Flatbed Scanner Woes

Good morning!

I’m trying to figure out whether my scanner problem is hardware or software, and if it’s hardware what steps to take next.

I have an Epson Perfection 4490 Photo flatbed scanner, which is maybe 10 years old. Last summer I moved from a 2010 27" iMac to a Mac Studio M1 Max. Since that time, my ability to connect to and use the scanner has been intermittent at best. From Image Capture I either get “Failed to open a connection to the device” or “Overview scan timed out”. (Often this causes the light on the front of the scanner to start flashing slowly rather than staying on.) I’ve also gotten “Scanner reported an error”.

For a while I could usually get it to work via some incantation of turning the scanner on/off, disconnecting/reconnecting it, and rebooting the computer. But lately it seems to be consistently failing.

When I got the new computer, I initially attached the scanner via a new USB-B to USB-C cable. After I encountered problems, I switched back to the old USB-B to USB-A cable I’d used before with a USB-A-to-USB-C adapter, but that made no difference.

I downloaded the latest Epson “ICA Scanner Driver v5.8.12 for Image Capture”, dated October 2022, and that did not resolve the problem. I’m running the current version of Ventura.

I tried to use the trial version of VueScan, but it encountered the same problems. My assumption is that whatever’s not working is at a system/driver level such that the problem will occur regardless of which application I’m trying to use.

So my first question is: Does this seem like a problem that would resolve itself with the purchase of a new scanner? My concern is that it sounds as if no one is putting any actual effort into flatbed scanner development, and that a “new” scanner is apt to be indistinguishable from an older model. If a new scanner is unlikely to fix things, are there any additional incantations or rituals that might straighten things out with the current device?

If a new scanner is the way to go, my next question would be which direction to go for a replacement. I definitely need a flatbed scanner; I collect Boy Scout patches and related memorabilia, and my primary use case is to scan patches, so I can’t really substitute phone photos. (The scanner helps with


(For documents, these days I use a Doxie scanner which is absolutely great. I used to do documents on the flatbed as well but I got the Doxie for convenience and speed.)

I know at the low end there are a lot of all-in-ones. I have a perfectly fine printer and would prefer a stand-alone scanner, but if the best option is the scanner part of an all-in-one I could probably live with that. I would love it if there were a good flatbed that could handle legal size or (even better) large-format, but my impression is that everything with that capability is priced for business ($1500+). But within the consumer market I’m more concerned with quality, convenience, and reliability than with price.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Dave Scocca

Did you try VueScan after removing the Epson drivers? For many scanners (the last three of mine), VueScan does not need the manufacturer’s drivers.

Personally consider VueScan the best investment I ever made in software.


It sounds like some sort of hardware issue to me, ranging from a bad cable to an internal fault. I have an even older Epson Perfection 2400, yet it continues to work flawlessly. When I launch either Preview or Image Capture, the scanner is immediately available. As far as I know, I’m just using the native macOS capability to communicate with the scanner (I think it’s called TWAIN?). I sure don’t remember installing or updating any Epson drivers for a long time at least. I’m on a MBP M1 Pro, latest OS. Scanner connected with Epson’s USB-B to A cable, into a hub connected to my Mac.

Try a different cable, USB port, don’t use an external USB hub, and see what shows up in System Information.

If it still doesn’t work… I don’t think you need a brand new scanner, just a different one that works without fault.

I obtained all my scanners used but in good condition: a Canon 5600F flat bed scanner and a couple of Fujitsu feed scanners, one of which I was given for free. All officially “no longer supported” on modern macOS or Windows, but all capable of amazing results using VueScan in Monterey on my M1 Pro MBP.

As Matt suggests, a direct USB connection is needed, preferably a USB cable with ferrite chokes on both ends.

VueScan should do the trick.

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This sounds like the scanner itself is failing. Software or cable problems wouldn’t cause its activity light to start blinking red (it’s self-test failure indication). This happens to me on rare occasions, but power-cycling the scanner always fixes it.

But if that is no longer working, then I suspect the problem is progressively getting worse. Time to start shopping for new hardware.

As for which model to shop for, I can’t help much. Mine (an Epson 4870) is far from new, so I doubt my experience with it will mean much with respect to what’s being sold today.

If you want to stick with Epson, it looks like they currently make three consumer-oriented flatbed models. All three have macOS support (via ICA driver and EpsonScan software).

FWIW, it looks like the V600 ($300) is the current equivalent to my 4870. But the V39 ($110) may be good enough for your needs, as long as you don’t need to scan any slides or negatives. And at $110, it won’t be nearly as painful if it only lasts a few years.

