Raspberry Pi Print & Scanner Server

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Submitted by Sam Hobbs on

Got a spare RasPi knocking around? Why not hook it up to your all-in-one and use it as a handy print and scanner server? I have previously tried to get my multifunction printer/scanner working with OpenWrt, but ran into difficulty with the scanner. Having tried it with the RasPi, I'm pleased to report that it's as easy as Pi ;) Print server capability is provided by the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS), and scanner capability is provided by Scanner Access Now Easy (SANE). Here's my ninja RasPi chilling out discretely down the side of a bookcase: ninja-pi-print-server.jpg My all-in-one is a HP Deskjet 3050a. Before you start, it's a good idea to check that your device has supported drivers. HP devices are generally well supported by the Free and Open Source HP Linux Imaging and Printing (HPLIP) package, which is in the repos - you can check HP devices on this page to be sure. Other manufacturers also have supported devices, some of which will require proprietary drivers. A good place to check the Linux support of other devices is openprinting.org.


First we'll set up the Pi as a print server. I'm assuming you're doing this "headless", i.e. without a monitor using SSH. Some of the steps would be easier with a monitor, but this method will work regardless.

Server configuration

First, install the printer drivers. For HP printers, the package hplip is in the repos:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hplip


sudo apt-get install cups

To add a printer your user needs to be a member of the linux printing administration group lpadmin. On my previous Raspbian installations, I found this to be the case by default but I set up the print server again recently and I had to add myself to the group. I think this may be one of the differenced between a NOOBS installation and a standard Raspbian image. You can check which groups your username is a member of using the groups command:

pi@print-server ~ $ groups
pi adm dialout cdrom sudo audio video plugdev games users netdev input spi gpio

As you can see, lpadmin is not in the list, so we need to add pi to the lpadmin group with this command:

sudo usermod -a -G lpadmin pi

Now reboot the pi:

sudo reboot

and check again:

pi@print-server ~ $ groups
pi adm dialout cdrom sudo audio video plugdev games users netdev lpadmin input spi gpio

Good! Now connect your printer's data cable into one of the RasPi's USB ports. CUPS administration can be done via a web interface, but remote access (i.e. not localhost) is turned off by default. To enable remote administration, we first need to edit the cups config file via SSH. The CUPS configuration file is at /etc/cups/cupsd.conf. The first change we need to make is to allow connections from other machines on the network. Look for this line:

Listen localhost:631

Change it to this:

Port 631

Add these two lines:

BrowseRemoteProtocols CUPS dnssd
BrowseAddress @LOCAL

Find the server root Location statement, and edit it to match this one to enable shared printing:

<Location  />
  Order allow,deny
  Allow all

Now find the /admin Location statement, and edit it to match this one (i.e. comment or delete the Order allow,denyline inside). This will allow access to the admin pages:

<Location /admin>

Find the /admin/conf locaiton block and delete the Order allow,deny, which will enable access to the configuration files. Now reload the CUPS daemon to make the changes:

sudo service cups reload

Now go to a web browser and type the IP address or hostname of your Pi, followed by :631 (port 631), for example or https://print-server:631 You should see a page that looks like this: cups1.png Click on the administration tab and you will see a page like this: cups2.png Click on "Add printer" in the top left. You need to be using a secure connection (https) here because CUPS will ask you to authenticate with a username and password. This is your system username and password, e.g. username "pi" and password "raspberry" by default. cups3.png NOTE: if you get a Forbidden error here but the username/password popup doesn't reappear, this means that your credentials have been accepted (you are a user on the system) but you don't have permission to add a printer. Go back and read the part about adding your user to the lpadmin group, reboot the pi, and try again! If your printer is connected with a data cable, you should see it listed on the next page. Select it and press continue: cups4.png Fill in some key details and hit continue. Be sure to check "share this printer": cups5.png Now select your model from the list of drivers available (these are provided by packages like HPLIP). If you have a choice, choose the cups version, then click add printer: cups6.png Finally, set your default printing options: cups7.png And your're done!

Setting up client machines

Here's an example of setting up the printer on KDE: Install the same driver files you used earlier. For HP printers:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install hplip

Then navigate to System settings --> Printers (or search for "printers"), and then select Add printer. print-client-kde.png Your computer should automatically detect the printer shared by the print server over the network. Click next and follow the steps to add the printer - you will be asked to add the driver like you did in CUPS. When you are finished, click Maintenance --> Print Test Page to check everything works as expected. print-client-kde2.png

Windows machines

I don't have any Windows machines at home so I haven't tested this, but if you want to connect to the shared printer with Windows you should install Samba as described in the Ubuntu community documentation.


