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Chances are that you own at least one Bluetooth accessory. This handy short-range communication standard lets you connect all sorts of devices together.
Today, we’ll look at how to turn on Bluetooth on your Mac and what to do afterward. Let’s examine how to make sure your Mac supports Bluetooth, where to turn the option on, and the basics of pairing a new device.
Does My Mac Have Bluetooth?
All modern Mac computers come with built-in support for Bluetooth. You don’t need to buy anything special to use Bluetooth on your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac.
Simply follow the below steps to enable Bluetooth on your Mac and get started with it. If you don’t see the relevant Bluetooth options in your System Preferences panel, you likely have an old Mac that doesn’t come with Bluetooth.
In this case, you may be able to purchase an adapter that adds Bluetooth support to your computer. However, most of these are designed for Windows, so make sure you get one that’s listed as compatible with macOS.
How to Turn On Bluetooth on Mac
It’s not difficult to use Bluetooth on your Mac. To turn it on, open the Apple menu at the top-left corner of the screen and choose System Preferences. In the resulting window, select Bluetooth.
On the left side of the Bluetooth panel, you’ll see the Bluetooth icon with the status below it. If it says Bluetooth: Off, click the Turn Bluetooth On button to enable it.
That’s all it takes to turn on Bluetooth on a Mac. While you’re here, we recommend checking the Show Bluetooth in menu bar box, if it’s not already enabled. This will place a Bluetooth icon at the top of your screen, allowing you to easily access Bluetooth connections without going into this panel every time.
How to Connect Bluetooth Devices to Your Mac
Now that you have Bluetooth turned on, let’s look at how to connect devices with it.
Before you use a Bluetooth device with your Mac for the first time, you’ll need to pair it. If you’ve used Bluetooth on other devices before, you should be familiar with the concept of discoverability. Because it’s common for many Bluetooth devices to appear in the same area, you have to manually pair devices for your security. And you can only do this when the device is discoverable (also known as “pairing mode”).
When you have the Bluetooth settings panel open on your Mac, your computer is discoverable.
Pairing New Devices
The specifics of this process depend on the device you want to pair.
Like macOS, most other operating systems (including Windows 10, Android, and iOS) set themselves as discoverable when you have the Bluetooth options open. For devices like Bluetooth keyboards, mice, headphones, and similar, the exact method to enter pairing mode depends on the device. Check the manual for more information.
Once the other device is in pairing mode, you should see its name appear under Devices in the Bluetooth settings of your Mac. Click the Connect button next to the one you want to add.
For many Bluetooth devices, you’ll need to confirm that a provided PIN matches on both devices. Make sure this is correct, especially if you’re in a crowded area with lots of devices. If you have to enter a PIN manually (usually the case only with older devices), this is likely 0000, 1111, or 1234.
Once that’s done, you’ve successfully connected your Mac and the other device via Bluetooth. When they’re turned on and in range of each other (roughly 30 feet), they’ll automatically connect.
In case your devices don’t automatically connect, you can always do so manually. In the Bluetooth settings panel (as well as the menu bar icon), you’ll see any devices that you’ve previously paired show up under Devices. Make sure the device is on, then double-click its name to connect to it. If it doesn’t work, disconnect it from any other paired computers first.
To remove a device, right-click it in the list of devices and choose Remove. Once you do this, the device will no longer automatically connect, and you’ll have to pair it again to use it.
Understanding the macOS Bluetooth Icon
If you’ve enabled the Bluetooth menu bar icon as mentioned earlier, you’ll see the Bluetooth logo there all the time. You can click it to quickly toggle Bluetooth, connect to a device, or open the full preferences panel.
As it turns out, the Bluetooth icon also changes to present information:
- A dark icon signifies that Bluetooth is turned on, but no devices are connected to your Mac.
- An icon with three dots over it lets you know that Bluetooth is on and you have one or more devices connected to your Mac.
- A clear icon means that Bluetooth is turned off.
- If you see an icon with a low battery symbol, it means at least one connected device is low on battery. This may not appear for all devices.
- Finally, an icon with a zigzag line over it signifies that Bluetooth is unavailable. Try restarting your Mac to fix it. If this doesn’t work, remove all USB devices and restart once more. Failing this, you’ll need to review troubleshooting steps below.
Turning On Bluetooth Without a Mouse or Keyboard
Many people use a Bluetooth mouse and/or keyboard for their desktop Mac. As you’d imagine, having Bluetooth suddenly turn off can pose a problem here, since you need those devices to access the Bluetooth menu.
Thankfully, for Macs without a trackpad, macOS doesn’t let Bluetooth turn off unless you connect a USB mouse. But in case something ever goes wrong, you can re-enable Bluetooth on your Mac with just a mouse or keyboard.
On a MacBook, you have the built-in keyboard and trackpad, making this a non-issue. But on an iMac, you’ll need to connect a USB mouse or keyboard to do this.
To turn on Bluetooth without a mouse, press Cmd + Space to open Spotlight search. Search for Bluetooth File Exchange and press Return to launch that utility. As soon as the app launches, it will display a window letting you know that Bluetooth is disabled.
Hit Return again to turn Bluetooth on. If you need to open the Bluetooth panel, open Spotlight again and type Bluetooth.
If you don’t have a keyboard, simply use your mouse to access the Bluetooth menu bar icon or System Preferences panel.
As a last-ditch effort, if you don’t have any USB devices handy, try disconnecting everything from your Mac except the power cord. Next, shut it down using the button in the back. Make sure your Bluetooth devices are charged and turned on, then reboot your Mac. It should then trigger the Bluetooth setup wizard and connect your devices again.
Advanced Bluetooth Settings for Mac
To conclude this overview, you should be aware of a few additional Bluetooth settings. You’ll find them under the Advanced button in the Bluetooth System Preferences panel.
The first two options are for pairing convenience. As mentioned above, they make your Mac automatically open the Bluetooth Setup panel if you turn on your computer without a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad connected. This allows you to easily put your Bluetooth accessory in pairing mode and connect it.
Enable the third option if you want Bluetooth devices to wake up the computer. With it on, pressing a key on a keyboard or clicking a mouse button on a connected Bluetooth device will wake up a computer in sleep mode.
Troubleshooting Mac Bluetooth Issues
Having Bluetooth trouble on your Mac? Keep in mind that there’s a practical limit to how many Bluetooth devices you can connect to a computer. If you have more than three or four devices connected at once, you may experience poor performance and won’t be able to add more devices. Try to only pair devices you plan to use regularly.
Also remember that Bluetooth has a distance limit. This is typically around 30 feet, but depends on the exact devices you’re using. Interference from other wireless devices or obstructions can also affect this range.
If you see the “unavailable” icon in your menu bar or run into other problems using Bluetooth on your Mac, your system may have a hardware issue. Follow our Mac Bluetooth troubleshooting guide to get help with your problem.
Enjoy Bluetooth on Your Mac
Now you know everything about turning on Bluetooth on your Mac and how to use it. In most cases, after you pair a device, it should work without much trouble. The convenience of using wireless devices and near-universal support makes Bluetooth an attractive utility.
To learn more, check out our answers to common Bluetooth questions.