Fix: AirDrop not working

AirDrop is a service in Apple Inc. operating systems which allows the transfer of files amongst some specific Macintosh computers and iOS devices via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This service doesn’t use a mass storage device or mail when transferring data.

AirDrop is a pretty nifty feature but requires that you configure it correctly and make sure of some parameters when using it. It doesn’t surprise us when we hear that majority of the people either haven’t used AirDrop or it is not working for them anymore.

There are several reasons why this feature might not be working correctly. Before we start with the troubleshooting, make sure you check the requirements of the AirDrop down below.

Which devices are supported by AirDrop?

AirDrop between two MacBook’s which are supported are:

  • Late-2008 MacBook Pro, excluding late-2008 17-inch MacBook Pro
  • Late-2010 MacBook Air
  • Late-2008 MacBook, excluding late-2008 white MacBook
  • Early-2015 MacBook with 12-inch Retina display
  • Mid-2010 Mac mini
  • Early-2009 Mac Pro with AirPort Extreme card
  • Mid-2010 Mac Pro
  • Early-2009 iMac

Do note that for AirDrop to work between two Mac’s, OS X Lion or later must be installed. Do note that any model newer than the one mentioned should work.

Here is a list of iOS to Mac. To send items from a Mac to an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, or vice versa, your Mac must be one of these models or newer:

  • Mid-2012 MacBook Air
  • Early-2015 MacBook with 12-inch Retina display
  • Mid-2012 MacBook Pro
  • Late-2012 iMac
  • Late-2012 Mac mini
  • Late-2013 Mac Pro

AirDrop between iOS devices and Mac require iOS 8 or newer or iOS X Yosemite or newer.

Here is a list of iOS to iOS.

  • iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus
  • Fifth and sixth-generation iPod touch
  • Fourth-generation iPad, iPad Air, iPad Air 2 and iPad Pro
  • Original iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3 and iPad mini 4

AirDrop doesn’t work on older phones such as iPhone 4s etc because they have different Wi-Fi mechanisms. They all require iOS 7 or later.

If your device is not present on the list, it means that you cannot use AirDrop. Hence it will be fruitless to go on and try the fixes listed. If you have a model newer then the ones mentioned, you won’t have any problems and you can go on.

Solution 1: Checking Discoverability of AirDrop

AirDrop must be manually enabled in the Control Center of your iDevice and in Mac finder for it to work. Sometimes the default settings are set to ‘hidden’. Follow this solution on both your iDevice and Mac and make sure that all settings are correct.

Here are the settings present which you can set:

Off: Your device will not be visible but you will still be able to AirDrop items to other devices.

Contacts Only: Only the contacts on saved on your address book will see your device as a target host to which data could be sent. Both of the devices initiating the transfer must be signed into iCloud. The phone number or the email address associated with the Apple ID must be in contacts of the receiving device. This will ensure that you don’t get requests from random people.

Everyone: All nearby devices using AirDrop will be able to see your device. We recommend that you use this option.

  1. Slide up the context menu on your iDevice and click on the AirDrop

  1. Now select the option “Everyone”. Fire up your Mac and follow the next steps.

  1. Once you are in the AirDrop application on your Mac, click Allow me to be discovered by and select Everyone.

Solution 2: Checking Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The AirDrop works by using Bluetooth to detect if the device to send or receive is in close proximity. Once it has detected the device using Bluetooth, it starts sending data using Wi-Fi. If the Wi-Fi is on and the Bluetooth is off, AirDrop will not work and vice versa. You should make absolutely sure that both the modules are up and running.

  1. On the Mac, the AirDrop window (Command (⌘) – Option (⌥) – R) provides a button to enable Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (or both) in case they’re disabled.
  2. On your iDevice, you can simply tab the AirDrop icon to automatically turn on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if either of them is disabled.

Solution 3: Checking Distance between Devices

Another main reason why AirDrop may not work is the distance between devices. Like we mentioned before, AirDrop using a Bluetooth connection to initiate and establish a connection with the other device. If the other device is out of range, the Bluetooth connection will not be established.

You should make sure that the devices are within 30 feet of each other. Also, take into account the walls and concrete elements are Bluetooth is very prone to these.

Solution 4: Disabling Airplane mode

All of you must have heard about Airplane mode which is present on mobile devices. When you enable Airplane mode, it shuts down all Wireless connections on your mobile device including Cellular network, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc. If you have enabled Airplane mode, it is strongly advised that you disable it and try using AirDrop again.

You can disable Airplane mode by swiping the context bar up from the bottom of the phone and clicking the Airplane button once. If the airplane mode was on, it will be turned off.

If you have an apple watch and it is mirrored, then if you enable airplane mode on your watch, it will automatically be enabled on your iDevice and vice versa. Also, make sure that no connections are disabled on your Mac device as well if you are using AirDrop on your Mac computer.