Scanning also works remotely, but requires a bit more tinkering to get working.

Server Configuration

To get started, log back in to the Pi with SSH and install SANE:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install sane

SANE comes with a few useful tools for checking configuration. First, see if SANE can find your scanner:

sudo sane-find-scanner

You should get some output like this:

pi@print-server ~ $ sudo sane-find-scanner

  # sane-find-scanner will now attempt to detect your scanner. If the
  # result is different from what you expected, first make sure your
  # scanner is powered up and properly connected to your computer.

  # No SCSI scanners found. If you expected something different, make sure that
  # you have loaded a kernel SCSI driver for your SCSI adapter.
  # Also you need support for SCSI Generic (sg) in your operating system.
  # If using Linux, try "modprobe sg".

found USB scanner (vendor=0x03f0 [HP], product=0xa011 [Deskjet 3050A J611 series]) at libusb:001:005
found USB scanner (vendor=0x0bda [Manufacturer Realtek ], product=0x8172 [RTL8191S WLAN Adapter ]) at libusb:001:004
found USB scanner (vendor=0x0424, product=0xec00) at libusb:001:003
  # Your USB scanner was (probably) detected. It may or may not be supported by
  # SANE. Try scanimage -L and read the backend's manpage.

  # Not checking for parallel port scanners.

  # Most Scanners connected to the parallel port or other proprietary ports
  # can't be detected by this program.

If the program returns information about your make and model like above, you're good to go. Next, try the following:

sudo scanimage -L

You should get output like this:

device `hpaio:/usb/Deskjet_3050A_J611_series?serial=CN1C3438F005PJ' is a Hewlett-Packard Deskjet_3050A_J611_series all-in-one

Finally, try scanning something. Put something inside the scanner enter this command:

scanimage > ~/test-scan-file.pnm

You can see details about the file using this command:

file ~/test-scan-file.pnm

If you would like to fetch the file via SSH and inspect it on your laptop, you can use the secure copy command (run this from a terminal on your laptop):

scp pi@print-server:~/test-scan-file.pnm ~/test-scan-file.pnm

(...where print-server is the hostname of the print server, Alternatively, you can use the IP address of the Pi, e.g. Once the transfer is complete, you can open the file from your home directory with a program like GIMP. Now we know that the scanner is working locally, we can set up the sane daemon. Open the configuration file /etc/default/saned and set this option to turn the sane daemon/server on:


Next, open the file /etc/sane.d/saned.conf and add this line, which tells the server to accept connections from all IP addresses in the range to

The above assumes that your router's IP address is - if it is then change the line to Also uncomment this line:

data_portrange = 10000 - 10100

We also need to fix the permissions so that the sane daemon can access the scanner without root. Part of the output from sane-find-scanner was the following line:

found USB scanner (vendor=0x03f0 [HP], product=0xa011 [Deskjet 3050A J611 series]) at libusb:001:005

The section "at libusb:001:005" at the end tells us that the scanner is located at /dev/bus/usb/001/005. Let's check who owns that file:

pi@print-server ~ $ ls -l /dev/bus/usb/001
total 0
crw-rw-r-T 1 root root 189, 0 Jul  6 19:44 001
crw-rw-r-T 1 root root 189, 1 Jan  1  1970 002
crw-rw-r-T 1 root root 189, 2 Jan  1  1970 003
crw-rw-r-T 1 root root 189, 3 Jul  6 19:44 004
crw-rw-r-T 1 root lp   189, 4 Jul  6 19:49 005

As you can see, it is owned by root with the group lp (linux printing). We need to add the sane daemon to the lp group to give it the necessary permissions:

sudo adduser saned lp

Now restart the SANE daemon to make all of the changes take effect. On Debian Wheezy and before, the command is:

sudo service saned restart

On Jessie and later (i.e. systems with systemd), use:

sudo systemctl start saned.socket

And tell the SANE service to start automatically when the Pi starts. On Wheezy:

sudo update-rc.d saned defaults

Or on Jessie:

sudo systemctl enable saned.socket

Now check SANE is running properly:

sudo service saned status

You can also check that the port is available externally by using nmap to port scan the Pi from your laptop:

nmap print-server

(again, assuming print-server is the hostname of your pi - alternatively, use the IP addresss). You shoudl get results like this:

Nmap scan report for print-server (
Host is up (0.019s latency).
rDNS record for print-server.lan
Not shown: 997 closed ports
22/tcp   open  ssh
631/tcp  open  ipp
6566/tcp open  sane-port

All good: the Pi has services bound to port 22 for SSH, 631 for printing/CUPS and 6566 for scanning/SANE.

