AirDrop Not Working? Try These Fixes to Resolve Common AirDrop Problems

Fix AirDrop on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac!

by: - Last updated on: July 20th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • AirDrop is Apple’s proprietary file-sharing service that enables quick and easy file transfer between Apple devices.
  • AirDrop protocol uses a combination of Bluetooth and WiFi, along with TLS encryption, to enable secure wireless communication between Apple devices.
  • If AirDrop stops working, there are some troubleshooting steps to fix it and make it work.

AirDrop is Apple’s proprietary file-sharing service that enables quick and easy file transfer between Apple devices. You can use it to transfer files from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, running iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, with other AirDrop compatible devices in a fast and secure manner.

AirDrop not working — fixes

IMAGE: Miguel Tomás (Unsplash)

To facilitate this, the AirDrop protocol uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, along with TLS encryption, to set up a close-range, secure wireless communication between devices. While this process is seamless and AirDrop does not usually run into problems, there are times when you encounter connection and transfer issues with it. Here’s a guide to help you at such times.

How to Fix AirDrop Issues on iPhone/iPad and Mac

New versions of iOS sometimes introduce device compatibility problems; sometimes, they fix them. Following are the fixes to fix some of the common AirDrop issues you might encounter on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac and restore their AirDrop functionality.

1. Check AirDrop Status

First, ensure that AirDrop is turned On for the devices between which you want to transfer files. If it is enabled, check the AirDrop discovery setting. AirDrop has three settings: No One/Receiving Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone. Choose between Contacts Only and Everyone depending on whom you are sharing files. If the person is in your contact list, use Contacts Only. If not, use Everyone.

On iPhone/iPad:

i. Go to Settings > General > AirDrop.
ii. Change the discoverability to Contacts Only or Everyone.
iii. Alternatively, pull down the control center, long-press on the connectivity box in the top-left and tap on AirDrop to choose an option.

If this does not work, follow steps 1-2 to turn off AirDrop by selecting Receiving Off.

On Mac

i. Open Finder.
ii. Select AirDrop from the left sidebar
iii. In the AirDrop window, click the dropdown arrow next to Allow me to be discovered by and select a AirDrop visibility option accordingly.

To turn Off AirDrop, select No One from the discoverability options.

2. Toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Off and On

AirDrop relies on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to set up a wireless communication channel. So, in case you are facing problems with establishing a connection, try toggling off/on your device’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

On iPhone/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Go to Wi-Fi and toggle the button off. Likewise, go into Bluetooth and do the same.
iii. Follow the above step to toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi back on.
iv. Alternatively, pull down the control center and toggle the switches for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi from there.

On Mac

i. Click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar and toggle it off. Similarly, click on the Wi-Fi icon and turn it off.
ii. Follow the above step to turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi back on.

3. Check Do Not Disturb Status

Do Not Disturb is known to cause interference with AirDrop connections: it hinders the discoverability of your devices. To make sure this is not the case with you, disable Do Not Disturb on your devices.

On iPhone/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Go to Do Not Disturb and toggle it off — if it is on.
iii. Alternatively, pull down the control center and tap on the Do Not Disturb icon if it is enabled.

On Mac

i. Open System Preferences.
ii. Go to Notifications, select Do Not Disturb from the left sidebar, and make sure it is disabled.
iii. Alternatively, click on the top-right of the screen to open Notification Center and check the Do Not Disturb status. Turn it off if it is ON.

4. Restart Your Device

Oftentimes, restarting your device can fix a lot of the problems. If AirDrop continues to not work on your device, try restarting it.

On iPhone/iPad

i. For devices with a home button, press and hold the power (side) button and slide the slide to turn off slider. For devices without a home button, press and hold the power and volume up button and slide the turn-off slider.
ii. Press and hold the power button to turn the device back on.

On Mac

i. Click the Apple icon in the top-left of the menu bar, and select Shut Down.
ii. Press the power button to turn it on.

Alternatively, you can also choose Restart from the menu in step 1.

5. Sign Out and Sign In to Apple ID/iCloud Account Again

Apple ID/iCloud account can sometimes cause AirDrop problems. To fix this, sign out of your Apple ID and iCloud on both devices and sign back in.

On iPhone/iPad

i. Open Settings and click on your profile on top.
ii. Tap on Sign Out to sign out of your Apple ID.
iii. Sign in again using the same steps.

On Mac

i. Go to System Preferences and select your Apple ID from the top-right.
ii. Click on Overview from the left sidebar and hit the Sign Out button.
iii. Follow the above steps to sign back in.

You’ll also need to be signed in to iCloud if your discoverability is set to “Contacts Only” instead of “Everyone.” If that is the case, you will need to be signed in to iCloud. (You will also need to store each other’s contact information using your respective iCloud accounts’ phone numbers or email address). Tap your name at the top of the menu that appears in the Settings app to make sure your iPhone is signed in to iCloud.

6. Update Your Devices to Latest Software Version

Bugs in operating systems — iOS, iPadOS, and macOS — can sometimes lead to numerous problems, including connectivity issues. To rule this problem out, update your iPhone/iPad/Mac to the latest software version.

On iPhone/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Go to General > Software Update. If there is a pending update, download and install it.

On Mac

i. Open System Preferences.
ii. Select Software Update. If a software update is available, install it on your Mac.

7. Turn Off AirDrop Restrictions

If your iPhone/iPad or Mac are not showing an AirDrop option and you use Screen Time, you may likely have restricted AirDrop — accidentally or otherwise.

