iPhone and iPad Mac

AirDrop Not Working? Fix It Fast With These Tips

Dan Helyer Updated 25-03-2020

AirDrop is supposed to make it easy to transfer data from one Apple device to another. It does so using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to create an encrypted communications channel. But unfortunately, AirDrop is far from perfect and doesn’t always work the way it’s meant to.

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If you’ve ever questioned why AirDrop isn’t working on your iPhone or Mac, we have help for you. Below, you’ll find everything you can do to fix AirDrop.

AirDrop Requirements for Apple Devices

First, you need to check that your device is actually compatible with AirDrop. Sometimes Apple’s requirements change, but at the time of writing, you can use AirDrop with:

  • Any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7 or later
  • Any Mac introduced after 2011 (excluding the 2012 Mac Pro) running OS X Yosemite or later

If your device is compatible, make sure you know how to use AirDrop How to Turn On AirDrop on Your Mac and iPhone to Share Files Here's how to turn on AirDrop and use it to transfer files between Mac and iOS devices easily. Read More properly.

Apple used to allow Mac-to-Mac AirDrop transfers between older machines as well. If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra or earlier, you may still be able to AirDrop with the following Macs:

  • MacBook or MacBook Pro (from late 2008 onwards)
  • Mac Pro or iMac (from early 2009 onwards, with an AirPort Extreme)
  • Mac Mini (from 2010 onwards)
  • MacBook Air (from late 2010 onwards)

If you can’t find one of these older Macs using AirDrop, click on Don’t see who you’re looking for? and select Search for an Older Mac. Apple removed this option in macOS Catalina.

Search for an Older Mac popup window in AirDrop for Mac

Troubleshooting Tips for When AirDrop Isn’t Working

There are lots of problems you might encounter when AirDrop isn’t working. You might find that your devices aren’t showing up in the AirDrop sharing window, you can’t send files to devices that do appear, or you can’t find certain files after someone else sent them to you.

We can’t tell you exactly why AirDrop isn’t working on your Mac or iPhone. But we can show you how to fix any AirDrop problem with the troubleshooting tips below.

1. Update the Operating System

Apple frequently releases new updates to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS that are designed to fix software bugs. If AirDrop isn’t working, install the latest updates for your devices as they may fix it.

On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Software Update. On a Mac, open the Apple menu and go to System Preferences > Software Update.

Checking for iOS Software Updates in iPhone Settings

2. Restart Both Devices

This is a classic troubleshooting tip because it’s so effective. Restarting your iPhone, iPad, or Mac might be all you need to get AirDrop working again. And it only takes a moment to try it.

3. Turn Off AirDrop Restrictions

If AirDrop isn’t showing up on your iOS device at all, you might have blocked it in your Content & Privacy Restrictions, which you’ll find under Settings > Screen Time. Take a look at the Allowed Apps section and make sure AirDrop is turned on.

You may need to enter a Screen Time passcode to make changes.

4. Disable Personal Hotspot on Your iPhone

Both AirDrop and Personal Hotspot utilize your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, so you can’t use them at the same time. Go to Settings > Personal Hotspot on your iOS device to turn off that feature, then try using AirDrop again.

5. Turn Off Do Not Disturb Mode

Your device might not receive transfer requests from AirDrop because Do Not Disturb is turned on.

Open Control Center and tap the moon icon to turn it off on your iPhone or iPad. On a Mac, click the Notification Center icon in the top-right of the menu bar and scroll down to reveal a Do Not Disturb toggle.

Do Not Disturb option in Mac Notification Center

6. Restart Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on Both Devices

A particularly useful solution if AirDrop is not working is to disable and re-enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Using your iPhone or iPad, open Control Center again and tap the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons to turn them off and on.

On a Mac, click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar and select Turn Wi-Fi off to turn it off, then enable it again. Go to System Preferences > Bluetooth to restart Bluetooth.

7. Change Your AirDrop Visibility Settings

AirDrop gives you three visibility options: Everyone, Contacts Only, or Receiving Off. If your device isn’t showing up in AirDrop, try switching to each of these options to fix it. Just be careful of NSFW AirDrop attempts Disable AirDrop to Avoid a Barrage of NSFW Images Received a surprising image of someone's genitals on your phone while riding on the bus or train? You've been bluejacked! Here's what that means and what you can do to stop it. Read More if you leave it on Everyone.