Client configuration

I'm going to use KDE as an example again: install xsane and skanlite on the client machine:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install xsane skanlite

Now we need to edit a config file to tell your computer where to look for sane services. Edit /etc/sane.d/net.conf and uncomment this line:

connect_timeout = 60

And add the IP address of your print server to the file:

Now run this command. You should see a popup that says "scanning for devices" and then the following GUI will appear with a plethora of options:


xsane-kde.png If you'd like something more simple, try Skanlite: raspi-skanlite.png That's it! Hope you found it helpful, let me know how you get on :)


Is there any software works with Windows with sane?
There are an error:
sudo service sane restart,
does not exist but it is
sudo service saned restart

Thank for the guide :)

Gabriele, You might find that you prefer Kubuntu if you're coming from Windows, KDE's Plasma desktop is more "traditional" than Ubuntu's Unity. If you'd like to try it, you don't need to re-install, just type:
sudo apt-get install kubuntu-desktop
When you log out and back in again, you will have a choice between the Unity desktop and Kubuntu's Plasma desktop. All of the applications that work for Ubuntu work for Kubuntu, but it has different ones installed by default. Have fun, and if you get into trouble, ask a question at Kubuntu Forums - they're a friendly bunch. Sam

Following your procedure made this install relatively painless. But upon starting either xsane or skanlite the first time, I got error messages regarding unable to create file due to file permissions even though both programs appeared to initialize normally. At the time, I had an ssh connection to my print server (Rapberry Pi B+ running raspian) but was not attempting to start the scan programs on it. I was using my laptop as a client as your procedure suggested. Upon restarting skanlite, however, no messages appeared. Retrying xsane brought up the error message. Any thoughts?

You might add a warning that these might show up the first time either program is started after installation, for it got me concerned!

That's strange! Which file did it say it was unable to create? I'm pretty sure I didn't see an error like that, but I can't be sure - it was a while ago. I might investigate to see if I can reproduce the error. Anyway, I'm glad everything is working now, and thanks for your comment! Sam

Thanks for a nice concise guide. When I tried it with my 256MB Pi I quickly found out that 256MB is waaaay too little for a cups server. It started swapping like crazy with a risk of damaging the SD card.

Even with a 512MB machine I think it would help both the server performance, and the health of the SD card to put some tmpfs on /run/ /var/log, and /var/spool/cups

In /etc/fstab add lines
tmpfs /var/run tmpfs defaults,noatime 0 0
tmpfs /var/log tmpfs defaults,noatime 0 0
tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=1777 0 0
tmpfs /var/spool/cups tmpfs defaults,noatime,mode=0755 0 0

Also just to be safe disable swap altogether with
sudo update-rc.d dphys-swapfile remove

The other thing I did was to use this project https://github.com/armooo/cloudprint to allow the cups server to act as a gateway to Google Cloudprint so Android and ChromeOS devices could print.

tmpfs dynamically adjusts to fit available memory and the size of the contents. If it runs out then it starts swapping. If no swap is available then the tmpfs partition will be full and the application will crash. Meanwhile if no memory is available when linux tries to allocate some, then the OOM algorithm will start killing processes.

Naturally this is not a good situation and so must be avoided. Use of a swap file will avoid crashes, but if too much use is made of swap then the performance will suck, and the SD card could wear out. The best solution is to have enough memory so swap is not needed. 256MB is clearly not enough. I have a 512MB Pi on order, and will report back on the performance advantages of tmpfs when it arrives.

Now my new 512MB B+ has arrived I have conducted a few experiments with the print server.
With 512MB RAM the server never needs to use swap, so it does not matter if it is enabled or not.

As for tmpfs to my surprise it did not make any material difference in how long print jobs take. A one page test print took just over a minute regardless of whether /var/spool/cups was mounted on tmpfs or not.

htop confirmed that the CPU ran at 100% load while running a print job, while iotop shows that cups does not make frequent disc read/writes while processing, so the faster access time of tmpfs does not help much.

