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AirDrop not working? Here's the fix!

Using AirDrop in iOS 15
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

AirDrop lets you wirelessly beam almost anything from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to any other recent Apple device. It uses Bluetooth 4.x for power-efficient broadcasting and discovery and peer-to-peer Wi-Fi for speedy transfer. Transferring files to your different Apple devices is part of what makes using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac so painless. The entire process isn't just simple, it's incredibly secure... when it works.

Even though we raved about how stable and amazing Apple's newest batch of software is in our iOS 15 review, all software can sometimes malfunction, and that includes something as foundational as AirDrop.

If you're having trouble with AirDrop, there are some steps you can try to correct the behavior on your best iPhone, iPad, or Mac and get you back to transferring files with ease. 

1. Make sure your devices compatible with AirDrop

Most likely, your devices are compatible with AirDrop since the feature has been around a long time. However, if you're on older tech, it's possible you may not have the feature. Here's what devices are compatible with AirDrop.

iPhone, iPad, and iPad: Using iOS 7 or later.

Mac and MacBooks: Macs released in 2012 or later running at least OS X Yosemite should have AirDrop. If you want a foolproof way of checking, Launch Finder and then click Go in the menu bar at the top of your Mac. If you see AirDrop in the dropdown menu that appears, your Mac has the feature.

2. Adjust your AirDrop settings

AirDrop has three levels: Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone. Contacts Only is the most complex of the three since it has to verify who knows who. If you're in a pinch, you can switch to Everyone and try again. You can also turn it off and on again.

How to adjust AirDrop Settings on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen. 
  2. Tap General

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap AirDrop.
  2. Tap the option you want.

(Image credit: iMore)

How to adjust AirDrop settings on Mac

If you're trying to use AirDrop from an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to your Mac, but your Mac isn't showing up, here's something else to try:

  1. Launch Finder on your Mac.
  2. Click on AirDrop in the sidebar.

(Image credit: iMore)

You can also toggle between Everyone, Contacts, and No One right from there, as described in the step above. That puts your Mac in an AirDrop-ready state and can help with detection. If it doesn't, keep reading!

3. Toggle radios

If toggling AirDrop itself doesn't get things going, you can escalate to the radios. You need Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for AirDrop to work properly, so try switching them off and then on again to jump-start things.

Note: Control Center no longer turns Wi-Fi or Bluetooth completely off. It simply stops the current connection but leaves things like AirPods, Apple Pencil, and Apple Watch available.

How to toggle Wi-Fi on and off on iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Wi-Fi.
  3. Tap the Wi-Fi On/Off Switch twice — once to turn it off and another time to turn it back on.

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Bluetooth on and off on iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap Bluetooth.
  3. Tap the Bluetooth On/Off Switch twice. Once to turn it off and another time to turn it back on.

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Wi-Fi on and off on Mac

  1. Click the Wi-Fi symbol in the menu bar.
  2. Click Turn Wi-Fi Off.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the Wi-Fi symbol in the menu bar again.
  2. Click Turn Wi-Fi On.

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Bluetooth on and off on Mac

  1. Click the Bluetooth symbol in the menu bar.
  2. Click Turn Bluetooth Off.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the Bluetooth symbol in the menu bar again.
  2. Click Turn Bluetooth On.

(Image credit: iMore)

Alternatively, you can turn Airplane Mode on and then back off to toggle all the radios all at once.

Once you're done, try connecting again. If it works, great. If not, continue onward.

4. Hard reset

The next thing to try is a hard reset. Make all the "reboot Windows" jokes you want, but it's a cliche for a reason!

How to hard reset your iPhone

For iPhone 7 and older, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold down the On/Off button on the right side
  2. While continuing to hold the On/Off button, press and hold the volume down button on the left side of your iPhone.
  3. Hold both buttons as the screen turns off. 
  4. Keep holding them until the screen turns back on and displays the Apple logo.

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

For iPhone 8 and later, follow these steps:

  1. Quickly click and release the Volume Up button.
  2. Quickly click and release the Volume Down button.
  3. Press and hold the sleep/wake button.
  4. Keep holding down the Side button, even after the Shut Down screen shows up. (iOS 11.2 and later).

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

How to hard reset your Mac

If you're having trouble with AirDrop on your Mac, you can try a hard set on that as well by following these steps

  1. Click the Apple icon at the far left of the menu bar.
  2. Click Restart.

(Image credit: iMore)

Once you've rebooted, try connecting it in again. If it works, you're good. If not, go on to the next step.

5. Check for updates

Apple's Bluetooth stack — the set of software that controls your device's radio — isn't without its occasional quirks. Sometimes, new versions of iOS introduce compatibility problems, while other times, they fix them. If you're having Bluetooth connectivity problems, you're better off updating than not. If it's already broken, the update is your chance for a fix.

How to check for updates on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Software Update.
  4. If there's an update available, tap Install.

(Image credit: iMore)

How to check for updates on Mac

Just like for iPhone and iPad, sometimes updating your Mac can help resolve issues with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen.
  2. Select System Preferences from the drop-down menu.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Software Update.
  2. Click Update Now if there is an update. 
  3. If there is an update, you'll need to click Restart.

(Image credit: iMore)

Once you're done updating all your devices, try to use AirDrop again. If it works, awesome. If not, there's even more to try!

6. Reset networks

Resetting can be a huge pain, but if something has gone wrong with the way your iPhone or iPad connects to other devices, like with AirDrop, it might just be necessary.

  1. Launch the Settings from your Home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Reset. You'll need to scroll down to the bottom.

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Reset Network Settings.
  2. Enter your Passcode if prompted.
  3. Tap Reset Network Settings to confirm.

(Image credit: iMore)

Once this is complete, you'll have to reconnect to every Wi-Fi and Bluetooth device you own or use. Once you're done, check AirDrop again. If it works, it was all worth it. If not, there's one more step you can try!

8.Beta issues

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas (opens in new tab). While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

If you're running the beta for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 , or macOS Ventura (opens in new tab), there is a chance that could be what's causing your issues with AirDrop. Beta software is in beta for a reason, and it's bound to have a few bugs.

There are no new or additional steps you need to take in iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 to try and resolve your AirDrop issues. Try all the steps listed above as normal, and if that still isn't working, you might want to consider going back to the public release of iOS 15.

If all else fails, contact Apple support

Although AirDrop is such a helpful feature, things can go wrong. Hopefully, these steps have helped you resolve your AirDrop issues. If not, don't hesitate to contact Apple to troubleshoot further.

Updated August 2022: Updated to include some information about AirDrop issues while running the newest beta software.