How to Turn On AirDrop on iPad

Use Control Center or the Settings app to receive files

What to Know

  • Open Control Center and tap the AirDrop icon (a triangle with circles).
  • Alternatively, go to Settings > General > AirDrop.
  • Select Contacts Only or Everyone to turn on AirDrop.

In this article, you'll learn how to turn on AirDrop and use it to send movies, pictures, links, and more to nearby devices. Instructions apply to devices running iOS 7 or later.

How Do I Activate AirDrop on an iPad?

AirDrop is always "on" when you want to use it to send things to nearby devices, but you may not be able to receive them. You can make your iPad visible using two methods.

Turn on AirDrop Using the Control Center

The first way to become visible for AirDrop uses the iPad's Control Center.

  1. Swipe down from the upper-right corner of the Home screen to open the Control Center.

    The Home screen on an iPad with a yellow arrow indicating a swipe to open the Control Center
  2. Select the AirDrop icon. It looks like a triangle inside four concentric circles.

    The AirDrop icon in the Control Center on an iPad
  3. AirDrop settings will appear, and they describe who can send you items via AirDrop.

    • Receiving Off: No one can send you anything through AirDrop.
    • Contacts Only: Only people in your contacts can see your device.
    • Everyone: Any device in range can see and send things to you using AirDrop.
    AirDrop settings on an iPad

Turn on AirDrop Using the Settings App

If your Control Center isn't working, or the AirDrop icon doesn't appear for whatever reason, you can also use the Settings app. Here's how:

  1. Open Settings.

    The Settings app on iPad
  2. Select General from the left menu.

    The General heading in iPad settings
  3. Tap AirDrop.

    The AirDrop option in iPad general settings
  4. The three settings will appear: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone. As long as Receiving Off isn't active, AirDrop is on.

    AirDrop options in the iPad Settings app

How Do I Turn on AirDrop on an Old iPad?

AirDrop is compatible with any iPad running iOS 7 or later, which includes most models. In fact, every version of the iPad Air, iPad Mini, and iPad Pro support the feature. The only versions to not support AirDrop are third-generation "classic" iPads and older.

If your iPad is compatible with AirDrop but you still don't see it, it's possible you need to update iOS or iPadOS (the iPad runs both). To check for an update, go to Settings > General > Software Update. If a newer version of the operating system is available, you'll receive instructions to download and install it.

Extremely old iPads that can't use AirDrop or iOS 7 (i.e., ones released in March 2012 or before) have no official workaround for the feature, but you can still share items using Messages, Mail, or other apps.

How Do I Use AirDrop on an iPad?

The AirDrop settings you can change only affect who can AirDrop items to you; you can send things out no matter what your visibility is.

To use AirDrop, look for the Share button in apps like Photos and Safari. It looks like a square with an arrow sticking out of it. When you see something you want to share, nearby devices with AirDrop turned on will appear on the left side of the menu. If more are available, you'll see a number on the AirDrop icon. Tap the name of the device, and your iPad will send the item. You can send links, pictures, videos, and more, although not all apps are compatible with AirDrop.

Some third-party apps use a different icon for their Share button, but the process for using AirDrop is the same.

An item available for AirDrop in the iPad Share menu
  • How do I AirDrop from a Mac to an iPad?

    First, make sure that you make your iPad available for AirDrop, either from the Control Center or Settings app. Then, select AirDrop from the Share menu in a compatible app like Safari or Photos. For files in your Finder, right-click and go to Share > AirDrop. In either method, select your iPad in the window that appears, and the item will transfer.

  • Where do AirDrop files go on an iPad?

    When you AirDrop to an iPad, the files will open directly in an app. For example, if you send an image, even from the Mac Finder, it will open in Photos. AirDropped links open immediately in Safari. If you AirDrop a file from an app that isn't on your iPad, you'll receive a prompt asking you which one to open it with.

Was this page helpful?