Updating Laserwriter 8500 for OS 10.6

When I updated my Mac OS to 10.6, I lost the use of my trusty Laserwriter 8500, since Snow Leopard does not support the AppleTalk protocol that I’ve been using with the printer. That’s a real shame, since the 8500 is a real workhorse, and at a good price. I’ve printed more than 36,000 pages on the printer and I’m only on my third (I think) toner cartridge.  The printers themselves can be bought used for as little as $100.

The 8500 is a great document printer.  It’s made to handle the work of an entire floor of office cubicles, and can even handle large paper (11×17). It can connect directly to an Ethernet network.

Fortunately, updating the printer to work with Snow Leopard was possible, athough I did have to dig out some old hardware. Here are the steps.

You’ll need to assign an IP address to the printer so that 10.6 can print with the LPD protocol. So we will need to find out what your current network settings are, and then use those settings to assign a permanent address to the printer.

Here’s the biggest rub – you need to use OS9 to access the printer’s IP settings.  Without that, I don’t think there’s a way to make this work.

Part 1Finding an IP address

In most home and small groups, people use DHCP to assign IP addresses.  This means that the router basically takes care of everything.

1. Open the Network preferences from the modern Mac and look at your network settings (System Preferences>Network>[choose your active connection]>Advanced. You’ll see the screen below. You’ll need to use these to assign a proper IP address to the Printer.

2. Decide what IP address to assign to the printer. Generally this should be the first three sections of the IP address that your modern computer uses. In my case, the Macbook Pro is I’ll use for the printer.
3. Copy down the Subnet mask and Router address. You’ll need to enter these into the Apple Printer Utility.

Part 2 – Assign an IP address to the printer

4. Find a Mac that can run OS9. (Easier said than done, for many. Without this, I don’t think you can change the IP address of the printer.) You only need the OS9 computer for one-time set up, it’s not an ongoing need.

5. Download Apple Printer Utility, if you don’t have it. This is not the Desktop Printer Utility that is part of system software. It came with the printer, or you can download it from here.

6. Open the printer utility, and select the 8500. Hit the “open printer” button.

7. In the Communication Configuration, enter the desired IP address, Subnet Mask, and Router Address.  (Drag the slider to assign the Subnet mask). Click “Update Info” to send the data to the printer.

8. Print a test page.

9. Write the IP address settings down on the back of the printer, so you don’t need to launch OS9 to reenter the network settings.

Part 3 – Tell 10.6 how to find the printer.

10. Go to any print dialog box, and select “Add Printer” from the dropdown list of printers.

11. As shown above, select LPD as the Protocol. Then type in the IP address you have assigned.

12. In the “Print Using” pulldown, hit “select Printer Software”, and navigate to the Laserwriter 8500.

13. You should be done. The Snow Leopard Mac should print using the new settings, and older computers on the network can continue to use Appletalk.

Hopefully, this will keep a few 8500s from going to the landfill prematurely.