Friday, October 07, 2005

Brother MFC-7820N: my cumulative review and experience

Update 2/10/06: Please see an excellent comment below posted @ 2/9/06. It appears Brother has fixed the Bonjour bug in its newest releases, and the Brother support site now mentions the bug with the XP SP2 firewall. (The device can't communicate with the scanner software, and produces a misleading error message about a problem with the ethernet cable.)

I had complained previously about a "bug" where the fax was picking up incoming calls despite being disabled. It turned the home security system we "inherited" has a hidden modem used by the security company. Under certain conditions our home security system modem answers the phone! It has nothing to do with the MFC.

Brother was slow to pay my rebate, it took over 8 weeks. After months of use I do think this device actually works better with OS X than with XP SP2; but I expect the newest release will be a very good buy. Remember to deal with the XP SP2 firewall problem though.


I just bought a Brother MFC-7820N 5-in-1 Network Monochrome Laser Multifunction Center from I think it might turn out to be a good device, but there's a very nasty bug that prevents the ethernet interface from working with a Mac. It's fixable if you know the magic trick. From my Amazon review:
OS X - rather nasty setup problems, October 7, 2005

I have both XP and OS X Tiger (10.4.2) machines on my home LAN. I installed the brother to both machines. In both cases I downloaded the very latest software patches from Brother's site.

The XP install went rather well, but I realized too late the downloaded drivers didn't include the OCR software. Annoying. I'd recommend doing the CD install first then downloading and updating from the downloads.

If you install XP SP2 you install a firewall. The firewall blocks the scan to machine capability. I have disabled it for now. If you don't disable the firewall, you get a spurious 'check cable' message.

The OS X install was another story. Actually, this is pretty outrageous. Bonjour (was Rendezvous) install didn't work at all. The printer didn't appear in my network display (Printer Setup Utility, Print Center).

It took about a half hour of late night hacking and googling and amazon review reading to figure out that Brother misconfigured the printer. They didn't define something called a 'mDNS' name. Without this name Bonjour/Rendezvous doesn't work. [Update: turns out the place I vaguely remembered this from was a quick posting I'd put up 6 days before I wrote this. If you lived my life you'd understand.]

How do you define this? Well, to make a long story short, dig through the CD and find the help file called ALL_EngNet.pdf. Chapter 7 describes the browser interface. Use your browser and the IP address of the brother to get the web UI. You need the admin un of 'admin' and password of 'access'. (This is publicly downloadable, not secret, you can chang pw.) Then from the home page click Network Configuration then click on configuremDNS, then name the machine (BrotherMFC works). Now you can add it as a printer.

It's astounding that Brother doesn't even mention this on their web site help files. It's a pretty darned serious bug.
A few other comments on the problematic Mac software:
  1. If you install the default Brother Control Center software, you have to configure the printer for every user (one time on initial login). Each time you get to choose the scan to machine option. If that works at all it's a system level option, so this doesn't make sense. (In fact it seems to work though ...)
  2. The PC gets a full configuration utility, the Mac uses a web tool (works fine) that is documented in an exceedingly obscure place. As of October 2008 the OS X downloaded utilities does install a "remote Setup" application that is supposed to do the same thing as the web UI. It starts but crashes after about 10 seconds. I run as a non-admin user, I didn't test it as an admin user.
  3. The PC gets a well known OCR package, the Mac gets something called Presto (OCR on the Mac is not a big market).
  4. I took a different approach with my 10.3.9 iBook. I downloaded just the CUPS and PPD drivers from the 7820N support site. I installed only those on the iBook. I was able to quickly see the Brother printer and the drivers installed seamlessly. I didn't have to deal with the 'Brother Control Center' complexity and odd behavior. With 10.5 you don't need the printer drivers, but you still need to install TWAIN drivers for scanning: I re-enable the 'scan to server' button with OS X 10.5.
  5. To clarify (someone asked): I am able to print, scan and send fax from my iMac. I haven't tried receiving faxes on the iMac. I also was able to get the scan-to-Machine button to work from the MFC, I was surprised that worked.
  6. The web interface includes an interesting report page: (on my network). From that I see that I've printed 6,460 pages and that my drum is at 58% of its lifespan. I've changed toner 3 times (I'm about out of my 3rd, so I'm getting an average of 2,100 pages per cartridge. Of course the 1st cartridge is always a "starter" cartridge, so that understates the full cartridge performance. I was amazed to see I'd scanned over 1,000 pages. I've had 25 paper jams, most recently (see update, below).
The documentation error is particularly annoying -- they provide quite a bit of documentation, they should have referenced the Mac web configuration in the install document.

