Printers that will work with Windows, OS X and Linux?
February 18, 2009 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a printer that will work with Windows (Vista), OS X and Linux.

My second hand HP Laserjet 5N is on it's last legs and it's time to replace it. One thing that was great about it was that it has support for Windows, OS X and Linux, and I run in mixed environment. First party support for Windows and Mac is a must, and I can live with third party support for Linux as long as the drivers are quality, although I'd prefer first party. My budget is $200 - $300 Canadian. I'm open to refurbs, especially HPs, since I can attest even their old printers are (usually) built to last. Any suggestions?
posted by northernsoul to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
I have the HP Photosmart 2600, which is discontinued. It does, however, work well with Vista, XP, and OS X (have done all three). It is a network printer but has other connections as well. I can't imagine it failing with Linux if it works with OS X, since OS X uses CUPS for printing.

The scanning software that comes with it is craptacular both in its bloat and it horrible UI.

The ink is ludicrously expensive.

If you're looking for an old workhorse tank, I'd try and get a used LaserJet 4 and a JetDirect to put it on the network. It's a PostScript box which means just about everything will print to it and the toner is readily available.
posted by plinth at 3:06 AM on February 19, 2009

I have a Brother HL-2030, which was ultra-cheap and comes with Linux drivers, and I've had it printed to from Win/Mac/Linux.
posted by themel at 4:17 AM on February 19, 2009

Since both OS X and (most flavours of) Linux use CUPS, anything that works with CUPS should do. Head over to OpenPrinting and check the database. Unless you've got a really ancient printer, if it works with CUPS, it'll work with Windows.

My LaserJet 4+ is in its teens, yet works great with everything.
posted by scruss at 4:42 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a Brother HL-2070N at home, very similar to the 2030 themel mentions above but with Ethernet. It was very inexpensive ($120ish almost two years ago) and met my requirements of being the cheapest ethernet laser I could find at the time. I was tired of inkjet costs and finickiness, especially when 95% of everything I print is just text for my own consumption.

It's worked very well (better than expected, considering the cost) from both without installing any drivers, and has nifty web-based configuration over the network. I recently found out that yes, I can print just fine from Ubuntu Linux as well by printing to its IP address.

So take that as a strong recommendation.
posted by rokusan at 5:59 AM on February 19, 2009

Could just pick up another LJ5. You already have the network card, so you needn't pick up a 5N, just swap the JetDirect card into the new one. Or look into repairing the one you have - what's the problem with it? My old LJ 4M+ needed a single solenoid replaced to make it fully functional again (after having constant problems with paper jams). There are likely places that can fix it for cheap. Both my old HPs were purchased from university surplus; if you have a large university featuring a surplus store nearby, check around. I spent $50 for my HP LJ5, including the extra full-ream paper tray add-on.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:23 AM on February 19, 2009

You don't mention specifically what's wrong with the printer itself, but I'd be remiss if I failed to mention That place has saved me hundreds of dollars. If you're even remotely handy, they'll sell you the parts you need and include videos of how to install them. Highly recommended.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:31 AM on February 19, 2009

I have a Samsung ml-1710 (b&w laser), which has support for all 3. It's been working fine for light loads and it's not too big. I use it behind tiny zonet ethernet/usb print server, which is a pain to set up but was cheap and works great too. If you don't already have it behind a print server, I would recommend you get one of some sort.
posted by jefftang at 7:49 AM on February 19, 2009

I think rokusan's on to something with his ethernet suggestion.
posted by notyou at 9:53 AM on February 19, 2009

Any printer that supports PCL or PostScript should work correctly, as should any printer that has a network card.

The only thing to avoid are the cheaper models that are "unsharable" that use some kind of host based printing method.

For a new printer, I kind of like the Lexmark e250/350/450 series. They are somewhat flimsy, but generally print quite well. The differences between the models are slight, you can save some cash doing some research. I haven't seen as many newer HP printers, but they seem to not be terribly cost effective these days. The cheaper models just aren't the battleships that the older ones were.

Other caveat- it looks like the Laserjet 5 uses an older style of JetDirect card that will only go into models of similar vintage. If you have an external JetDirect box that hooks up via parallel, it should be fine. But if you were to get a newer printer (Laserjet 4000 or 2350 types of model numbers) that older card won't work.

Definitely look into fixing the printer if that's cool with you. One issue that those 4/4+/5 models have is that over time, the paper quits coming out correctly, eventually getting to a point where the first page doesn't exit right and then subsequent pages accordian jam behind it. This is easily solved by cleaning the exit rollers. Open the back door and you'll see a metal bar with 6 or so black rollers on it. If you feel them, they will feel quite smooth and hard. What you do is get some Windex or Fantastic and carefully squirt it onto them. Then get a cloth and start scrubbing. Tons of black gunk will come off. Eventually, the gunk on the rollers will start to wear down and appear grayish. Keep going until all of that is removed. Dry them off, and now you'll feel that the rollers are much more rubbery and grippy. That should be enough to solve the problem. There's another set of similar rollers right where the paper exits at the top, these usually aren't as bad, and are harder to clean anyway. Alternate solution is to just buy an output assembly.

If the print is starting to flake off, and if you run your hand across the printed page and the print feels sort of raised, it's time for a new fuser. That's the thing inside the same door, lower and further in. Remove the plastic support strap for the door, remove the two screws and it comes right out. Be careful, if the printer has recently been running, it will be quite hot, which is normal. The two big rollers will probably be dirty, but cleaning them probably won't solve the problem. They have a teflon-like coating on them that eventually wears off and causes the sticking. If you clean it, you might make it worse. Just get a new one. Should cost $50-$100.
posted by gjc at 10:37 AM on February 19, 2009

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