No Manual? Look For A Digital Copy Online, Or Simply Ask For One

Stephanie writes, “I’m guessing I’m not the only Consumerist reader to ever get a sewing machine hand-me-down or buy one from a garage sale sans operating manual.” In fact, there are all sorts of devices that require some level of instruction before you can get the maximal use out of them. The problem is, people lose manuals, and companies don’t always make them available for download once they’ve been pulled off the market. Stephanie almost paid $35 for a digital copy when she decided she’d try asking the company directly.

I e-mailed them Friday night. Monday morning, for free, I had a 40-page PDF copy of a manual for a sewing machine made in the 70’s.

So, before you assume that not hosting the manual on their site means you should pay for it from a third party site, it’s worth an e-mail to the manufacturer to see if they’re willing to help you out.

We’ve come across websites where old manuals are collected for future users, like, but they only cover a portion of the wide variety of things out there to be picked up from neighbors, garage sales, and CraigsList. Do you have any other suggestions for good (free) sources of manuals?


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  1. albear says:

    I have lost my manuals since the 1980’s. I have called the companies 800 number to ask for replacements and they send the for free. Yep, way way before the intranets.

  2. HPCommando says:

    There is a communal site that exists on the kindness of its partipants here.

    The only failing is that what gets uploaded is in whatever form suits one’s fancy rather than as a uniform and organized manner.

  3. Benjamin Keele says:

    ManualsMania is another source for digital user manuals.


  4. Hoss says:

    For some reason, an on-line version is generally available for everything except cars. Maybe someone knows how to get something free — but this seems like a hidden profit scheme for auto makers

    • krista says:

      @Hoss: I think that car manuals usually stay in the glove box. Out of the many cars I’ve bought and sold, I don’t remember any that didn’t still have the owner’s manual, and I’m talking cars 10+ years old.

  5. k6richar says:

    lots of cell phone manuals there

  6. jbl-az says:

    I had to pay for an owner’s manual for the new used ’04 Ford Explorer. It wasn’t published anywhere.

    But for everything else, I’ve found on-line copies (usually as pdf files) on line, usually at the manufacturer’s site.

    I have had manuals for opening up and removing/replacing components of Dell laptops and Mac iBooks; neither of these is easy. (The latter was not on the Apple site, though.) I’ve got manuals for an installed dishwasher, an electric bed remote control, remote controls and set-top boxes for Cox Cable and DirecTV.

    I remember that I’ve bought a manual or two for older film cameras online (not from the manufacturer), but they weren’t prohibitively expensive.

    Bottom line: always check on line.

  7. wickedpixel says:

    Search charges $20 for a copy of their older Kenmore sewing machines. Though I’m sure that comes as no surprise to the folks around here given their decline in service.

    • kbrook says:

      @wickedpixel: I’ve got a treadle sewing machine that dates back to the days when it was still Sears, Roebuck & Co. Can’t figure out how to thread the damn thing for love nor money.

  8. wickedpixel says:

    Sears, that is. Damn the long lost preview button.

  9. waffles says:

    [] works for video game manuals.

  10. jake.valentine says:

    My boss was a heartbeat away from spending almost $2,000 on a new high speed access card printer yesterday because the old one had blinking lights and wouldn’t print. A quick Google search revealed the manual on the manufacturer website. 20 minutes of troubleshooting later and it is working fine. You can Google your way out of many problems today.

  11. Melissa Huber says:

    I used [] to find a manual for my mother-in-law’s old answering machine in the hopes I could reporogram it to work better. Alas, I couldn’t, but at least I know now. =)

  12. juri squared says:

    I got a PDF copy of my Breadman bread machine from the manufacturer’s website when my original copy flew off somewhere. I always have to look up how to use the damn thing, so I’m glad it was available.

  13. jeremiahbritt says:

    I bought a Kodak Duaflex in high school and called Kodak up to see what, if any, modern film might fit it. The csr wasn’t able to track down any product information about it (shocking), but took my information down and told me she’d do her best.

    I gave up, until 3 days later I got a photocopied manual in the mail, as well as a list of specialty camera shops in my area. She didn’t sign it, so I had no idea who to call back and thank.

  14. DrGirlfriend says:

    I always enter the model number and “manual” into Google, that almost always gets me results.

    Amazon also has an option for uploading manuals and attaching them to the product listing. Not a foolproof way of finding a manual, but uploading one is a nice thing to do if you are able to find an electronic version of a manual.

  15. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’ve been extremely successful in getting free PDF copies of both user manuals and technical manuals for everything from very obscure electronic equipment to my 1968 snowblower, all using Google and some free time.

