When the iPhone was first introduced the Apple would not consider using the Bluetooth technology for the purpose of file sharing or data exchange of any kind. At the time, Apple stated their concerns of personal data security as the principal reasoning behind the decision and they stuck to it.
Later as the iPhone continued to offer new features with each update, “Airdrop” was introduced. With Airdrop iOS compatible and macOS devices could share files of almost any type between them with using an encrypted protocol via “Airdrop”.
Since being introduced with iOS 7 and OS X Lion Airdrop has had its ups and downs with users. Because this feature does not always work as expected, the result has been negative feedback from Apple users.
The technology Airdrop relies on is a combination of the onboard Wi-Fi chip and Bluetooth 4.0 LE and it can sometimes be difficult to troubleshoot in the conventional troubleshooting approaches.
There are still a number of options before you throw in the towel and head to the Genius Bar of your local Apple Store.
- Checking the Bluetooth and Connectivity of Your Device
Because Airdrop relies on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, checking connectivity should be one of the first things you do on both devices that are trying to connect. This seems obvious now but is often overlooked before frustration levels break.
Start by making sure the Bluetooth is actually enabled on both devices. To do this for macOS check the menu bar for the status and for iOS check in the Control Center.
If you find that either the Bluetooth the or the Wi-Fi was not connected, re-connect them now and give Airdrop another try.
Although it should be noticeable when checking to see if the Bluetooth was enabled, double check now to see if your device is in Airplane Mode. This can be done by going to Settings in an iOS device and make sure the switch for Airplane mode is off. Confirm or move the switch to the on position and give Airdrop a try.
- The Status of Do Not Disturb
Because of the complex manner an iOS or macOS can be customized for more personal use, there are a number of things that are overridden without thought when using the Do Not Disturb feature of either system. It really means “Do Not Disturb”.
When an incoming transfer is being received from Airdrop a notification is sent to the receiving device and the recipient must accept the file.
If either an iOS or mac are in DND they will not receive the notification. This might just be something you forgot was engaged. Check and make sure your device is not set to DND and try Airdrop again.
To turn off the DND on a macOS in the Notifications Panel if you have it set up or through Notifications System Preferences.
Make note, if you have a scheduled “DND” time frame for your device, airdrop likely will not work during those hours.
- Make Sure the Receiving iOS Device’s Screen is On
Going back to the previous step for troubleshooting, it is helpful if the screen of the receiving iOS device is on.
Because the notification is prompted on the receiving device to accept the file transfer, it is useful to verify the notification can be seen and responded to in a timely manner which if not, will result in a failed attempt to connect.
Notifications from Airdrop may not always turn on the screen of your iOS device. Before you transfer any data, make sure the receiving iOS device screen is on.
Please note this tip only applies to iOS devices. With macOS the screen status doesn’t matter because the system is not in sleep mode. Airdrop will cause a notification on a locked screen of macOS automatically.
- Is Airdrop On? Is it Visible?
There are three possible settings for Airdrop with different levels of visibility to the sender from the receiver.
- Everyone: When in this setting anyone nearby with Airdrop on can see your device is enabled as well. This is typically the recommended setting as you cannot receive a file transfer without first accepting it.
- Contacts Only: Only your contacts with their Airdrop enabled nearby can discover your device and even then it is only if both devices have each other’s phone number or Apple ID and be signed into iCloud to work. This is a layer of additional security that can be confusing.
- Off: Your device cannot be discovered by anyone however, you can still send files to other enabled and visible devices.
These are troubleshooting tips for the receiving device. As a preference you should have this should be set to Everyone to ensure easy device discovery.
For iOS this can be done by going to the Control Center clicking on the Airdrop option and choosing Everyone.
It is important to also note that for macs that you are actually in the Airdrop option from Finder for your device to be discovered by the sender. In order for Airdrop to work it must be the active location in Finder.
