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How to transfer and restore your Mac printer settings

If you have carefully calibrated printer presets on OS X and you want to transfer them to a new computer, or reinstall your operating system and restore them, Apple makes it much more difficult than it needs to be.

For macOS Sierra, suggestions you find online — to run killall on cfprefsd, to remove and reinstall printers, etc. — are either out-of-date or never worked originally.  Here is the only method I've found that works.

  1. Make copies of every plist file in in ~/Library/Preferences/ that begins with the prefix
  2. Set up your new computer.
  3. Open System Preferences from the Apple Menu, choose "Printers & Scanners", and Control-click on the "Printers" panel at the left. That will bring up a "Reset printing system…" option. Select that, confirm, then close System Preferences.

  4. Copy all your plist files to your new ~/Library/Preferences/ directory.
  5. Open System Preferences to the printer setttings again, and press the + button in the left panel to add each of your printers.
  6. You will probably need to reboot your new Mac to make sure the changes propagate to all services.

Your presets should now work as before.

6 Responses to How to transfer and restore your Mac printer settings

  1. Joe says:

    Excellent! Worked like a charm. Thanks!

  2. What about if I go to ~/Library/Preferences/ and I can't see any files that begins with the prefix Would they be saved somewhere else perhaps?

  3. graneyd says:

    This worked brilliantly for me too, didn't have to restart new MacBook for it to take effect either.

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