer data.
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.
If you’re still using macOS El Capitan or earlier, you can use a multifunction printer to send faxes from your Mac as long as you have a phone landline to connect it to.
However, for Mac users that have already upgraded to Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina or Big Sur, using an all-in-one printer to send and receive faxes from a Mac only works on El Capitan or lower.
The latest versions of macOS such as Catalina and Big Sur do not support faxing from all-in-one printers anymore.
The only way to restore multifunction fax support on a Mac is to use Boot Camp to install El Capitan or an older version of macOS (although note that this doesn’t work on M1 Macs).
Even if you do that, you’ll still need 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’re willing to install an older version of macOS on your Mac to use a multifunction printer for faxing, we recommend using one of these Mac compatible all-in-one printers.
Multifunction printers have a phone line jack at the back which you will need to plug into your phone line at home or in the office.
If you’ve done all this, here’s how to send and receive faxes from a Mac using a multi-function printer.
- 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.
- Select Print from the File Menu of the application you want to fax from e.g. Word, TextEdit etc
- In the drop down menu next to Printer, select Fax. 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.
- 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.
- 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 on your Mac 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 on a multifunction printer:
- 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.
If you don’t have a mutlifunction printer but you do have a phone line, you can connect an external modem instead to your Mac and use the El Capitan fax utility.
However, as with faxing using a multifunction printer on a Mac, this only works on macOS El Capitan or earlier and will not work on the latest versions of macOS Sierra, High Sierra, Mojave, Catalina or Big Sur.
You therefore will need to install El Capitan on your Mac using Boot Camp to use a USB fax modem with your Mac.
The advantage of using a modem is that there’s no need for an internet connection as it will plug into your analog landline phone line to send faxes rather than use your internet connection.
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.
To fax from macOS El Capitan or earlier using the fax utility you can find full instructions here how to fax from a Mac with a USB modem here.
Note that you’ll also need to bear the following in mind before you consider using a modem to fax from a Mac:
- 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.
The best external modem for Mac is the USRobotics USR5637 56K modem which is the only one we’ve used which definitely works with El Capitan.
- To connect a USB modem to your Mac, 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.
- 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 the latest versions of macOS, you’re much better using a faxing application on your Mac than messing around with multifunction fax printers or fax modems.
Online 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.