Bluetooth Not Available? Troubleshooting Mac Connectivity Issues
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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 Not Working on Your Mac? Easy Fixes For Audio Problems Sound Not Working on Your Mac? Easy Fixes For Audio Problems 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 Do an SMC and PRAM/NVRAM Reset on Your Mac How to Do an SMC and PRAM/NVRAM Reset on Your Mac A reset of the SMC and PRAM/NVRAM can help any Mac, including MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, run smoothly again. 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 and How Can You Open and Use It? What Is an XML File and How Can You Open and Use It? You may have seen the term "XML." You might even have accidentally opened an XML file. What is XML and how do you use it? 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 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 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 macOS for a Fast and Squeaky Clean Mac How to Reinstall macOS for a Fast and Squeaky Clean Mac Need to restore your Mac to factory settings? Here's how to install a fresh copy of macOS and erase everything. 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.

If your Mac was purchased recently, is still under warranty, or you purchased Apple Care AppleCare Warranty: What Are Your Options and Is It Worth It? AppleCare Warranty: What Are Your Options and Is It Worth It? AppleCare+ protects your Apple device, but is it worth the cost? Here's what AppleCare+ offers and whether you should get it. 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.

Explore more about: Bluetooth, macOS Sierra, Troubleshooting.

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