A few hardware notes (updated as I learn more):
  1. It's very noisy when printing and starting up, but it quickly goes into sleep mode. In sleep mode it's louder than my (very quiet) iMac, but it's across the room from me.
  2. It comes with a 'starter' toner kit good for 1500 pages, rather than a full 2500 page TN-350 toner cartridge. Kind of a sneaky move but common in the printer industry. The cartridge lasted about 6 months with light use. (see update 11/16/08 below about print life extension trick). Brother does not recycle used cartridges; by contrast HP used to. Changing the cartridge is a bit odd. You pull out a module that has the cartridge and the print head, swap the cartridge, clean the print head (don't touch it, read the directions!), and reinsert both. If Brother were to stop making the TN-350 cartridge the MFC-7820N would be worthless; when buying a printer it's always worth seeing how hard it is to find a replacement cartridge. It's a good sign if it works with many different machines. This one fits eight Brother printers and one Brother fax machine.
  3. Compared to the 11 yo LaserWriter Select 360 it feels really flimsy. Of course the 360 was an utter tank. I finally gave up on it because it was getting hard to find high quality toner cartridges, and because the 360 had become the noisiest fan in my office.
  4. In limited testing I'm pleased with the sheet feeder and photocopying.
  5. I finally realized that the client side Mac software interface is a small icon in the top bar. Once I defined a custom B&W scan that takes a set of pages and scans them with great speed into a multi-page PDF in a preset folder ... well, I'm really warming to to this device. To my amazement the button on the MFC will scan to a folder on my Mac (setup using the 2.1.3 Brother control center).
  6. The fax send seems to work very well both from the main machine and from OS X (print to fax -- not sure the address book works though - Mac OS X Hints references a bug with manually entered fax numbers).
  7. 10/12/05: I was asked about scan speed. I scanned 10 pages 300 dpi B&W in 90 seconds, so about 9 seconds a page. Good for my purposes, I think the new Fujitsu SnapScan sounds pretty impressive for persons needing heavier duty document scanning. I do B&W for document scanning because it compresses exceedingly well. I'd do color or gray scale document scans if the vendors supported JPEG2000 compression within PDF. (Adobe supports this in the latest version of Acrobat).
Update 11/8/05: Pierre-Etienne has submitted this related tip for Brother MFC-420CN: (Incidentally, the undocumented telnet capability without a password is a bad security practice.)
Thanks for your postings on the MFC configuration problem. It pointed me to the right problem (no mdns name) but not the right solution since my Brother MFC-420CN model doesn't have a web interface.

However, digging deeper I found that all Brother MFC Network printers have a telnet interface!

Just telnet to the ip address, enter password (mine wasn't "access" but was nothing at all... just entering nothing as a passwd worked). Now:

set mdns enable
set mdns name xxx
show mdns

Wait a few minutes for things to refresh and the deed is done.
Update 1/24/06 - the "check cable' bug. (2/10/06 - yes, it's the firewall)

  • pushed the scan button and the printer LCD panel replied "check cable".
  • Cables, hubs, etc are fine.
  • If push scan button and select machine name in drop down list for scan to file, Brother is unable to connect to PC
  • Power cycling etc doesn't make problem go away.
Update 6/12/06:

I ran into a problem where I couldn't set the print resolution in OS X. The radio button control was malfunctioning -- every button was set. I checked the support page (cryptic location) and found a firmware update and one page with instructions for a CUPS driver, another with instructions for a BR-Script driver.

The firmware update took a long time to run, but it completed without a problem. Those things scare me.

It turns out that both driver pages download the same installer: brxubprt11c.dmg. This in turn contains a mis-spelled package: BrotherPriterDrivers. (Broken english litters all of the Brother updates.)

Ignore the directions. If you've followed the above instructions, or installed the firmware update, Bonjour discovery should work. You can choose to install either the CUPS or BR-Script driver. I had good luck with the CUPS driver so I stayed with that. The bug, btw, was fixed.
  • The name of CUPS driver is "model name + CUPS v1.1"
  • The name of BR-Script driver is "model name + BR-Script 3".
Update 12/28/06: Firewalls and Ports

OS X Firewall seems to manage the MFC-7820N connection well enough, but on XP Firewall services (Windows Live One, for example) break functionality with obscure error messages. Brother's website has a ridiculous technote on this that advises users to disable their Firewall software. As if XP wasn't dangerous enough to use in the first place. The end of the tech note does, grudgingly, specify the UDP ports that need to be open - Port 54925 and Port 137.

