Time Capsule and the limits of printing

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Reader Bruce G (not Bruce Gee) notes some difficulty with using his printer with Apple’s Time Capsule. He writes:

I am unable to get my Canon MX860 printer to be “seen” in the network via the Time Capsule. It does print okay with a direct USB cable connection from the iMac. Any thoughts?

I generally like to offer solutions rather than a concerned shrug of the shoulders in this space, but I’m afraid this is more shrug than answer. The truth is that both Time Capsule and AirPort Base Stations are limited in their printer compatibility. Multi-function printers such as yours, in particular, are a problem. If they work at all, only the printer works. You can’t use any of the device’s scanning or copying features when it’s connected to a Time Capsule or Base Station. In an effort to make this a bit more helpful, allow me to offer this:

iFelix has an unofficial list of printers that are compatible with Base Stations but it looks like it hasn’t been updated in quite awhile.

For those who believe that their printer should work with one of these devices but get no good results, check out Apple’s Printer Troubleshooting For AirPort Base Stations and Time Capsule KnowledgeBase article. (Note that the last step is the not-terribly-hopeful “If your printer still doesn’t work with AirPort Base Station or Time Capsule printer sharing but does work when directly connected to your Mac, contact the printer manufacturer for additional information.”)

Finally, the Mac OS’ Printer Sharing feature is pretty slick. If you haven’t tried it, connect your printer to your Mac via the usual USB connection, move to the Print & Fax system preference, select your printer, and enable the Share This Printer on the Network option. It may be the answer to your problem.

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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Includes all AirPort Extreme features
    • Allows both internal and USB-connected drive Time Machine backups for Leopard users
    • Archive option for simplified off-site backups
    • Houses drive, power supply in one tidy case


    • Time Machine’s hourly backups are too often for networked system
    • Can’t swap internal drive
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