The time you most need a user manual is usually the time you discover that you don’t have one… Often this happens only after you have wasted an hour rummaging through dozens of old manuals – for stuff you no longer even own!
I’m not just talking about computing stuff either – user manuals for products like ovens, mowers, TV and audio equipment all seem to have a habit of disappearing over the years.
The next step is to search online for a free owners manual but this can also be frustrating:
- Google searches may find websites which claim to have the right manual – but then want to charge you to view it…
- Manufacturer websites can be hard to navigate (especially for old and obsolete products) or they may simply no longer exist.
Tip: I find that a quick way to find an old manual buried somewhere in a manufacturer’s site is to use Google search parameters to search for it within that site (see my quick guide).
5 Websites to find User Manuals
All these websites provide free manuals in PDF format – each has its own library so it is worth trying more than one site if you’re looking for a particularly obscure manual.
As a quick test, I searched each site for a user manual for a 10 year old Canon Pixma IP3000 printer – the results are included for each website.
[Note: if you’re looking specifically for a car owners manual, see the Appendix at the bottom of this article]
This has over 3 million free owners manuals in PDF format. A wide range including tech stuff, home appliances, mowers, board games and car manuals.
It has a good predictive search feature which narrows down the search results as you type. Related manuals are listed below the search results which can help if the model number is slightly different (e.g. in different countries) or if there is more than one PDF available for that product e.g. a quick start guide and a full user manual.
You can read the PDF on the website or download it and save/print – the green Download button at the top of the page leads to a standard reCAPTCHA verification to ‘Get Manual’.
Watch out for the Adverts! They often include ‘Start/Download’ type buttons that are nothing to do with this site – or they link to other sites that charge for manuals…
Test Results – it found a 2 page Quick Setup Instruction booklet and a 100 page Quick Start Manual.
This has free user manuals in PDF format for over 700,000 products. Another wide range including tech stuff, power tools, home appliances, car audio etc.
It also has a predictive search feature which narrows down the search results as you type, although it didn’t suggest the IP3000 printer in my search. You can also search by Category then Brand – search filters are simple to use.
It helpfully provides a direct link to the manufacturer’s support website if no manual is available.
You can read the PDF on the website or download it and save/print. Again, watch out for the adverts!
ManualsOnline has more of a forum and community feel – you can ask questions for product support and discussions from users are listed below the product manual. This might be a useful source of info for troubleshooting but many answers will basically suggest that you just read the manual… That is what the site is for after all.
Test Results – it found a 2 page Quick Setup Instruction booklet and a 100 page Quick Start Guide, the same as ManualLib.
A huge document sharing website of books, speeches and magazine articles etc but this also has a useful free user manuals section which includes automobiles, crafts, gadgets and scrapbooking.
It has a predictive search feature which narrows down the search results as you type, although it didn’t suggest the IP3000 printer in my search (or anything at all by Canon so perhaps the predictive search only covers books).
It seems to be the most advert free website I tested.
You can read or print the PDF on the website for free and recent documents can also be downloaded for free. Old/archived documents require a paid membership to download them – but you can sign up for a 1 month free trial.
Test Results – found a 24 page Service Manual and a 8 page Reset Printer Guide. It was the only site to find these two technical documents, although strangely it didn’t find the far more common Quick Start documents.
Over 800,000 user manuals in PDF format. A wide range including tech stuff, home appliances, toys, music etc.
No predictive search feature but you can search by manufacturer or category then by product name.
You can read the PDF on the website or download it (the orange ‘Get Manual’ button, followed by a simple 4 character Captcha) and save/print. Again, watch out for the adverts!
Test Results – found a 32 page Quick Start Guide (different to the 100 page guide that some other sites found).
Primarily aimed at engineers and technicians, not end users – offers a range of component datasheets, IC diagrams, service guides and schematics for a range of electronic equipment.
Far more specialized than the other sites so not as comprehensive. Active user forums can be helpful for troubleshooting and repairs.
Manuals are generally in PDF, RAR or Zip format – you can download the file and save/print. Again, watch out for the adverts!
No predictive search feature but you can filter searches by manufacturer and product type.
Test Results – nothing found for my printer search. This is perhaps not surprising as the site covers more technical areas than home user inkjet printers.
It is worth noting that no single website found every available manual/guide in my (limited) testing but three sites did find a user manual in the form of a Quick Start Guide.
Other documents found included a useful Service Manual, Quick Set Up Instruction booklet and a Reset Printer Guide – I didn’t manage to find any of these on Canon’s own website so these were a welcome bonus.
Results will obviously vary depending on the product that you search for but these are all useful sites to bookmark for future reference.
Tip: if you use Google Chrome – to view PDFs in a full featured reader, instead of Chrome’s limited PDF Viewer, see how to open a PDF in Adobe Reader.
Appendix – Car Owners Manuals
I had a lot of people contact me looking for a car owners manual which the above 5 websites don’t really cover in any depth – the first one, ManualsLib, is probably the best for car owners.
However there are a couple of other car specific websites that may help:
Edmunds – this links page is a few years old now but it still lists a lot of online car owner’s manuals by manufacturer – US only.
Car manuals Online – 80,000 car manuals to read online only – no PDF downloads. But you can print out the document or view it on a tablet/phone if you want to use it outdoors as a reference for car repairs.