AirDrop is one of the highlights of the Apple ecosystem as it makes sharing photos, videos, and files among macOS and iOS devices effortless. The process is fast, secure, and preserves the original quality. However, things become frustrating when this feature fails to work. To help, here are seven accurate solutions to fix the problem of AirDrop is not working on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Which Apple Devices are Compatible with AirDrop?
It was introduced for Macs with OS X Lion in 2011. And for iPhones and iPads, it was first launched in 2013 with iOS 7.
Earlier, there was no interoperability. This means you could transfer only between Mac to Mac or iOS device to iOS device. However, with OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, things changed, and it became possible to AirDrop even between Mac and iPhone or iPad.
iPhone 5 and later running iOS 7
iPod touch 5th generation and later running iOS 7
iPad 4th generation, iPad mini, and later running iOS 7
All Macs introduced in 2012 or later have the AirDrop feature. They must have OS X Yosemite or later. For the AirDrop compatibility list for Macs launched before 2012 and running an earlier OS version, please see this.
Fun Fact: There is no file size limit for AirDrop.
Let us get to the fixes now!
Make Both Devices Discoverable
Allow AirDrop from Everyone
Toggle Off and On Bluetooth & Wi-Fi
Restart your Device
Update the Software
Reset Network Settings
1. Make Both Devices Discoverable
AirDrop on Macs models of 2012 and later, and all iPhones and iPads require both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
On the iPhone and iPad:
Open the Settings app and tap on Wi-Fi. Turn on its toggle.
Now, go back and do the same for Bluetooth. You can also perform these actions from the Control Center.
Important: You can not AirDrop when a device is connected to the iPhone or cellular iPad’s Hotspot. Best is to switch off this option from the Settings app → Cellular → Personal Hotspot → turn off the toggle for Allow Others to Join.
Click on the Wi-Fi icon from the top menu bar and turn it on. Also, click on the Bluetooth icon and enable it.
Tip: If you do not see the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, open System Preferences → Bluetooth → check the box for Show Bluetooth in the menu bar.
2. Allow AirDrop for Everyone
After the basic check, it is of prime importance to ensure it is discoverable to other devices. Here’s how.
On the iPhone or iPad:
Bring up Control Center: For this, on iPhone with Face ID, swipe down from the top right corner (where the battery icon is). On iPhone with the Home button, swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
Long-press on the four-icon platter. It will expand.
Now, tap on AirDrop and choose Everyone.
Tip: You may also open the Settings app → General → AirDrop → Everyone.
From the top of the left sidebar, click on AirDrop.
Click on ‘Allow me to be discovered by:‘ and choose Everyone.
Tip: If you are on macOS Big Sur, you can use the newly introduced Control Center on Mac to toggle AirDrop visibility and more.
3. Toggle Off and On Bluetooth & Wi-Fi
Sometimes simple actions like disabling and re-enabling Wi-Fi or/and Bluetooth do the trick.
On the iPhone, open the Settings app and tap on Wi-Fi. Turn the toggle off.
Repeat the same steps for Bluetooth. After 30 seconds, switch on the respective options again.
On Mac, click on the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons in the top menu bar. Next, turn them off. After 30 seconds, turn them back on.
4. Restart your Device
Restart is another quick way to fix the issues. For me, this is particularly helpful if I have trouble sharing files from iPhone to Mac and vice versa.
To switch off and switch on your iPhone, use the buttons as you usually do. In case you need assistance, please follow our guide on how to restart any iPhone or iPad model.
For Mac, click on the Apple logo from the top left corner and then select Restart.
5. Update the Software
When I was on the first version of iOS 14, in some instances, It would fail, and a notification would appear saying ‘AirDrop failed to save item. Save to iCloud Drive instead?‘ This happened even when sending photos to iPhone 6s that were clicked from my iPhone 6s Plus!
To fix such issues, you must update to the latest version of the operating system on your iPhone and Mac.
On iPhone: Open the Settings app → General → Software Update → Download and Install, if available.
On Mac: Open System Preferences → Software Update → Update Now, if available.
6. Reset Network Settings
After you follow the steps below, all saved Wi-Fi credentials, Bluetooth devices, VPN configurations, and such will be restored to the default state. However, personal data like apps, photos, videos, music, etc. won’t see any changes.
Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.
Tap on General → Reset.
Tap on Reset Network Settings. Enter the device passcode and confirm.
Other AirDrop Troubleshooting Tips
For AirDrop to be visible and work, the iPhone, iPad, or Mac must be awake and unlocked.
Try to play with AirDrop’s visibility option. That is, switch to Receiving Off, and after 10 seconds, change it back to Everyone.
It might help if you turn off Do Not Disturb mode.
Turning off VPN might also make sharing via AirDrop smoother.
Though AirDrop works even when devices are connected to different Wi-Fi networks, connecting to the same Wi-Fi helps, especially when sharing between iOS and Mac.
Are you trying an older Mac (launched before 2012)? Well, if you are on macOS Mojave or earlier, open System Preferences → AirDrop → click on Don’t see who you’re looking for? → Click on Search for an Older Mac. Please note, if you are on macOS Catalina or later, this option is no longer available.
Fun Fact: Legacy AirDrop protocol for transferring between older Macs only uses Wi-Fi.
These are the tested solutions to fix the AirDrop issue on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. I hope one of the solutions here fixed the problem for you.
For several people and organizations (like ours), AirDrop is one of the essential tools. We use it daily to share article screenshots, office celebration videos, and more. How often do you use it? If you have some spare time, please take a moment to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
I have been an Apple user for over seven years now. At iGeeksBlog, I love creating how-tos and troubleshooting guides that help people do more with their iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods, and Apple Watch. In my free time, I like to watch stand up comedy videos, tech documentaries, news debates, and political speeches.