On a Mac, open Finder and select AirDrop from the sidebar. Open the dropdown menu where it says Allow me to be discovered by to choose a different option.

On an iPhone or iPad, open Control Center, then tap and hold in the top-left section to reveal an AirDrop button. Use this to choose different options.

8. Prepare Both Devices to Receive an AirDrop Request

Sometimes it helps to prepare your device for incoming AirDrop transfers, making it more likely to show up on someone else’s device. Unlock your iPhone or iPad and leave it on the Home screen to prepare it. For a Mac, open a new Finder window and select AirDrop from the sidebar.

9. Use AirDrop From a Third Apple Device

This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you have a spare Apple device, you should try using that to connect over AirDrop. Usually, if your iPhone or Mac shows up on this new device, it suddenly appears on the original device as well.

Multiple Devices in AirDrop share sheet

10. Send a Single File Instead of Multiple

AirDrop lets you share many different kinds of files at the same time. But if AirDrop isn’t working on your iPhone or Mac, you might want to simplify matters by sending a single file at a time instead.

AirDrop files automatically open in a relevant app. For instance, images open in the Photos app. But multiple file types don’t always open in the same app, which might explain why the AirDrop transfer failed.

11. Check the Downloads Folder for Missing Files

If AirDrop sent a file to your device but you can’t find it, take a look in the Downloads folder. On an iPhone, open the Files app and look for a Downloads folder in iCloud Drive. On a Mac, you can usually find the Downloads folder next to the Trash in the Dock.

Mac Dock showing Downloads stack

12. Turn Off Your VPN for AirDrop to Work

Some users found that AirDrop didn’t work until they turned off the VPN on their iPhone How to Set Up a VPN on Your iPhone or iPad We explain how to set up a VPN on iPhone using both a provider app and the manual method so you can protect your mobile browsing. Read More or Mac. You might need to do this in the VPN app or in your device settings.

On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > VPN to do this. And on a Mac, go to System Preferences > Network and select your VPN from the sidebar.

13. Open Your Mac’s Firewall to More Connections

The firewall on your Mac might be set to block all incoming connections, which often includes new AirDrop transfers. You’ll need to loosen these restrictions from System Preferences if AirDrop still isn’t working.

Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Firewall. Click the padlock and enter your administrator password to unlock changes. Then open the Firewall Options window and uncheck the option to Block all incoming connections.

Block all incoming connections checkbox in Mac Firewall preferences

14. Sign Into Your Apple ID Account Again

On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > [Your Name] > Sign Out. Choose the data to keep on your device, then confirm you want to Sign Out. After signing out, return to Settings to sign in to your Apple ID again.

On a Mac, go to System Preferences > Apple ID > Overview to sign out. Once again, choose the data to keep on your device and confirm you want to Sign Out. Once the sign out is complete, sign in from the same page and try using AirDrop again.

15. Reset the Network Settings on Your iPhone

You can reset the network settings on an iPhone or iPad to fix all kinds of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth problems, including problems with AirDrop not working. When you reset these settings, your device forgets any Wi-Fi passwords you’ve saved, so you’ll have to reconnect to trusted networks again.

If you still want to go ahead with it, go to Settings > General > Reset and tap Reset Network Settings. Hopefully, AirDrop starts working again after the reset.

Reset Network Settings confirmation popup on iPhone

If AirDrop Still Isn’t Working

Until Apple makes AirDrop more reliable, you might have better luck using an alternative transfer method instead. Ironically, one of the best AirDrop alternatives is Apple’s own iCloud Drive. Simply upload files to iCloud from one device, then you can download them from another.

Managing files with iCloud Drive How to Access and Manage iCloud Drive Files From Any Device iCloud Drive is a handy tool, but accessing your files can be a little confusing since Apple's cloud storage experience really differs depending on your platform or device. Read More isn’t as quick as using AirDrop, because you need to upload and download files instead of transferring them directly. But when AirDrop isn’t working, iCloud Drive is the next best option.

Explore more about: AirDrop, File Management, iPhone Tips, Mac Tips, Troubleshooting.

