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The Bluetooth standard has evolved steadily over time, and remains one of the most useful wireless developments of the past 15 years. Wireless keyboards, headphones, our smartphones, and technologies like AirPlay and AirDrop all rely on the ever-changing Bluetooth standard.

But things can and do go wrong: devices won’t pair, speakers don’t work, and files won’t transfer. Here’s what to try when you’re having a Bluetooth problems.

Note: If your Mac has become unresponsive in terms of Bluetooth connectivity, skip ahead.

First: Check Your Device

Your device needs to be on, and it needs to have battery. This might sound obvious, but it’s worth checking before you go to great lengths fixing a problem that doesn’t really exist. If you haven’t paired this device before, make sure you’re doing it correctly (and that it’s visible to your Mac).

If you’re trying to get a Bluetooth speaker or other audio device working, have already paired it, and are wondering why you can’t hear anything then you’ll need to make sure it’s selected as your primary output under System Preferences > Sound > Output. You can also click on the Volume button in the menu bar and pick your audio device there.

output bluetooth audio

The same goes for Bluetooth headsets with microphones: head to the Input tab and choose your Bluetooth device there. Your Mac should remember your choice for the next time you connect a wireless audio device.

Disable and Re-Enable Bluetooth

For a quicker version of restarting your whole Mac, head to System Preferences > Bluetooth and click Turn Off. You can also toggle Bluetooth by clicking on the menu bar icon — click Turn On to try again. I’ve found this is useful for solving file transfer issues between Mac and iOS over AirDrop AirDrop Not Working? Troubleshoot Your File Transfer Woes AirDrop Not Working? Troubleshoot Your File Transfer Woes Having troubles with AirDrop? We can step you through all of your available options. Read More .

turn off bluetooth

You can also try killing the Bluetooth process entirely, though this isn’t as effective as killing other core Mac processes for fixing issues Sound Advice: Fixing Common Mac Audio Problems in OS X Sound Advice: Fixing Common Mac Audio Problems in OS X No sound? Glitches and noise? Audio coming out of the wrong speakers? Resolving your OS X audio problems can be a time consuming process. Read More . Open Terminal and enter sudo pkill blued followed by your admin password. This should kill and restart the background process, allowing you to try again.

Pair Your Device Again

If you’ve already paired the device in the past, another option is to tell your Mac to forget it and start again. You can reveal all currently paired Bluetooth devices under System Preferences > Bluetooth. Find whatever is causing you problems, select it, then click on the “X” followed by Remove to get rid of it.

remove bluetooth device

You’ll now need to pair the device again, which most of the time involves holding a button till a light flashes.

Reboot, Remove, Reset

Rebooting your Mac under Apple > Restart will fix almost every Bluetooth problem, particularly those where the Bluetooth module has crashed and you’re experiencing an unresponsive macOS. Similarly, removing any USB devices can help (according to Apple) so you might want to give that a try too.

You can also try resetting your Mac’s PRAM How To Reset Your Mac's SMC & PRAM – And Why How To Reset Your Mac's SMC & PRAM – And Why Sometimes your Mac will act strange for no apparent reason, and if a restart doesn't work, sometimes you'll need to reset the SMC and PRAM. Read More , which can often be the cause of wireless connectivity issues.

“Bluetooth Not Available” Errors

macOS stores information about Bluetooth devices in two files on your hard drive, one that is personal to you and another which is used by all users on your Mac. Deleting these files is often recommended when users encounter Bluetooth issues, as it forces macOS to create fresh ones when your computer restarts.

Both files are PLIST files which are used all over the operating system for storing application data in XML format What Is An XML File & What Are Its Uses? [In Case You Were Wondering] What Is An XML File & What Are Its Uses? [In Case You Were Wondering] Read More . To delete and recreate these files:

  1. Open Finder and click on Go > Go to Folder from the menu bar.
  2. Type or paste /Library/Preferences.
  3. Look for a file called com.apple.Bluetooth.plist and drag it to the Trash.
  4. Click Go > Go to Folder again and type or paste ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost
  5. Look for a file that starts with com.apple.Bluetooth followed by numbers and letters (finishing in .plist) and drag it to the Trash.
  6. Disconnect any USB devices and shut down your computer.
  7. Turn off your Bluetooth devices, and start up your Mac again.
  8. Enable Bluetooth on your devices and attempt to pair again.

Nuke Your Bluetooth Module

As a last resort, you can try resetting your Bluetooth module to factory settings. This means you will lose all existing paired connections. If you’re still having issues after trying all the above, that may be a small price to pay to get your device working again.

If you haven’t got a Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, head to System Preferences > Bluetooth and check Show Bluetooth in menu bar. Now hold Shift + Option and click on the Bluetooth icon in the menubar. In the menu that appears, select Debug > Reset the Bluetooth module. You can now try re-pairing your devices.

reset bluetooth

Also, Option + Click often reveals more information and options within context menus, while the shift key enables debug menus. Check out what else you can do with the Mac option key 20 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with the Mac Option Key 20 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with the Mac Option Key The Command steals the limelight on your Mac's keyboard, but it’s the Option key that is the real hero. Read More .

Still Got Problems?

Most issues should have gone away after deleting system files, resetting PRAM, and reverting your Mac’s Bluetooth module to factory settings. If you still have problems, it’s likely your Mac is experiencing hardware issues but you might want to try a fresh install of macOS How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac How To Reinstall Mac OS X For A Fast, Squeaky-Clean Mac Just like Windows, prolonged use of a Mac slows down the operating system. When you've been hoarding data and applications for over a year, the difference in performance starts to show. It just doesn't run... Read More  too.

The best option is to purchase your own USB Bluetooth adapter and use that instead. Older Apple computers are more likely to have issues than newer ones, so the price of a repair is often not worth it when compared with the price of a USB dongle. D-Link’s DBT-120 ($79) would do the trick, though you could go even cheaper and buy from a more generic brand.

D-Link DBT-120 Wireless USB Bluetooth Adapter D-Link DBT-120 Wireless USB Bluetooth Adapter D-Link DBT-120, Bluetooth USB Adapter--Wireless Pe Buy Now At Amazon $79.95

If your Mac was purchased recently, is still under warranty, or you purchased Apple Care AppleCare: What Are Your Options & Is It Really Worth It? AppleCare: What Are Your Options & Is It Really Worth It? High customer satisfaction ratings and a large network of stores capable of performing certain repairs on-site give AppleCare the edge over the average warranty - but are the benefits really worth the price? Read More  then be sure to get Apple to look at the problem, as they’ll fix it for free and it could be indicative of a broader issue. If you’re still serious about getting the issue fixed but aren’t covered, you can take it to Apple and they will charge you for repairs.

Remember: A Genius Bar appointment is always free, staff will run a full diagnostic check on your Mac, and you won’t have to pay anything without being notified of the costs beforehand.

Did this article help solve your Mac Bluetooth issues? Add your solutions and issues in the comments below, we’ll try our best to help you out.

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