Solution 5: Disabling ‘Do not Disturb’

‘Do not disturb’ mechanisms on devices mute all notifications and in some cases, reject incoming calls and connections according to the settings saved. If you have ‘Do not disturb’ enabled on either of the device (Mac or iDevice), it is possible that this is the reason why you are unable to AirDrop.

  1. To disable AirDrop on your iDevice, swipe up the context menu and click the ‘Do not disturb’ icon (it will be a moon), once if it is enabled.

  1. On your Mac computer, slide the notification bar on the left and deselect the ‘Do not disturb’ option.

Sometimes there are also schedules during which ‘Do not disturb’ automatically enables and disables in SettingsDo Not DisturbScheduled (iOS) or System PreferencesNotificationsDo Not DisturbTurn on Do Not Disturb (OS X).

Solution 6: Disabling personal Hotspot

Personal hotspots clash with AirDrop as both mechanisms require an active Wi-Fi connection in order to work. If the hotspot is enabled, AirDrop may not initiate the data transfer and fail. You should disable the personal hotspot and see if you can successfully use AirDrop.

  1. To disable the personal hotspot on an iOS device, flip the hotspot feature to OFF position in Settings > Personal Hotspot.

  1. You can also try disconnecting from all wireless connections on your Mac computer. Just click on the Wi-Fi icon at the menu bar of the computer and disconnect accordingly.

Solution 7: Checking Mac’s Firewall Settings

OS X has a hefty firewall protection mechanism to protect all the users from malicious connections. If you have configured and enabled the Firewall on your Mac, it may prove troublesome against AirDrop.

Specifically, the option to “Block all incoming connections” will block any type of connections with the exception of a few important ones. You should disable this feature and see if this makes any difference.

Make sure to apply the changes before you try AirDrop again.

Solution 8: Disabling VPN connection

If you are using a VPN connection on either your iDevice or Mac computer, it can cause several problems. VPN tries to mask the identity of your hardware amongst the sea of networks and causes several changes in your network settings.

If you are constantly using VPN settings either on the Mac computer or your iDevice, it is strongly recommended that you turn your VPN off completely for AirDrop to work correctly. Feel free to connect it again after you are done transferring all the files. The VPN we refer here also targets iDevices, not only Mac computers.

Solution 9: Checking Application Restrictions

There are application restriction settings present in every iDevice which enables you to restrict some application permissions and control their operation. We usually put those applications in a restricted mode which either consume a lot of processing power or display notifications again and again.

You should check if AirDrop is enabled in application restrictions on your phone. Navigate to Settings > General > Restrictions > AirDrop and check the option there. Disable the application restriction of AirDrop if it is enabled already.

Solution 10: Removing old iDevice from the account

This solution is targeted to users who were already using AirDrop from their old device but are unable to connect when they purchased a new one. It seems that you have to remove the old device from your account and then try connecting with the newer one.

To do this, navigate to Settings > AppleID > ‘Select your old phone from the bottom’ > Click ‘Remove from account’. Now try connecting your new phone to your Mac and see if you can establish the connection successfully.

Solution 11: Opening Bluetooth Preferences

Your Mac has Bluetooth hardware installed by default and this is necessary to establish the AirDrop connection. In Bluetooth preferences, you can select and control different Bluetooth devices which are or may connect to your computer.

Several users reported that just opening the Bluetooth preferences on their Mac computers fixed the problem for them. Open the Bluetooth preferences and wait for a couple of seconds. Also, make sure that your Bluetooth is On and Discoverable.

Solution 12: Opening receiving device’s screen

Simply put, AirDrop is only available when the receiving iOS device’s screen is on. As long as your Mac is concerned, AirDrop works even if the display sleeps as long as your computer doesn’t sleep. Whenever a request come’s to initiate an AirDrop connection, a prompt occurs on an iOS screen to accept the terms and the connection. You have to swipe to accept the connection.

So as discussed above, AirDrop’s ceases to work if the receiving device goes to sleep either automatically or manually. Until the device wakes up, the AirDrop notification will not be received. If it is not received, you will not be able to accept the connection. Either you can disable the energy saver on your Mac device or if you are transferring between iDevices only, make sure that the screen is turned on.


Kevin Arrows

Kevin Arrows is a highly experienced and knowledgeable technology specialist with over a decade of industry experience. He holds a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification and has a deep passion for staying up-to-date on the latest tech developments. Kevin has written extensively on a wide range of tech-related topics, showcasing his expertise and knowledge in areas such as software development, cybersecurity, and cloud computing. His contributions to the tech field have been widely recognized and respected by his peers, and he is highly regarded for his ability to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise manner.