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  1. Mary Durlacher
    December 31, 2018 at 6:02 pm

    Trouble reading Notes airdropped from iPhone to MacBook Air? It took Mem a while to realise they went to Downloads ... and even longer to realise there are two apps which will open the Download: if you click on the Download folder in the dock, it appears as a white (blank) page: if you double click on that, it opens in Messages, which is normally a list of ‘To’ messages you have sent. At the bottom of the right hand panel is a separate list of messages with the title of the note you airdropped to yourself, but no obvious way of opening or accessing them.

    Go instead to the the Downloads folder on the left side of a new Finder window (it comes below Documents and Desktop on my window) - click on that and it will appear at the top of the list (if you have selected 'by Date added’ in the “Arrange” tab at the top.
    Rather that directly clicking on the notes airdropdocument, go to the ‘Action’ tab next to ‘Arrange’ and that gives you different options for opening the document: in my case, it was either the Messages App which had already failed to make the message readable, or the Notes App which works perfectly!
    It took me a long time to discover something as simple as that and thought I would share it - I could find nowhere else which mentioned this simple solution: if you know where it it flagged up more obviously, it may help others not to waste time on an time wasting search!

  2. derp
    January 25, 2018 at 5:03 am

    Turn off your VPN. You're welcome.

  3. Jack
    October 11, 2017 at 4:57 am

    Just a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great style and design. “The price one pays for pursuing a profession, or calling, is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side.” by James Arthur Baldwin.

    wretye5ryabcd.com

  4. Greg P.
    February 28, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I can Airdrop pictures FROM my iPhone 6s Plus and iPad (incarnation 2 or 3) to my iMac (2015) but I cannot use Air drop TO those devices. the Mac Sees them but Fails to send. No notification ever show up on the iOS devices. All devices have the latest updates.

  5. David
    September 13, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Hasn't worked for me since the so-called upgrade to Maverick etc.

    • Tim Brookes
      September 19, 2016 at 2:52 am

      Are you trying to use it with an older Mac, David? If so you'll need to click the "Don't see who you're looking for?" button at the bottom of the window. It is my understanding they changed the way it works with newer low powered Bluetooth devices and different Wi-Fi bands. To send files to my girlfriend's 5+ year old MacBook Air, I have to click that button first.

  6. Libon Fernandes
    September 1, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    If none of the above works, like for me, try this.
    Go to router settings, change the wifi security to WPA only.
    Restart the router ! voila. . Your Welcome !

  7. LUIS
    August 26, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Im a Novice at this but would someone tell me with certainty if when you transfer a file from airdrop to iPad mini and it doesn't show on the camera roll or videos app, will it show later or has the file been saved in the storage itself of the tablet? thing is i uploaded avery compromising video to my girlfriends iPad thru airdrop by mistake, when i realized it was her iPad and not mine i freaked out and tried to find the MOV file on her iPad but i couldn't find it, I would just like a little piece of mind. Since its her iPad, do you think the file might pop u one day and she will find it or do u think it will never be seen even though the file supposed was transferred thru airdrop.

    • Tim Brookes
      August 30, 2016 at 1:46 am

      When you AirDrop a file to an iOS device it generally asks you which app you want to open it in, unless it's something like a contact or web address. Assuming the file is a video it should have gone straight to the Photos app. If it doesn't appear on the Camera Roll, then it's unlikely that the file was saved at all. It's very possible that it's an unsupported format that the iPad can't read, and unless you have something like VLC installed then the OS probably just binned it.

      I'd think it was highly unlikely that the file would just "turn up" at some point, but you might want to try restarting the device and checking again.

  8. Steven Herbin
    August 19, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I thought that I had restarted my macbook, but restarting it after reading your treatise turned the trick.

    Thanks. It was driving me crazy -- it was an iphone to macbook trasnfer that wasn't working.

  9. Brian Schmidt
    July 20, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Every now and then, I keep hoping AirDrop will magically start working for me, but it seems Apple is sticking to their "2012 or later Mac" limitation (I have a late-2011 MacBook Pro... almost 5 years old, but still truckin' along just fine!).

    Sooooo... I just had to share an app that I have been using for a few years now that "just works," considering my laptop "just DOESN'T work" with AirDrop:

    FileDrop -- https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/filedrop/id659443478?mt=12&uo=4 or http://commondatastorage.googleapis.com/filedropme/Filedrop.dmg (direct download)

    I've never had an issue with FileDrop, except for times when I've been out-and-about and my laptop can't find a WiFi network to use.