Update 3/17/07: OS X Image Capture will control this scanner

I don't know if this is new with 10.4.9, but I discovered today that OS X Image Capture will drive the scanner. In Image capture it's Devices:Browse Devices. You'll see the Brother. Click on use Twain. Now you can scan from it into Image Capture. Nice!

BTW, I've been using this machine for over a year now, and it's really worked well. It's complex and the corporate support is pretty flimsy, but it's impressive.

Update 5/20/07: With OS X 10.4.9 if network configuration changes may need to power cycle the MFC and transiently disable the OS X firewall to reestablish connectivity.

Aren't networks wonderful? They're bad enough all by themselves, but adding in a firewall makes things worse. Then add multi-user workstations ...

Advanced firewalls notify users of failed attempts via the GUI, but the base XP and 10.4 firewalls don't. In any case today the MFC couldn't scan to my iMac and my iMac couldn't drive the scanner. (Open control center, click the file, try a scan, get a "can't communicate" message.) Here's what I did:
  • power cycle MFC
  • turn off OS X firewall
  • use the Control Center scan to file to re-establish a connection (scan anything, doesn't matter what)
  • re-enable the firewall
  • now everything works.
You'd think I could use the OS X firewall logging (see advanced options in the firewall control dialog) to figure out what's failing, but there's a bug in 10.4. You need to be an admin to view that log and 10.4.9 doesn't provide the GUI 'escalate to admin' option. That's a bug.

Update 7/10/07: I've tracked down an old, intermittently annoying, bug. I'd found over the years that the scanner would stop printing; I had to power cycle it to fix the problem. Print jobs hang at 16% or so from OS X. Today I realized this happens after faxing, which we rarely do. If I buy another "all in one" I'll try to remember to test for post-fax functionality.

Update 10/19/08: When I installed 10.5 it installed its own printer driver. Seems to work. On the other hand, the sheet feeder is jamming. I'll try cleaning things out, but I suspect it's come to the end of its life after 3 years of mild use. I mourn for my Apple LaserWriter Select 360; after ten years I had to get rid of it because nobody made toner for it any more. Incidentally, I found a fix for problem of the printer reporting a paper jam that cannot be cleared. Another article describes my problem but doesn't have a fix.

Update 10/28/08: I re-enable the 'scan to server' button with OS X 10.5.

Update 11/6/08: The printer has a pretty strict standard for toner levels. When the toner declines past a set level it stops printing. Today I went to order a new cartridge and found, at the very top of the reviews, this superb tip:
I get 800 to 1100 extra copies from each cartridge.

After the "Toner Life End" message appears, it refuses to print even one more copy.

Remove the cartridge and find 2 clear plastic port holes, one on each side. The printer shines a light through these to decide when to shut you off...

Cover one or both windows with a small piece of masking tape. I get about 3400 copies per cartridge instead of 2400....

... There is also another fix for the toner end of life error message that supposedly works - Open the front cover, not touching the drum, and press options. Press option 2 - to not replace drum ...
I used the masking tape fix.

I'll order a new cartridge, but there's no rush now. I'm amazed, by the way, to find that Amazon still sells this exact printer. I'm not used to modern products with this long a life cycle.

Update 12/27/09: I am printing to this from 10.6.2. I didn't install any drivers. More interesting, Snow Leopard's Image Capture is pulling scans off the device!

Update 1/11/10: I was having pretty severe paper jams, so I figured it was finished. The problem resolved in testing. Turns out, like me, it's saggy. On a flat surface it's good, but I had it on a short bookcase that didn't support it properly. It needs support in its dotage.

Update 1/23/10: If you create an managed account with limited application access, you'll get a series of annoying error messages from the Brother software. The messages refer to applications found in Library\Printers\Brother\Utilities\Server such as LOGINserver, NETserver and USBserver as well as "Control Center". These apps, incidentally, do not show up as login items. There may be a way to enable them in Parental Controls, but I did it the hard way. I kept logging in the managed account and entering "Allow Always" with my admin password until they finally stopped appearing. It took four logins.


JGF said...

Oops. Thanks, I fixed it.

RM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
JGF said...