Sadly, that’s always been the case. Mine goes up to A4, but that’s it. Large format just isn’t cheap. Which is annoying when I need to scan a vinyl album cover. I need to make four scans (from each of the corners) and then use Photoshop to stitch the images together, producing variable results.

My 4870 also works fine. The version of EpsonScan that supports it doesn’t support current versions of macOS, but other apps work great and require no drivers (I assume the drivers are built-in to the apps). I use SilverFast all the time. I tested VueScan and it also works. Apple’s Image Capture also works but it’s slower and doesn’t have nearly as many features as SilverFast.

The only problem I had is that when SilverFast upgraded from version 6 to version 8 (when they transitioned from PowerPC to Intel), they dropped support for the scanner’s FireWire interface. I was initially bothered by this - the FW interface is why I bought the scanner, because my PowerMac’s USB 1.x ports are too slow for scanning to be convenient. But once I upgraded to an Intel Mac, with USB 2.0 ports, I found them to be fast enough and no longer cared.

TWAIN is an API standard, not a data-representation standard (like PostScript and PCL are for printers). TWAIN allows a generic apps (like an image editor) to launch and control scanner software (like what you scanner bundled). It does not, unfortunately, specify anything about the data going over your USB (or FireWire or SCSI or serial or whatever) cable to the scanner. I don’t think the industry ever created a standard for that, which is as surprising as it is annoying.

But TWAIN is barely supported on macOS these days. Apple instead provides their Image Capture Architecture (ICA). Scanner manufacturers that want to be Apple compatible develop an ICA driver which you can install (assuming Apple didn’t pre-install it) in order to let any app that supports ICA to scan.

Needed? I doubt that, unless the scanner has a very low quality interface. Although it might improve performance, it shouldn’t be necessary to make the device function. I’ve been using my Epson 4870 through a hub (initially a FireWire hub, then USB 2.0 and today USB 3.0 hubs) for a very long time and it hasn’t caused any problems.

I did have a faulty cable cause problems many years ago. It was weird - the scanner would only connect as a USB 1.0 device (and therefore was very very slow) with that cable. I swapped it with another (from a huge stash in my spare parts closet) and have had no problems since. Even with a hub full of other devices.

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FWIW My Epson V850 is only reliable when directly connected. My Fujitsu Scansnap and my Epson FF-680 both work fine via an Anker powered hub. My observation was really about troubleshooting.

Another option to consider is a good camera, a macro lens and a tabletop tripod. Lately I’ve been using a new lens for my X-T5, a 30mm macro lens from Fuji and this tripod.

If you do need a new scanner, I don’t think you’d like a multifunction. They all use CIS sensors which have a tiny depth of field compared to CCD scanners like your current Epson. CIS is cheaper than CCD, and for something intended for paper pressed flat to the surface, they’re fine. But for textured items such as your badges (and flowers and dragonflies), CCD is going to work much better. For an old (2012) comparison between CIS and CCD depth of field in two canon scanners:

If you have a friend with a multifunction, you could take a few of your deepest texture badges and see how it does. If it’s ok, buy that exact model…

Photography would work very well, but unless you already do more than phone snapshots it would need a learning curve, different workflow, and probably buying stuff that needs to be a step up in price from the cheapest available junk on amabay (ezon?) to work well without frustrations.


Lots of useful stuff here. I have been connecting the scanner directly. Originally I used a new USB C-to-B cable, and then I went back to the cable that came with it–which has a ferrite core on both ends–plus a USB A-to-C adapter, but in either case it was going directly into a USB C port on the Studio. The light that is flashing is green–I don’t think the scanner has a red light on it.

The VueScan page seems to say that you do need to install the Epson scanner driver for this scanner, although they indicate that it may be installed by the OS: Epson Perfection 4490 Scanner Driver & Software | VueScan Scanner Software

The CCD advice sounds good; on the Epson site, the cheapest model (Perfection V39) is described as being CIS, while the middle model (Perfection V600 Photo) doesn’t say “CCD” but sounds like it–it says “ReadyScan® LED technology”. (My impression based on quick reading is that the shallow depth of field on a CIS means that a scanner that claims to work with slides/negatives is unlikely to be CIS.)

So it sounds like the next step is to go order a Perfection V600 Photo.

(Rather coincidentally, given my discussion of scanner size, I received in the mail today an IMMENSE patch that exceeds the scanner size on two dimensions. What I’ll probably do is find a time to run by my employer–I’m full-time WFH post-pandemic, but there are some folks still working in the building–and use one of the copier/scanners there that has 11x17 capability.)

Thanks, all!