On iPhone>/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Select Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps.
iii. Enter your Screen Time passcode to access Allowed Apps.
iv. On the Allowed Apps page, turn on AirDrop — if it is disabled.

On Mac

i. Open System Preferences.
ii. Go to Screen Time > Content & Privacy.
iii. Enter your Screen Time passcode to view the list.
iv. Click on the Apps tab and make sure AirDrop is enabled.

8. Disable VPN Connection

A VPN can sometimes cause interference when you try to send files over AirDrop. For this reason, if you have VPN enabled on your devices, disable it and try sending the files over AirDrop again.

On iPhone/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Select VPN and toggle the button next to Status to off.

On Mac

i. Open System Preferences.
ii. Select Network, click on the VPN service’s name in the left sidebar and hit the Disconnect button.

9. Try Sending a Single File

If AirDrop is failing to transfer files midway, it could be that it is unable to process multiple files (and different file types) at once. To work around this, try sending a single file to see if AirDrop finishes the transfer. If it does, try sending multiple files — of the same kind — at once.

10. Change Firewall Settings

If you are particularly facing AirDrop problems on your Mac, it could be due to macOS’ firewall restrictions. Generally, firewall restrictions are in place to block out the machine’s communication with (unknown) incoming connections. However, sometimes this can interfere with AirDrop connections too.

i. Open System Preferences.
ii. Go to Security & Privacy > Firewall.
iii. Click the padlock and enter your Mac’s administrator password.
iv. Go to the Firewall tab.
v. If Firewall is enabled, click on Firewall Options.
vi. In the Firewall settings, uncheck the box next to Block all incoming connections.
vi. Hit OK.

11. Reset Network Settings

If the fixes listed till now do not work, you should perform a network reset on your devices. Doing so clears the configuration profile that contains all your previously-used networks and settings and resets them to the default state. Make sure you note down your configuration settings or passwords before you proceed with this step.

On iPhone>/iPad

i. Open Settings.
ii. Go to General and scroll down to Reset.
iii. Click on Reset Network Settings and enter your iPhone/iPad password.

On Mac

On Mac, you have a slightly longer process to reset Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Follow the steps below to reset Wi-Fi Network.

i. Open Finder.
ii. Hit command+shift+G, enter /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/, and hit return.
iii. Copy the following files and save them temporarily to another location on your Mac:

  • com.apple.network.identification.plist
  • com.apple.wifi.message-tracer.plist
  • NetworkInterfaces.plist
  • preferences.plist

iv. Delete the above files and restart your Mac.

To reset Bluetooth, use the following steps.

i. Press shift+option and click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar.
ii. Select Reset the Bluetooth module and click OK in the prompt.
iii. Restart the Mac.

Fixing AirDrop Issues to Restore its Functionality

All the AirDrop fixes we have put together in this list address most of the common issues your iPhone, iPad, or Mac can encounter, which can break AirDrop’s functionality. Using these fixes, you should be able to fix AirDrop issues on your iDevices and restore its functionality to normal. Just in case none of the above fixes work for you, consider using third-party platform-agnostic AirDrop alternatives like SnapDrop.

Frequently Asked Questions on ‘AirDrop not working’ issue

Let’s address some of the most frequently asked questions around AirDrop and its issues.

1. Which Apple Devices are AirDrop-Compatible?

When AirDrop is not working, it’s important to make sure that each model in your collection is compatible. This applies to Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and other recent Apple devices. AirDrop-compatible devices include: 

For AirDrop transfer between Macs and iOS Devices

  • The Macs that participate must run OS X Yosemite or later, and they can’t be older than 2012 (except for Mac Pros made in mid-2012).
  • iOS 7 or later must be installed on the involved iOS devices.

For AirDrop transfer between Macs

  • Apple MacBook Pro models from late 2008 onward (except for the 17-inch model introduced late 2008)
  • MacBook Air starting at least in 2010
  • MacBooks since at least late 2008 (except the white one from late 2008)
  • iMac from at least early 2009
  • Mac mini from at least mid-2010
  • The Mac Pro from early 2009 (specifically the model with AirPort Extreme card) or from mid-2010
  • All models of the iMac Pro

2. Can you share contacts via AirDrop?

If you are one of those who are wondering if you can share contacts from an iPhone to an iPhone via AirDrop, then you need to know that it’s perfectly possible. In order to do that, enable AirDrop via Control Center, go to the Contacts app on the source iPhone, tap on the contact you want to share, then choose “Share Contact”, choose AirDrop from the menu and select the target iPhone. Simple, right?

3. Why is AirDrop not working on my iPhone?

There are multiple reasons for AirDrop to stop working on your iPhone. We have listed down 10+ possible solutions to fix the AirDrop issue above, including toggling Bluetooth/WiFi, signing out and signing back in from an iCloud account, disabling VPN connections, and more.

4. How do I turn AirDrop on my iPhone?

When you have an iPhone X or a newer model, swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center if you have an older iPhone.

Tap and hold the WiFi button. In the upper-left corner of your screen, you will see three curved lines arranged in a blue circle. Next, tap AirDrop. Finally, choose who can send files to your device.

5. Does WiFi need to be on for AirDrop?

Secure file transfer is possible using AirDrop, thanks to its unique combination of technologies. While you are required to keep the WiFi ON, you don’t need to be on a (working) Wi-Fi network to use AirDrop.

6. Why does AirDrop take so long to connect?

AirDrop shouldn’t actually be taking too long to connect. If it is, then it’s probably because:

  • the devices aren’t really close to each other.
  • the file you are trying to send may be too large, or you’re trying to send too many files.
  • one of the devices itself is slow or outdated.

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