photo of macbook, iphone and ipad
Image: Yeamake/Adobe Stock

AirDrop is a file-sharing service available on Mac and iOS devices that makes it much faster and more convenient to transfer photos, large files, playlists, contact information, locations on Apple Maps, links to websites and more.

What you’ll need to turn on AirDrop

To turn on AirDrop, first you need to turn on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, because they’re required to create the connection between devices.

Ensure the optimal distance between the device sharing data and the device receiving data is 30 feet for the transfer to be secure. If you have Personal Hotspot on, turn it off, as this can disrupt the connection.

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Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow to turn on AirDrop on iPhone, iPad and Mac.

How to turn on AirDrop on your iPhone

  • If you’re using an iPhone X or newer version, swipe down from the top-right corner of your screen and open the control center. If you have an older version access the control center by swiping up from the bottom of your screen.
  • Press and hold the WiFi button and Bluetooth options to turn them on.
  • Next, tap the AirDrop icon — it resembles a triangle inside four concentric circles.
  • You should see a menu with options to choose who can send files to your device. You can choose to receive files from people on your contact list only, or you can choose to receive files from any Apple device in range by clicking on Everyone.
  • To turn AirDrop off follow the same steps but select Receiving Off. You won’t be able to receive files through AirDrop.

How to turn on AirDrop on your iPad

  • Swipe down from the upper-right corner of the home screen to access the control center.
  • Tap the AirDrop icon.
  • Alternatively, launch the settings app.
  • Select General from the left menu.
  • Tap the AirDrop icon.
  • The three AirDrop settings will appear: Receiving Off, Contacts Only and Everyone.
  • Select Contacts Only or Everyone to turn AirDrop on.
  • AirDrop will remain active as long as Receiving Off isn’t active.

How to turn on AirDrop on your Mac

You’ll need to be running macOS X Lion or later operating systems to use AirDrop on your Mac computer. Follow these steps to turn on AirDrop:

  • Select the Go tab at the top of your Mac computer.
  • On the drop-down menu, click on AirDrop.
  • You’ll see the option to turn on Bluetooth on the screen. Click on it.
  • Once Bluetooth is on, click Allow Me To Be Discovered By and choose who to receive AirDrops from.
  • You’ll be discovered by AirDrop-enabled devices within range.
  • You can choose to receive files from anyone or you can restrict it to your contacts only.

What to do if AirDrop isn’t working

If you’ve turned AirDrop on but you’re having trouble finding your name or getting discovered, there are a few common things to check:

First, check if your Apple device is compatible with AirDrop. iPhones and iPads using iOS 7 or later have AirDrop, as do Macs and MacBooks released in 2012 or later running at least OS X Yosemite.

If your device is compatible with AirDrop but you still don’t see it, check if you are running the latest version of the iOS. Sometimes, new versions of operating systems introduce compatibility problems. To check for updates, launch settings from your Home screen. Tap General, then tap Software Update. If there’s a newer version of the operating system, install it.

Ensure you have both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on. If they are on and AirDrop still isn’t working, turn them off and on again to remove any temporary glitches. Additionally, if your device and that of the recipient are more than 30 feet apart, it can be difficult to see their AirDrop name on your list of nearby devices. Bring the two devices closer together.

Check if your device is connecting to the internet via a personal hotspot because this can interrupt the AirDrop connection. If it is, open Settings and turn the Personal Hotspot off. Also check if your AirDrop is set to receive files from your contacts only. If it is, that means you have to verify who you receive files from. Change the settings to receive files from everyone and try again.

If everything fails, try doing a hard restart on both devices to help remove any temporary glitches in the settings or the network.

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