A flashing green light usually means that the scanner is busy. It should do that while a scan is in progress. If it is doing that and no data is transferring, then something is messed up. When I’ve seen it happen, it’s usually been due to a software glitch (like killing the scanner app while a scan is in progress), and is fixed by power cycling the scanner and waiting for it to become ready before starting the software.

According to the on-line user’s guide, the 4490’s status light will blink red in the event of a malfunction. At least that’s what this page from the user’s guide says:

Interesting. I noticed that it says this for the V600 as well, but not for the 4870. I wonder why. Since they say Apple may pre-install the driver, I suspect they may be using the ICA driver.


I don’t have firsthand experience with them, but there are a few relatively inexpensive dedicated 11x17 flatbed scanners on Amazon, such as the Plustek OpticSlim 1180 ($349, though that is a CIS device). There also are a few overhead book/document scanners in that price range that support 11x17 scans and might work for your needs. I tend to like dedicated devices, but I notice that Brother has several reasonably-priced all-in-one units with 11x17 scanning surfaces, like the MFCJ6555DW and MFCJ6955DW, hough I presume they’re also CIS instead of CCD.

I have an ancient V700 scanner attached to an old Mac running Mojave. I wonder if the following from the Epson driver page might somehow be related:

Attention macOS 10.15 Catalina or newer macOS customers: You’ll need to install the Epson Scan 2 driver below; however, this updated Epson Scan 2 version does not include Digital ICE. If you use Digital ICE for Dust and Scratch removal, LaserSoft Imaging (SilverFast driver) and Hamrick (VueScan driver) offer a similar solution.

Unless Epson has made a major change recently, the V600 has a CCD. It’s a very nice scanner, and I wish that I had enough space so that mine could come out of the closet more often. There was a thread about a year ago about scanning 35mm slides, and it included assorted software issues, including ICE not working on recent systems. Basically, Digital ICE is a proprietary system, but there are now a number of similar ones. Vuescan calls what they’re using ‘Infrared clean’ in the settings, Silverfast uses iSRD, etc. For your badges it doesn’t matter anyway, since they aren’t transparent.

What do you have to do to earn that giant patch? Climb Denali walking on your hands? Craft a tesseract that works like the one in Clifton’s “Star, Bright”?

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Update: I have a new V600 and it seems to be working fine!

Amazon was being a bit cagey as to (a) who was actually selling the scanner, (b) whether it was a refurb, and (c) when it would arrive. But Epson’s website told me that the local Office DeMaxPot had one in stock, and they in fact did.

Thanks, all, for the advice!



That’s a great scanner! I use it primarily for photos, negatives and slides. I have a multifunction laser that I use for documents (there’s a lot to be said about a sheet feeder for that)


Are you using it with the supplied software, or using VueScan. The comments on OfficeMax site seemed to imply that getting it to work with a Mac was a pain and the software not very well designed.

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I tied both. Because I was using the slide and negative attachments, the Epson software worked better. But VueScan did see it and I was able to make scans.

I have it on an older machine though: 2011 iMac running Sierra.


You may also want to consider SilverFast, especially if you will be scanning negatives and slides. Here’s its page for the V600: Epson Perfection V600 Photo - SilverFast

Pricing is a bit more than other apps. $50 for the basic (“SE”) version. $100 for the “plus” version, which adds support for Kodachrome slides (which typically require special handling to get good quality scans). You probably don’t need the much more expensive versions (adding lots of color calibration/adjustment features) unless you’ll be using it professionally.

Here’s the comparison sheet for the three main versions.

The reason I’m recommending it for you is that you mentioned scanning negatives. SilverFast includes an extensive database of negative film profiles, which will bring out the colors properly without a lot of post-processing. EpsonScan has some negative profiles, but there aren’t a lot of them, so they don’t always match your film, often resulting in a noticeable color cast (but not as bad as scanning negatives without a profile - which tends to give everything a distinct blue cast).

If you want to give it a try, they also have a download link for an evaluation/demo copy, which supports almost all of the features (of the highest-tier version) for 30 days. If you decide to buy, your license key will permanently unlock the features belonging to the version you bought, so you don’t need to reinstall it afterward.

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Thank you! I remember Silverfast from way back but I never bought it. Most of my film is from he 80s and 90s and the slides are even earlier so this will be a huge benefit.

Thanks again!

If you have older software, hardware, and older format files (eg MSWord 5.1), it’s a good idea to keep a workstation with an older Mac and older OS that will operate the hardware and software, and transition the files to more modern formats. Older Macs—even PPC Macs—in working condition are still available and unless they’re collector models they can be had inexpensively.