As for using tmpfs to reduce SD card wear. Modern SD cards have much better wear levelling than the old ones, but I have managed to destroy SD cards in the past, so for the sake of caution I feel more comfortable if tmpfs is used on directories holding temporary data.

Derek, Thanks for coming back with that useful information. Perhaps the bottleneck on the Pi is the CPU then, I have also noticed it can take a very long time to print (>5 minutes sometimes!), especially when the documents are large. If you have any eureka moments please keep me updated! Sam

Some experimenting with printer drivers has got my print speed way down. For my HP OfficeJet the hpijs driver is way faster than the hpcups driver. A test page which was taking 70 secs, now completes in 26sec.

Looking at htop I can see it does not even max out the CPU.
Depending on which printer you have you may see a similar improvement. You could also try a Generic Postscript driver (check which version of Postscript your printer supports)

Ibraheem Darawshi

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 18:56

thank you for your information.
have you tried to connect more than one scanner? if not, do you think it's possible? and how much time does it take a scanner to scan a page?
thanks in advance

Hi Ibraheem That's not something I've tried, but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work! The speed of the scanner depends on your scanner - the file is saved locally on the pi before it is transferred to your computer/skanlite. If you have a slow WiFi connection between your router and the pi then I guess the transfer could limit the speed. Sam

I'm working on a project where I have to make more than one scanner work at the same time, don't you think that's too much for the pi to bear? I mean, is the pi fast enough for that?
- do you know how to make the images go directly to an SD card?
- and finally, what does the Wi-Fi have to do with the scanner? isn't it connected via USB ? I'm confused now !
I really appreciate your help :)

Which model of Pi do you have? A pi 2 would definitely be fast enough, and I'd be surprised if you had problems with any other model too. I think most of the heavy lifting is done by the computer in the actual scanner, the pi is just writing the data to a file and talking to your laptop/desktop. This command is listed in the tutorial:
scanimage > ~/test-scan-file.pnm
It scans the image to a file called test-scan-file.pnm in your home directory on the Pi (/home/pi/test-scan-file.pnm). My Pi is connected to my router with wifi, so when I run skanlinte or xsane on my laptop, the pi has to scan the file to a temporary file on its SD card and then transfer the file to me over the LAN. If the connection from the pi to the router is poor then that transfer would be slow. Of course, you can run those graphical programs on the pi itself if you like - that's just not what I was expecting (I wouldn't really consider it to be a "server" if you use it like that). Sam

Ibraheem Darawshi

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 20:43

OK, now it's clear to me.Again,thank you very much ,you have now idea how much this tutorial was helpful :)

Ibraheem Darawshi

Fri, 03/06/2015 - 19:07

Hi Sam,
Everything works fine with me so far,but when I typed this command (( scanimage > ~/test-scan-file.pnm)) I got the following message :
((scanimage: no SANE devices found))
even though the pi manged to detect my scanner ( hp 5370c)
can you tell what is wrong?

It worked

Sat, 03/07/2015 - 13:34

The output was exactly like yours , but the when I used this (( scanimage > ~/test-scan-file.pnm)) an error message showed.
But finally it worked just fine, I did two things actually to make it work and I don't know which of them was responsible for making it work :
1- I downloaded hplip even though my device is only a scanner not a printer
2- I typed sudo scanimage > ~/test-scan-file.pnm >>> notice sudo
Again, thank you very much :)

Interesting... now that you have the scanner drivers installed, can you check if you need to use sudo or not? If you still can't print wigthout sudo, you might need to add pi to a group like lp to give it permission to use the scanner. Worth testing...

Ibraheem Darawshi

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 17:06

Ok I will and I'll tell you what happens:)
Do you know how to make the pi send the images scanned through a local network? I've been trying but I couldn't figure out how ! I only was able to control it by any device connected to the LAN , but the problem is they have a complete access to the pi !!

Ibraheem Darawshi

Wed, 03/11/2015 - 15:56

Hi Sam ,
I tried to connect a new scanner ( HP 1510 all in one ) but it won't work even though it's supported by SANE !
when I type (sudo sane-find-scanner) the pi can find the scanner ,but when I type (sudo scanimage -L) it tells me that no scanners were identified !!

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