    Grab it for both your Mac and your phone. Launch the app on both devices and enjoy your wireless transferring! :)

  10. Todd
    May 21, 2016 at 6:26 am

    It's the 21st century. Companies only make money if you keep buying their services/products. The "buy once and forget it" scheme no longer works. With that said, I think Apple deliberately leaves bugs in their systems to force you to upgrade. With this method, you will eventually reach the point where you need to upgrade your devices with newer ones because it will not be capable of running the "latest". And while talking about "latest", let's not forget that iOS 7.1 is not even 2 years old - as of May 2016!

    • Tim Brookes
      May 23, 2016 at 4:40 am

      That theory doesn't really hold up though, because Apple has a very good track record of providing support via software updates to its older devices. This goes for both iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad, and its Mac computers. Sure, you're going to experience a decline in performance as your device ages, but that's just how it goes. Newer versions of operating systems are built with the latest hardware in mind, and speeds continue to improve at a rapid pace year on year.

      iOS 9 addressed some of the slowdown issues on iOS 8, which means the last upgrade potentially resulted in better performance than the version that preceded it. Deliberately leaving bugs in software is not something a company should be doing if they want to retain customers, and it doesn't really make sense to do so in 2016 when many are hypercritical of tech companies as it is.

  11. Albert J.
    May 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I found that My airdrop wasn't working in any of my mid 2011 or older Mac Minis. I realized it was an issue when those computers did not show the Compatibility mode and Discovery mode at the bottom of the Airdrop screen. We've imaged these computers using deploy studio and I found that someone had made an image using newer hardware (2012) so the 2011 bluetooth Kext files were not compatible.

    I was able to find a solution to fix it and have tested it on several machines. This may help some of you as well.

    This forces Continuity on any mac with Low energy bluetooth enabled (hardware compatibility listed in link). Adding continuity using this method updates (after backing up) the kext files and makes your older computer work just like a newer one with Hand-Off, Airdrop and Continuity.
    Hope this helps!
    https://github.com/dokterdok/Continuity-Activation-Tool/

  12. Alon
    May 1, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Airdrop is such a great feature when it works, but I've been having consistent problems since upgrading to El Capitan. Before that a quick off/on switch of the wifi or bluetooth would get it working.

    It's been really getting to me and I must say I do think it's actually a complete and total fail. The solution of switching my iPad on seems to get my Mac to see my iPhone, but that's a real joke.

    They should have troubleshooted this and created a few buttons in the Airdrop interface that allow users to troubleshoot and sort this out once and for all.

    I am a huge fan of Apple, but this Airdrop thing is really something that Steve Jobs would have never ever allowed. A feature that doesn't work half the time is exactly what he was completely against.

    The whole philosophy was that you devices would simply work, and the user would never have to spend all their time troubleshooting and slowing down their workflow because of their devices slowing them down in some way.

    Grills me to the core.

    • Tim Brookes
      May 2, 2016 at 4:47 am

      I agree that AirDrop should be a lot more consistent, and I still find myself thinking "maybe iOS 10/OS X 10.12 will fix it" to be honest. But one thing to note is that the feature existed under Jobs as well, though back then it specifically related to Mac-only file transfer. From what I remember it worked pretty consistently, and it's only since the feature appeared in iOS that things haven't worked so great.

      I have noticed things have been better since upgrading to iOS 9 and OS X 10.11, specifically iPhone to Mac transfer, not sure about yourself.

      • Alon
        May 2, 2016 at 7:52 am

        That is really interesting Tim.

        I am on the latest versions on both my mac and my mobile and I've found it just as bad.

        Basically upon updating to El Capitan I've had consistent troubles. A quarter of the time it works perfectly but the rest of the time I sit there waiting for my mobile to show up on the Airdrop screen when trying to send from my Mac for ages, resetting everything and trying everything and nothing works.

        It's been seriously disruptive to my workflow and it drives me nuts. Hopefully the process of using my iPad at the same time will continue to 'wake it up' if you like.

        My iPad and iPhone have no trouble seeing eachother, it's only the Mac.

        Grating my balls.