I'll do a test per Mark's request and update. I also scan B&W.

I think I got all the Canon references. Darned dementia.

JGF said...

Mark, I got 10 pages in 90 seconds doing B&W network scan to an XP machine. I think OS X results are similar. 300 dpi B&W.

Network faxing from my iMac works as does network scanning -- either via pushbutton from MFC or initiated via Mac. I was suprised the pushbutton worked. I haven't tried fax receive to the Mac, I don't use the MFC to receive faxes.

Christopher said...

Any suggestions on this problem: iMac and the Brother, everything works fine except push-button scan from Brother which opens up the scan program from my old printer. I re-installed but to no avail.

JGF said...

Whytoi said scanning required USB, but I scan to both my OS X and XP machine with only the network connection. (I suspect this ability actually is a security hole esp. on the Mac.) I can either push scan from the MFC or control the scans from my machines.

Chris refers to a conflict with an old scanner. One trick is to uninstall everything, reinstall the OLD scanner software to its old location, then uninstall it again. Restart, make sure everything is gone, then try the MFC.

Uninstallers work better in XP than OS X. (Big weakness of OS X is lack of a common uninstaller.) You may need to search your hard drive for remnants of old software.

Christopher said...

I uninstalled and then hunted around my hard drive for any remains from my old scanner. Manually threw out a few odds and ends. Now, everything works frine with the Brother scanning.

And so far, I really think I got a good machine for a good price through Costco and a $50 rebate.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! For months our OSX (10.4) mini could not see our networked brother printer. Your fix for renaming the mDNS worked!

Anonymous said...

Since your posting regarding the MFC-7820N proved to be extremely useful for MacOSX-users, just to tell you two things:

1. I bought this printer in Austria (Europe) last week, and it seems that in recent models, this problem has been fixed. Bonjour works like a charm. Brother has also an FAQ on its US website that treats this problem in the same way like you.

2. Under OSX, the Postscript driver is not installed by default, you must manually opt for it. Much better quality than the default driver (in particular from programs such as Adobe Indesign). Just to be on the safe side, I chose "Postscript" as standard emulation on the printer, too.

3. The problem with the firewall under WinXP is described on the US-website of Brother, including a potential solultion.

4. If you want to remotely access the web-interface of the printer via Safari etc., you need to deactivate the MacOSX-firewall. I failed in providing for an exception in the firewall settings. However, a simple workaround is apparently to just disable the firewall during access to the printer - no problem if you don't forget to put it on afterwards.

Thanks for your valuable comments, which helpted me to go for the printer. In overall, I am very pleased with this workhorse - except for the noise it generates. Neverthelss, nothing comparable on the market in this price region right now.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot, Gordon and others who have posted regarding the 7820N. I spent a long time searching for a laser MFC that would work with my Macs. When I found this blog, my search was over. I bought this great printer recently.

I followed these instructions and the printer is working well. I just have one question:

Can I scan multiple pages into a PDF document not using the ADF?

For example, I have some double-sided pages I want to turn into a PDF. I'm happy to scan them one at a time in the flatbed, but I want them all to be included into a single PDF file.


Anonymous said...

Testing out my new Intel Mac Mini with the Brother MFC-7820N, and realized that I can't use fax receive straight to the Mac like you can with PC. Is there a fix for this? I'm setting up a paperless office, and really would like all my faxes straight to the mac. I really don't want to have to use my USB modem unless I really need to. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I'm seriously considering 7820N but also wondering if I should splurge another hundred dollars for 8840D, which has duplex capability. Any comment on that model or know anything about it?


JGF said...

Ray, I only research this stuff when I need to, so I don't know about newer products. The 7820N is still working as I'd noted earlier. The cartridge is running low on toner, but the initial cartridge is usually low capacity on all these printers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about the MFC-7820N.

I just picked one up and overall, I'm happy with it.

I can't figure out how to get the PC fax receive to work using XP or OS X 10.3.9. It looks like there is no way to receive faxes on mac osx. Too bad. I really like the ideal of storing faxes on the mfc and downloading them to a pc. It seems so simple (a la scan to image).

Has anyone figured out what the ftp feature is and why it is enabled? I didn't see my stored faxes there but that sure would be a great way to store them!

Anonymous said...

Gordon - it's just not working for me! I've done everything you said, mDNS name, downloaded and installed CUPS, PPD drivers from the brother site. nothing shows up in my Printer Utility (os x 10.4). Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...


