AirDrop on iOS 14Source: 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 broadcast and discovery and peer-to-peer Wi-Fi for speedy transfer. Transferring files to your different Apple devices is part of what makes using the best iPhone, iPad, or Mac so painless. The entire process isn't just simple; it's incredibly secure... when it works. That's right, even though we raved about how stable and amazing Apple's newest batch of software is in our iOS 14 review, all software can malfunction at times.

If you're having trouble with AirDrop, there are some steps you can try to correct the behavior on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac and get you back to transferring files with ease. Here are some steps you can try to troubleshoot many problems with AirDrop if it's not working to your liking.

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Which devices are compatible with AirDrop?

Older model devices aren't compatible with AirDrop. Even if one device (like your iPhone) is compatible, the other devices (like your Mac) must be, too. Here's a list of all devices compatible with AirDrop.

AirDrop between Mac and iPhone or iPad:

  • Mac from 2012 or later (excluding the mid-2012 Mac Pro) using OS X Yosemite or later
  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using iOS 7 or later

AirDrop between Macs (both computers must be at least):

  • MacBook Pro introduced in late 2008 or later, excluding the MacBook Pro (17-inch, Late 2008)
  • MacBook Air introduced in late 2010 or later
  • MacBook introduced in late 2008 or later, excluding the white MacBook (Late 2008)
  • iMac introduced in early 2009 or later
  • Mac mini introduced in mid-2010 or later
  • Mac Pro introduced in early 2009 (model with AirPort Extreme card) or mid-2010
  • iMac Pro (all models)

Adjust 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.

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

    Adjust AirDrop access: Launch Settings and then tap general. Source: iMore

  3. Tap AirDrop.
  4. Tap the option you want.

    Adjust AirDrop access: Tap AirDrop and then tap the option you want. Source: iMore

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.

    Adjust AirDrop access on Mac: Launch Finder and then click on AirDrop.Source: 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 as well and can help in detection. If it doesn't, keep reading!

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 off and on Wi-Fi 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.

    Turn on Wi-Fi on iPhone: Launch Settings, tap Wi-Fi, and then tap the Wi-Fi On/Off Switch twice. Source: iMore

How to toggle off and on Bluetooth 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.

    Turn on Bluetooth on iPhone: Launch Settings, tap Bluetooth, and then tap the Bluetooth On/Off Switch twice. Source: iMore

How to toggle off and on Wi-Fi on Mac

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

    Turn on Wi-Fi on Mac: Click the Wi-Fi symbol from the Menubar and then click turn Wi-Fi offSource: iMore

  3. Click the Wi-Fi symbol in the Menubar again.

  4. Click Turn Wi-Fi On.

    Turn on Wi-Fi on Mac: Click the Wi-Fi symbol in the Menubar and then click turn Wi-Fi onSource: iMore

How to toggle off and on Wi-Fi on Mac

  1. Click the **Bluetooth* symbol in the Menubar.
  2. Click Turn Bluetooth Off.

    Turn on Bluetooth on Mac: Click the Bluetooth symbol from the Menubar and then click turn Bluetooth offSource: iMore

  3. Click the Bluetooth symbol in the Menubar again.

  4. Click Turn Bluetooth On.

    Turn on Bluetooth on Mac: Click the Bluetooth symbol in the Menubar and then click turn Bluetooth onSource: 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, keep reading.

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!

For iPad (except iPad Pro 2018) and older iPhones with mechanical Home buttons (iPhone 6s and earlier):

  1. Press and hold down the On/Off button on the right side (iPhone 6s or iPhone 6) or top (all other iPhones, iPods, and iPads) of your device.
  2. While continuing to hold the On/Off button, press and hold the Home button on the front of your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
  3. Hold both buttons as the screen turns off, and keep holding them until the screen turns back on and displays the Apple logo.

    Reset iPad: Press and hold the power button, continuing holding power button, press and hold Home button.Source: iMore

For iPhone 7:

  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, and keep holding them until the screen turns back on and displays the Apple logo.

    Reset iPhone 7: Press and hold the power button, continnuing holding power button press and hold the Volume down button.Source: iMore

For iPhone 8, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, and iPad Pro (2018):

  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.)

    Reset iPhone 8: Press the volume up and then quickly press the Volume Down button, now press and hold the power button.Source: iMore

On the Mac:

  1. Click the Apple icon  at the far left of the Menubar.
  2. Click Restart.

    Restart on macOS Catalina: Click on the Apple icon in the Menubar and then click Restart, Source: iMore

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

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; 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.

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

    Check for software updated on iPhone: Launch Settings, Tap general, tap Software Update, and then tap Install if there's an update. Source: iMore

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

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.

    Reset Wi-Fi networks on iPhone: Launch Settings, Tap general, and then tap reset. Source: iMore

  4. Tap Reset Network Settings.

  5. Enter your Passcode if prompted.
  6. Tap Reset Network Settings to confirm.

    Reset Network Settings on iPhone: Tap Reset Network Settings, enter your passcode, and then tap Reset Network Settings again. Source: 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, let's keep going.

Contact Apple

Sometimes a problem really is a problem. Like any electronics, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios and the various connections to them can have problems. If you have AppleCare+, don't walk; run to your local Apple Store to get it checked out.

iOS 15 Beta issues

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas. 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 15 and iPadOS 15, there is a chance that could be what's causing some of your issues with AirDrop. Beta software is in beta for a reason, and it's bound to have a few bugs along the way.

There are no new or additional steps you need to take in iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 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 downgrading from the beta back to iOS 14.

Updated June 2021: Updated to include some information about AirDrop issues while running beta software.

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