getting a deskjet printer to work with an airport express

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The title doesn't sound like it would be hard, does it? <sigh> But it was. And I want to document what I ended up doing here--both for others who have the same problem, and for myself the next time I have to set up a computer at home to print to the shared printer.

We bought an HP Deskjet 3740 a couple of weeks ago--the price was right ($39), and our old Lexmark was on its last legs. It worked fine connected directly to our powerbooks, and even when used as a shared printer. So when Gerald got me the Airport Express for Christmas, it seemed as though we ought to be able to just plug the printer into the USB port and go. But it didn't work. The Airport Express could see the printer, and the powerbooks could tell that there was a printer, but there was no convincing the powerbooks that they had the right driver. Apparently HP uses a proprietary driver approach, rather than creating nice little PPD files.

There wasn't much online to help with this. I finally found a site called iFelix, which had an excellent page entitled "HP Printers not on compatibility list and Airport Extreme Printing." It had some useful instructions, but they involved having a PPD file again, which I didn't have. But they also pointed me to the HPIJS for Mac OS X site, which provides a "Foomatic" interface for HP printers. (According to the website, "Foomatic is a database-driven system for integrating free software printer drivers with common spoolers under Unix."). Unfortunately, after installing the two packages from that page (the Ghostscript package and the HPJIS package, both of which had nice package installers to make it easy, there was still no sign of a driver for the 3740.

I'd invested too much time at this point to give up, so I tried doing a Google search on "deskjet 3740 foomatic," and found that the same site that had the Foomatic software ( also had a tool to let you generate a PPD for the 3740. I put the resulting file into my /Library/Printers/PPDs folder, and was finally able to use the instructions on the iFelix site to add the printer. I was also able to successfully print two test pages--one from BBEdit, and one from a browser.

It's not perfect--the printer status doesn't always reflect the current job properly--but we can print, and that's the important part.

I do have to say that I'm very disappointed with Apple's support site, which had no information whatsoever (that I could find, anyhow...) explaining the potential problems with printing over the Airport Express.

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Over the last few years HP have released a range of DeskJets aimed at different market segements. The top end models usually have no issues when you connect them to an Airport base station such as the Airport Express. Some of the models at the cheape... Read More


For what its worth, I can recall on one or two fingers the number of times I actually found an answer in the Apple technical documents. But my percentage is much higher for searching the support forums inside the Apple Support site as well as Googling. The iFelix site has saved me quite a few times with PC/Apple issues.

Happy printing.

Glad to hear my site was useful.

I originally created the site for the same reason you posted this entry in your blog, so when I did something again I had a record somewhere (and online) so I could refer to it.

However as time has passed (and number of visitors) the site has evolved somewhat...

Glad to hear you got your printer working in the end. A lot of people have had issues with the low cost HP DeskJets, but your blog entry provides some useful information.

Thanks! You just saved me from buying a printer that would be incompatible with the Airport Express. Suddenly, I'm very wary of HP printers.

I just bought this printer today and was tearing my hair out (what little that's left after a hair cut) trying to figure out how to make it print over the airport. Like you I tried it several times just hooking up the USB directly in to my iBook. I contacted a friend who knows more about this than I do and he was also thoroughly confused. I tried reinstalling the drivers and all that. Finally I did a google search and fount this.

I've been assured that the store will take it back even though it's been opened and used. But I'm very mad at HP. My friend has an HP printer that's about 5 years old and it works on the airport just fine. Heck when I go to his place, I can use it without trouble. HP seems to be basically saying: "We don't want you to be able to use the products we sell you too easily".

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I was so happy to find this entry. With your help (and iFelix) I was able to get my HP 3845 working through Airport Express.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your trials and tribulations. This printing novice found them invaluable!

The information on these websites is a little above me. What I do understand is that I need the PPD file for my HP Deskjet 3845. Once I have that file I think I know what to do from there. I don't know how to generate this file. I was wondering if someone would be able to tell me where I could just download it or generate it for me and email it to me. Thanks for your help.

i am also fighting with a cheap hp deskjet printer and airport express here. where would i find the ppd file for a deskjet f2400?

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on December 31, 2004 11:04 AM.

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