HP Scanner Tips

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One would not expect this page to be necessary, but it is. HP makes great hardware, however their Macintosh software simply sucks. This page describes a workaround to their truly crummy scanner driver software.

I bought an HP PSC 1210xi at Costco for about $80. This is a combination printer/scanner/copier. The copier part doesn't even need a computer and it works fine. The printer driver seems to be ok too. It works reliably. However, the scanner driver is another matter entirely.

The driver software is the same for the whole family of all-in-one HP printer products.

In order for the computer and the scanner to communicate, a process called HP Communications is necessary. When the HP driver software is installed, an application called the HP Director is autolaunched. There doesn't seem to be a way to make it not launch even if you don't need it. The printer services don't. The HP Communications process is also launched. HP Communications seems to be the bad actor.

The first problem is that if the HP Communications process EVER loses contact with the printer, it goes completely nuts trying to find it again and it consumes ALL of the available CPU. This will make the computer appear to run very slowly and, on a laptop, will usually result in the fan running continuously. The only way around this is to force quit the HP Communications process. This is most easily done in the Activity Monitor application (found in the /Applications/Utilities folder). Locate HP Communications in the list of active processes and press the Quit Process button.

HP Communications can lose contact with the printer for any number of reasons such as:

  1. The computer goes to sleep
  2. The printer is turned off
  3. The printer is disconnected

When the HP Communications process fails for any reason, or it is killed by the user, the HP Scan application refuses to work. There is a procedure that must be followed to get it going again.

  1. Force Quit HP Communications (if running)
  2. Force Quit HP Scan (if running)
  3. Turn the printer off
  4. Turn the printer on
  5. Select Scan Picture from the HP Director application
  6. When the HP Scan application complains, press Reset
  7. HP Scan will then hang, but HP Communications will restart
  8. Force Quit HP Scan (again)
  9. Select Scan Picture from the HP Director application (again)
  10. You should be good to go

UPDATE 22 Oct 05

HP has indeed released an update to their drivers which now seems to behave. The update can be found on their Support & Drivers page. The full updated version is 7.3.1 and weighs in at about 88 meg.

UPDATE 1 Nov 05

I didn't test the stability of the new driver software much under 10.4.2 but it seemed to work. However, under 10.4.3, HP Scan has become badly unstable. It may work, it may not. If it doesn't, it'll crash either at the beginning or end of a scan. I could not discover a workaround to this issue and the crashes were happening so often, I wasn't getting any work done. I used the uninstall program (Hewlett-Packard folder in Applications) to remove the update and reinstalled the 6.3.4 version. HPCommunications still has difficulties, but at least HPScan works.

Intel iMac UPDATE 21 Jan 06

HP scan from 6.3.4 is broken on an Intel iMac. It tries to run but fails with a variety of error messages. However, the 7.3.1 driver software now appears to work... go figure.

UPDATE 20 May 06

I've been using 7.7.2 on the iMac Core Duo for several months now and it appears to be stable enough to be classified as "fixed."

UPDATE 17 Aug 06

HP has released v7.9 of the drivers, this time as a Universal Binary. The whole app appears to be re-written or at least substantially updated. This one also appears to work from a stability point of view.

UPDATE 29 Oct 06

There was a design change in the scanner software that I don't like. In the older versions of the software, one could preview one scan and then re-use that preview for any number of subsequent scans. This was fine when scanning a pile of prints that were all the same size. v7.9 won't do this. It wants a new preview of EVERY scan which materially reduces the efficiency of scanning many things that are the same size.

UPDATE 11 Feb 07

Not until yesterday did I install the v7.9 drivers on my PowerBook G4. It didn't go well. I wanted to scan some more photos so I first tried to use the older version that was actually installed. Then I was reminded how unstable the older version was when it caused a kernel panic so I updated the software.

My major mistake was NOT uninstalling v7.7.2 BEFORE I installed v7.9. When the computer rebooted after the panic, the oder, still installed, driver fired up HP Communications. When I upgraded over the top of it, HP Communications went nuts again and consumed the CPU. I noticed that the new installer ran REALLY slowly but I didn't connect the issues. Once I figure that out and killed that process for good, the Setup Assistant would not work. It could not find the printer and relaunched itself every time I logged in. Since it could not complete without finding the printer, it refused to go away until it found a printer. I could set up the printer manually though. Then I noticed that the dialog boxes for finding the printer AND the manual setup were different AND there were TWO versions of the Setup Assistant running. Some remaining parts of the old installation were still there. When I uninstalled the new version, it reported TWO versions of the drivers. The uninstall program actually zapped both versions. After emptying the trash and restarting to get rid of any old memory images, the new installation when much quicker and the Setup Assistant then worked.

The new software was not good enough to fully clean up the old stuff. If you plan to do an upgrade to new software, UNINSTALL the old version with it's uninstaller and restart before installing a new version.

UPDATE 27 September 09

Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6) has done away with the need for the HP software package at all. Before you install Snow Leopard, used the Uninstaller program in the HP software folder to entirely remove the HP software. Snow Leopard will install new HP drivers. Also, Image Capture will do all the scanning that the older HP software would do.

If you have Snow Leopard installed already, Uninstall the HP stuff anyway and delete the HP folder. You may need to add an HP printer back in but Snow Leopard will reach out to the internet to find the necessary drivers for you when you add any printer.

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© 2005-2009 George Schreyer
Created 12 Mar 2005
Last Updated September 27, 2009