How to Fix OS X Bluetooth Wireless Problems

Get a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, or other peripheral working again

The Wireless Connection
The Wireless Connection
Introduction

Chances are you use at least one Bluetooth wireless peripheral with your Mac. Many Mac users have a Magic Mouse or a Magic Trackpad paired with their desktop Macs. Many also have wireless keyboards, speakers, phones, or other devices connected through a Bluetooth wireless connection.

Bluetooth is convenient for peripherals that are always connected to your Mac and those you use only occasionally. However, Bluetooth connectivity can cause problems when things stop working as expected. These fixes can help.

Information in this article applies to Macs with macOS Catalina (10.15) through macOS High Sierra (10.13), but most of the fixes also work in older versions of the operating system.

Causes of Bluetooth Connection Issues

You know you have a Bluetooth connection problem when your Bluetooth-connected peripheral stops working. Sometimes the problem occurs when you upgrade macOS or OS X or change the batteries in the peripheral. Sometimes, it happens for no apparent reason.

The cause is likely to be a corrupt Bluetooth preference list (.plist file) used by the Mac. The corruption prevents the Mac from updating the data within the file or from correctly reading data from the file. Either of these can lead to problems. However, other causes exist, and these can almost all be fixed easily.

Wireless keyboard and mouse on a table with office supplies
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How to Fix OS X Bluetooth Wireless Problems

Before you jump straight to removing a preference file on your Mac, try these simple fixes that may solve the problem.

  1. Turn off the Bluetooth peripheral and turn it back on.

  2. Confirm the batteries are good or replace old batteries with fresh batteries.

  3. Confirm the Bluetooth peripheral is connected to the Mac. Open System Preferences > Bluetooth and look for the word Connected under the peripheral in the devices list. If it is not connected, click the Connect button next to it or re-pair the device following the instructions that came with the device.

  4. Turn off the Mac's Bluetooth system. You can turn Bluetooth off in System Preferences or from the Bluetooth icon on the menu bar of the Mac. Wait a minute and turn it back on. Restart the Mac and the Bluetooth device.

    If you don't see the Bluetooth icon in the Mac menu bar, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth and select the Show Bluetooth in menu bar check box.

  5. Reset NVRAM or PRAM on the Mac. NVRAM (Non-Volatile RAM) is a newer version of the PRAM (Parameter RAM) found in older Macs, but both contain small amounts of memory, and the differences between the two are slight.

  6. Delete the Bluetooth preference list. In Library > Preferences, locate the file named com.apple.Bluetooth.plist. Drag it to the desktop to create a copy of the existing file, which serves as a backup of your data. Delete the Bluetooth.plist file in the Library > Preferences folder and restart the Mac.

    The Library file is hidden on a Mac by default. To access it, go to Finder > Go > Go to Folder, enter ~/Library, then select Go.

    When the Mac restarts, it creates a new Bluetooth preference file. Because the preference file is new, you may need to re-pair your Bluetooth peripherals with the Mac.

  7. Use the hidden Bluetooth Debug menu. To access this menu, press and hold the Shift and Option keys and click the Bluetooth icon in the Mac menu bar. Select the device that is giving you trouble from the list and choose Factory Reset.

  8. Reset the Bluetooth module. Go to the hidden Bluetooth Debug menu, click Debug, and select Reset the Bluetooth module. This affects every Bluetooth device you use with the Mac, but these devices usually reconnect automatically.

If none of these fixes help, contact Apple Support or take your Mac to the nearest Apple Store for help.