Epson Perfection 3490 Photo under Mac OS X 10.6

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 25th, 2011 • 2:49 pm

I have been using an Epson Perfection 3490 Photo scanner for many years without any significant problems. Initially, I used Epson’s own software, but eventually I switched to using Mac OS X’s Image Capture, which has a more Mac OS X-like interface, even though it still comes with its own share of (minor) UI issues.

In the past few months, I started experiencing the odd problem with the scanner not being visible in Image Capture. Usually, I solved the problem by unplugging the scanner’s USB cable and plugging it back in. This would cause it to reappear in Image Capture, and everything was fine after that. It didn’t happen all the time, and since I couldn’t be bothered to try and solve such an intermittent problem with an easy workaround, I left it alone.

And then yesterday, out of the blue, my scanner stopped working altogether on my machine (a Mac Pro running Mac OS X 10.6.6). The scanner would appear in the list of devices in Image Capture, but when I tried to scan something or get an overview, the process would just stop after a few seconds with a useless error message saying that “there was an error in the scanning process.”

I tried all the usual troubleshooting steps: unplugging and plugging the USB cable, power-cycling the scanner itself, using a different USB plug on my computer, deleting the scanner from the “Print & Fax” preference pane (which should really be called “Print & Fax & Scan”) and re-adding it, even rebooting my entire machine. Nothing helped.

I then discovered that I no longer had Epson’s own software installed on my computer. I am not sure how this happened, but it’s possible that I trashed the Epson Scan application a while ago because I simply wasn’t using it. Now, however, I found myself needing to reinstall that application in order to see if it too was failing and if there was indeed a hardware problem with the scanner itself.

I went to the Epson web site and downloaded the most recent “TWAIN Driver and EPSON Scan Utility” disk image, called “epson13834.dmg.”

I was able to mount the disk image, and launch the installer application. I got the Mac OS X dialog box warning me that this was an application downloaded from the Internet. I continued and the installer application spawned another version of itself in the Dock, which asked for my administrator’s password. I entered the password.

Then the second Dock icon disappear and, a few seconds later, the first icon disappear as well. The installer application had crashed.

I tried again several times, and the exact same thing happened. So I found myself with a useless error message in Image Capture and the inability to reinstall Epson’s own software for the scanner, because the installer application was crashing all the time.

My next step was to try and reproduce the problem with a different computer. I transported the whole scanner to my wife’s office and plugged it into her laptop (running Mac OS X 10.6.5). I opened my admin user environment on that machine and attempted to run the Epson installer application on that machine. I got the exact same behaviour, with the application crash. I had no way to install the Epson software on that machine either.

I then saw that Mac OS X had automatically added the scanner to the list of devices in the “Print & Fax” preference pane. I don’t know if the OS still had a copy of the required driver that I might have installed on that machine a long time ago, or if the driver is included in Mac OS X itself, as many printer drivers are. Either way, the scanner was recognized and Mac OS X clearly had all that it needed to automatically add the scanner to the user environment.

I opened Image Capture, selected the scanner, and attempted to scan something… And it worked!

At least, that proved that the scanner itself was not defective. But I still had two outstanding problems: I couldn’t scan with Image Capture on my own machine, and I couldn’t install Epson’s own software on either machine.

I then went back to my own machine with the scanner and tried one more time, still with no luck. Since Image Capture worked on my wife’s computer, I figured I would try to see if it would work on my own machine in a different user environment, so I switch to another user environment that I use for testing purposes, and tried Image Capture there. I still got the same error message when attempting to scan.

This was starting to get quite frustrating. Then I decided to try and run the Epson software installer in that user environment and… it worked. I then remembered that, a long time ago, I had encountered an issue that boiled down to an incompatibility between Epson’s antiquated installer software and Spell Catcher X. And sure enough, I had Spell Catcher X running both in my admin user environment on my wife’s laptop and in my main user environment on my own machine, but not in that separate user environment that I use for testing purposes.

So that was one mystery solved. I proceeded to reinstall the Epson software properly, and launched the Epson Scan utility. It was able to see my scanner just fine and did not encounter any problems scanning stuff.


Then out of curiosity I went back to the “Print & Fax” preference pane, deleted the Epson scanner listed there and attempted to add it back and… I could no longer do it. The scanner was no longer listed in the list of available devices in the “Add Printer” dialog box—even though it still worked fine with Epson’s own Epson Scan utility.

I then went on the Apple Discussions forums and tried to do a search for problems with scanners in Snow Leopard and, sure enough, I found a variety of reports from people experiencing problems, especially with Mac OS X 10.6.5 and more recent versions, with both HP and Epson scanners and all-in-one printers.

Now, my own problems didn’t start immediately after I installed Mac OS X 10.6.5 or even Mac OS X 10.6.6 (the latter of which only includes the Mac App Store feature and introduces no other changes as far as I know). The initial intermittent problem with the scanner not always showing up in Image Capture started long before that, possibly as soon as I upgraded from Mac OS X 10.5 to Mac OS X 10.6, although I cannot recall exactly. And the new problem with Image Capture failing to complete a scan altogether only started yesterday, after I have been using Mac OS X 10.6.6 for many days and have been able to scan without problems.

So who knows what the problem is? It is also possible that, after if I reboot my machine one more time after having installed the Epson software, I will again be able to add the scanner in the “Print & Fax” preference pane and even—who knows?—use Image Capture again.

But right now I don’t have any more time to devote to this issue, and I can live with having to use the Epson software instead of Image Capture on my own machine. Based on reports on Apple Discussions, however, I am far from the only one who has been experiencing significant printing or scanning issues in Snow Leopard. So maybe this blog post will be of some use to someone else.

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