    If you include the manufacturer of your item, +(model number) +filetype:PDF +manual in your search string, you have a good chance of getting something.

    For example, I have an HP Photosmart 8050 printer in front of me. If I go to Google and type in

    +HP +Photosmart +8050 +manual +filetype:PDF”

    the first hit I get is the 8000 series user guide.

    Of course, writing the company works too if you can’t find what you need online. I wrote to Zenith (back in the pre-internet days of 1986) to see if I could get a schematic for my 1940 console radio, and they sent me one free of charge!

  16. Project_J187 says:

    Google search. If that doesn’t pull up the manual then email the manufacturer. Never pay for a user manual because the people who put it online got it from somewhere (most likely for free).

  17. B says:

    Just remember, there’s no need to print out a 300 page manual if all you need is the instructions on two pages to replace a server fan.

  18. dohtem says:

    For people that want to work on their cars, you can also get the service manual online (not the same as the user manual you receive with vehicle purchase). Usually not from the manufacturer but from third party car sites. Helps with small tips like changing oil and such.

  19. MikeHerbst says:

    Another tip: Check

    Often, the “Manuals” section of a website gets lost or taken down when the site is redesigned, but the Wayback machine will still have the “old” copies.

    For example, I recently picked up a Symbol Laser Barcode scanner used (free). The ONLY way to configure/program these is by scanning special barcodes from the manual, so you HAVE to have it. Unfortunately, Symbol was recently purchased by Motorola, so the Symbol website redirected to a “holder” page @ that did NOT have any support data linked. Some diligent digging through the copy of the Symbol website from a couple of years earlier turned up the pdf copy I needed and the barcode scanner is working perfectly.

  20. Keen314 says:

    @Hoss, I hear you. I bought a used ’94 Dodge Spirit, and I can’t even buy the manual for my car from since it’s too old!

  21. lockdog says:

    Another good tip if you can’t find the exact manual you need is to look for manuals for similar items of about the same age. Back in the day products and features didn’t change every six months they way they do on modern consumer goods. Close enough is often good enough with most manuals. If all else fails, use Google’s patent search. Even the oldest, rustiest thrift store find can usually have at least one decipherable patent number. Looking up the patent can give a lot of good information about an item and how it was meant to work.

  22. West Coast Secessionist says:

    To save time, just find them directly. Google it.

    search like this: (manufacturer) (Model number) manual pdf

    Works almost every time for electronics, etc.

  23. nuton2wheels says:

    O RLY?

  24. HogwartsAlum says:

    Oh my gosh, thanks for this. I have an old Philco electric stove from the Fifties – all light yellow enamel and chrome – and I can’t find a manual for that damn thing for love or money. I can’t figure out how to use the Jiffy Griddle!!!!

    I found a cookbook for it at the flea market but that’s the closest I’ve come. The stove came with my house (it was owned by a late little old lady who only drove it on Sundays!) but alas, no one left me a manual.

  25. mmcnary says:

    I bought a used game at a thrift store sans manual. The only problem was that the game was in Danish. I wrote to the company and got a manual in about 3 weeks, and it was even in English

  26. edwardso says:

    Just found the manual for my nespresso d150 that I got from craigslist. I’m steaming (soy)milk tonight!

  27. Matthew Tatum says:

    I bought a manual for my 99 taurus for $5 at a taurus forum, item specific forums are probably a good place to look.

  28. justbychance says:

    When I used to work, they charged $10.50 plus shipping to send you a photocopy of manuals….not bad for the much older stuff, but pretty much a ripoff for everything else.

    Just found a pretty good list of where to get TV manuals for free: []

  29. Scoobatz says:

    For what it’s worth, here’s some cheap advice. Next time you are in the market for a new television, computer, etc. look up the manual on-line. Reviewing the manual is much more valuable then simply reviewing the limited specification information that’s provided along with the product description on sites like Best Buy, Amazon, etc. Once you flip through the manual, you’ll have a much better idea of what the item can and can not do. And, sometimes, the product specs on-line can be incorrect.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I bought a sewing machine at a garage sale that was so old it had been RETROFITTED with a motor to turn the wheel to make the arm move. It took some Googling to find the name of the company to write to since the original company had been bought out in the 50’s and so on. It took a couple of weeks but I got a manila envelope in the mail with a photo-copy of the original manual. No fee. I can’t even imagine what hole someone had to climb into to find that thing.

  31. Mary says:

    When I inherited a Brother sewing machine, I got the manual for free as a .pdf off of their website. Which was great because I never would have gotten the thing threaded without that…

    But yeah, they post all of theirs, for their entire line of products, not just sewing machines.