Great info on MFC-7820N. I'm sitting on the fence thinking of buying this or Canon MFC5770. This is cheaper by $80, but Canon only needs a toner cartridge, but this one needs a 'drum' too. Do you know how long that lasts? Have you had to change?

Also, network scanning is a great functionality. I tried to look, but the Canon does not support it.

Aryan said...

Thanks Gordon, this is a very helpful blog.

To all, I had no problems installing the MFC as a P2P Network printer in MAC OS X 10.4, bonjour seemed to work fine. You do have to "Add" the printer as an IPP as explained in the manual (with a cryptic file name ALL_EngNet.pdf.

I "hard"coded the IP address, not sure if this is the right way. If the IP address changes, do I have to reconfigure the printer and add it as a new IPP?

Also, is the firewall on my MAC supposed to be down everytime I print? (this was a useful hint in an earlier posting)

Anonymous said...

Has anyone got the MFC7820N to forward faxes directly to a Mac or an attached NAS drive without having to print them before ? Thank's.

Anonymous said...

I've had the scanning to email working fine, but just today now I'm getting the "Check cable" issue and i'm on a mac - so its not the xp service pack issue. Anyone have any ideas? Network printing is fine...

Unknown said...

I like everything about the Brother MFC-7820N except for the flimsy plasticky feel to it's openable trays and pull-out drawer. Feels like it may break someday (but it hasn't yet). Functionally, I think it's one of the most feature-rich network-based MFCs, better than the Dell 1600N I had which just went belly up after 3 yrs. I love the 7820N print quality and network-based scanning capabilities.

I ran into a problem with my 7820N today which other people may hit so I figured I'd post it here where there's tons of other good 7820N info. I just installed a new router with DHCP server that uses a different IP address range than the old router I replaced. This of course caused my Brother 7820N IP address to change. The strange thing is not only did the IP address change, but the Brother 7820N factory node name (which is advertised into WINS I believe, allowing all 4 of my Windows XP PCs reach it via node name) also changed as the Brother took on an new IP address. It changed from "BRN_046922" (this is my Brother-generated unique factory node name...yours will likely differ) to "dhcppc3". Not sure where this new "dhcppc3" name came from...potentially assigned by my new router. But with all 4 PCs already thinking my Brother printer and scanner and fax server were "BRN_046922", you can imagine the pain of manually having to reconfigure every print, scan, and fax driver in 4 PCs. I found instead I could just reset the node name on the 7820N itself to fix the problem. I logged into 7820N Web interface using it's new raw IP address, looked at Network Configuration main pane, clicked on "Node Name", changed "dhcppc3" to "BRN_046922" and pressed submit. That's it. Now the printer is again visible to Brother's status monitor program and reachable again via the printer driver, the PaperPort scan driver, etc.

Took me a couple hours to figure out what went wrong. Hope this saves someone else some debugging time...


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I am trying to setup a mfc-7820n on a mac G5 OX10.4. What I what to accomplish is to be able send faxes over the network, where the MFC is installed.

I have not had any success, every time I send a fax the page is printed on the MFC and no fax is being sent. What I am doing wrong?

Please help.

JGF said...

I've sent faxes directly from the scanner. I don't know why you'd want to send them from a computer. I don't think that's supported.

Anonymous said...

I have my Scan to Image preferences set to scan to PDF and open in Adobe Acrobat. I notice that when I then scan to image the document opens and my only option is to do a save as and save the file to a folder. The original temp file is still available via "Open Recent File" and the file properties show this file saved in Macintosh HD:private:temp:user. I don't have direct access to this file directory and it may be only available when logging with root privileges. Do you know if these files are being deleted upon restart?

Unknown said...

This is an extremely useful post. Thank you.

debbie said...

my MFC 7820N is saying end of toner life, but i have only used approx. 500 copies. what can i do?

Apta said...

Terrific postings! I run a school IT department and have had good luck with a dozen Brother 8085DN adn 8065DN. I ignore the "Replace Fuser", "Replace Laser", etc. messages by resetting them and the printer keeps on chugging. Covering the "peek" holes on the cartridges is a great way to get 100's of extra prints.

If you don't want your printer's IP address to change whenever you restart or replace your router, you can assign it a static IP address. Go to the LAN (it may have a different name on other models) menu to change it.

Make sure you log in to your router first and find out its DHCP address range and assign the printer an address OUTSIDE the range.