        • Tim Brookes
          May 4, 2016 at 4:27 am

          I absolutely know what you mean about workflow. Getting screenshots from my iPhone to my Mac when finishing off an article like this shouldn't take ten minutes of turning settings on and off and swearing at my machine. At least in those instances syncing with cloud storage like Google Drive doesn't take too long, I still refuse to "email myself" in 2016 though.

          What's crazy is how reliably VLC's web UI server works when transferring movies from my Mac to my iPad over a network. Launch app, tap a button then drag and drop gigabytes of video files over!

  13. Bill
    April 2, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Just connect to each other Personal Hotspot and you can detect and perform AirDrop afterward :)

    • Tim Brookes
      April 4, 2016 at 2:09 am

      What a brilliant idea! I'll have to try that the next time I have problems :)

      • Bill
        April 4, 2016 at 4:32 am

        Yeahhh let us know if it is working or not and don't forget to write it so that others can solve it too :)

  14. doug
    March 12, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Air Drop -- an Apple trinket. My solution, have Win 7 in a virtual machine, plug in your phone, have the usb connection go to Windows and access your phone files with Windows Explorer!

  15. Michael Hamson
    March 10, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    Concerning the changing of networks... When I am on my Airport Time Capsule, Airdrop does not work at all. However, if I change my devices to any other network (non-Apple) it does work without a hitch. This is a big failure in my book! I sincerely do wish Apple held off on any more products until they can successfully revert back to the "it just works" state that we used to enjoy

  16. Andrew Hodgkinson
    March 4, 2016 at 5:53 am

    I tried all of the above but nothing worked. Then I tried, to see if it was a hardware issue, creating a new user account (rather than logging out of iCloud). Logged in, air drop worked perfectly. Returned to my original account and airdrop was working, problem solved. Thanks, for the ideas that got me started.

    • Tim Brookes
      March 7, 2016 at 3:40 am

      Thanks for letting us know what worked for you, Andrew!

  17. Rosellainoz
    February 7, 2016 at 5:03 am

    Not event he Apple Support could help me. We did all of the above, reset the System Management Controller then reset the NVRAM, restarted in safe mode and tested with another user. Still no joy. As a last resort I have re-installed the OS. Nothing! The MacBook cannot see the iPad or the iPhone in Airdrop. It can see the iPad in Bluetooth but the iPhone tells me the MacBook is not supported in Bluetooth.
    This is all a mystery to me. I have successfully used Airdrop on my iPhone with a Desktop Computer at work so I know the phone works.
    I will take the MacBook into an Apple Store and see what they say there. Maybe, just maybe they can get it to work for me, or as someone else has said, "What is the point of a feature that doesn't work?"

  18. Rajiv
    February 7, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Thanks a lot. The VLC solution worked - others didn't.

    I have a solution now from your article so thank you.

    Super-like.

  19. Anonymous
    December 28, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Nope nothing works. Airdrop cannot see my Macbook Pro, my wife's iPad Mini , her Macbook Pro, or my old iPad2

  20. Tarquin
    December 17, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I eventually gave up trying. If it's photos you're trying to sync, get dropbox. Easiest fix. Not perfect but better than pulling hair out with frustration, turning bluetooth on and off etc

  21. Anonymous
    August 4, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Thank you for the pointers. I was trying to Airdrop photos from the iPhone to my Mac Book. Neither could see the other.
    1. As soon as I turned on my iPad the Mac saw both and the iPhone saw the iPad but not the Mac! I could copy the photos to the iPad but not the Mac.
    2. I logged in and out of iCloud. Now the Mac saw both iPhone & iPad but the iPhone still could not see the Mac.
    3. I restarted the Mac. Now everything works!

    But what a pain.

    • Tim Brookes
      August 6, 2015 at 3:57 am

      Yeah it really is a broken mess I'm afraid. Here's hoping iOS 9 and El Capitan make things "just work" like they should!

  22. Anonymous
    July 18, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Toggling bluetooth on the Mac worked. YAAAY!! Thanks!

  23. Alicia
    May 6, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Nice, I have changed my settings successfully, I have only one complaint that Airdrop works only with iOS not with other Android,Windows phone or BB..Whereas other options like SmartIO Works good in cross platform content transfer like mentioned here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/smartio/id711338920?mt=8
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.smartio&hl=en