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There are three main kinds of printer cables that are worth knowing about when trying to connect a printer to a Macbook of Macbook Pro. Between these three cables, you'll be able to hook most printers up to your laptops, providing that the printer is supported by Mac OS X. These cables are:
- USB Cables (1.1 and 2.0)
- Parallel Port Cables
- Parallel to USB Conversion Cables.
- USB Cables (1.1 and 2.0)
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USB cables are now the most common and widely used printer cables on the planet. Every new printer (going back to models about 4 years old at least) that you buy will require a USB cable. The older type of USB, that is USB 1.1, had very slow transfer speeds and aren't sold in retail stores anymore. You will want to make sure that your USB cable is 2.0 for the fastest speed possible. If you're buying a used cable online, make sure that it specifies 2.0, especially if you are planning on printing large-sized documents such as PDF files and photos. Pictured to the left, the USB cable has an "A" end that looks like a standard, rectangular USB connector and a "B" end that looks more like a superscript "D." The "B" end goes into the printer and the "A" end goes into your Macbook. All Mac desktops (iMac and Mac Pro) and laptops (Macbook and Macbook Pro) have had 2+ USB ports on them for years now.
You should know that big chain electronics retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City, Staples and the like make a HUGE profit from the sale of cables, with USB cables being the most frequently sold. Since most printers do not come with USB cables, the customer is pressured into buying a $20 USB cable (6ft) or a longer one ranging up to $40. When I worked retail, the markup on these cables were nearly 1000% of their cost. We would sell printers sometimes at a loss, hoping to make it up in cable (and ink) sales. So, the cheapest place to buy USB cables is, basically, anywhere but a retail store. Amazon.com, Newegg.com, and Tigerdirect.com all have excellent selections and prices on USB cables. For the most part, off-brand cables won't pose any kind of problem. You should be able to get a 6ft. USB cable for around $5.
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Parallel Port Cables
Chances are that you will not need one of these cables since Macbooks do not have Parallel ports on them (nor do any modern laptops). Older printers used to hook up to older printers with this slow and bulky cable. While some old printers or register systems may still use this kind of cable, the average consumer will not have to worry about it. Plus, you will pay a premium for these cables if you buy them in a retail store as they are increasingly difficult to find.
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Parallel to USB Conversion Cable
This cable simply allows you to connect a Parallel port printer to a USB computer and can be very useful for hooking up older printers to newer computers, including your Macbook. You will always want to verify that the printer you are hooking up is compatible with your newer computer. You can do this either by trial and error, Google search, or by checking out the printer manufacturer's website. This cable runs for typically around $40 in retail stores, but can be found much cheaper at online stores such as Newegg.com and Tigerdirect.com, which have Parallel to USB cables for a cheap as $10.