- Distance Between Devices
Because Airdrop relies on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology for connectivity there is a limit to the distance a file transfer can be made from. The range for Airdrop is 30 ft.
Even the distance of 30 ft. is not reliable in a world of ever increasing technology the interference of other devices can be an issue. In some buildings as a security measure walls have been built to block such signals for security purposes.
Even though you may be very close, if you are experiencing problems and the distance is questionable or a wall separates you, reduce the distance and try Airdrop again.
- Make Sure the Personal Hotspot is Off (iOS)
Another tip that applies specifically to the current limitations of the iOS part of Airdrop, make sure your personal hotspot is not in use.
It might because the hotspot is on and that an iPhone or iPad make use of the WiFi that this has been noted as causing interference. Make sure your Personal Hotspot is not on by going to Settings and making sure the switch is off.
This might be an even bigger issue if Bluetooth is engaged as well.
- How to Manage Files On Airdrop?
If you have been greeted by the message “Cannot receive all of these at items at the same time”… it would be because the behavior expected of the iOS is to open the app needed for the file type sent and instead, multiple types of files were sent.
iOS cannot open multiple apps and files at the same time. Different file types like PDF’s, JPG and Docs cannot be sent at the same time. Sending multiple file types to an iOS will fail.
It is not a difficult fix to make. Just make sure that only one type of file is sent at time to Airdrop at a time by the sender. You should be closer than 30 ft. and able to communicate.
This is different that the macOS. On mac you can receive as many different types of files and as many files at one time as you would like, there is no file limitation.
- Airdropping to Older Mac Computers
Legacy Mac computers have differing Bluetooth versions. Airdrop has been implemented to separate Airdrop protocols.
- One works specifically for Macs produced before 2012
- The other works for the newer 4.0 Bluetooth
The catch is, you have to make sure to turn on this capability if you are trying to send something to an older Mac. The change to this protocol does not happen automatically.
To make the switch, in the Airdrop part of Finder, select the link in blue that says, “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” and click on Search for the older Mac option.
You should be able to see your recipient on the list now.
- Firewall Settings on Your Mac
The massive firewall that comes with macOS can keep Airdrop from working properly.
Although you may think the firewall is off if you share your Mac with another user, they may have enabled the firewall without your knowledge. It is best to make this consideration if at all a possibility.
If you or another user has enabled the macOS firewall, this could be the reason your Airdrop doesn’t work and should be turned off.
Just go to System Preferences, then Security & Privacy, select the Firewall Tab. While in the Firewall Options make sure you uncheck “Block all incoming connections” and this will re-enable Airdrop. To do this, you will need to have administrator rights on the machine.
- The Network Name of Your Device?
If you have used a special character when naming your iOS device or Mac, this will disengage Airdrop.
It is good practice to stick to only alphanumeric characters when naming your new devices.
On a Mac check this by going to System Preferences>Sharing and selecting Computer Name.
On an iOS device got to Settings, click on About, click on Name and you will see it there.
- Additional Troubleshooting Tips for Airdrop
If nothing has helped so far, try the traditional:
- Turn all the devices off and re-start them. A good starting point for most OS issues as well as Airdrop.
- Re-start your router. Because Airdrop operates using Wi-Fi a re-boot in overall connectivity may be useful.
- Turn the Wi-Fi on and off on both devices and reset the connectivity.
- Reset the network setting of your iOS device. This can be done from Settings>General>Reset>Reset Network Settings.
- Make sure your software is the latest update available. In general, this is a good idea.
- Make sure that the sending and receiving devices are using the same Wi-Fi network. This will make for easier discovery, but is not a must for Airdrop to work.
Fixing Problems on Your iPhone, iPad or Mac
Airdrop has become a huge convenience to and is an awesome way and fast way to share files with a friend or team member on different Apple devices.
These troubleshooting tips should be the easy fix to your Airdrop problem. If you can’t resolve your problem with these tips, it is time to consult with the experts at the local Apple Store Genius Bar.