How to Turn on AirDrop on a Mac

Usually, it's already switched on or it's just a Control Center setting away

What to Know

  • Enable AirDrop by clicking Finder > Go > AirDrop.
  • Alternatively, click Control Center on the Menu Bar and click AirDrop.
  • AirDrop can be set to only work with known contacts or with everyone, as well as be disabled entirely.

This article teaches you how to turn on AirDrop on a Mac, as well as looks at how the process works, and any limitations. 

How to Turn AirDrop On

AirDrop is a useful way of sharing files or links between your Mac and other Apple devices. It tends to be automatically enabled on all Apple devices by default, but if you have an older Mac or you switched it off in the past, here's how to turn AirDrop on.

On newer Macs, you can also enable AirDrop by clicking on Control Center on the menu bar, and clicking AirDrop.

  1. Open Finder on your Mac.

  2. Click Go.

    MacOS with Finder's Go window highlighted.
  3. Click AirDrop.

    MacOS desktop with AirDrop highlighted on the Finder menu.
  4. At the bottom of the window, choose who you wish your Mac to be discovered by.

    AirDrop window open on macOS with discoverability settings highlighted.

    'Contacts Only' means only people on your Contacts can 'discover' your Mac, while Everyone allows anyone with a relevant device to do so. It's possible to disable it by clicking No One.

  5. You can now share and receive files using AirDrop.

How to AirDrop a File

Once AirDrop is enabled on your Mac and other devices, it's easy to share a file using the service. Here's what to do.

When sharing to iPhone, a photo will automatically go to your Photos app, while a file will open via the Files app. Links will open in your default browser.

  1. Find the file on your Mac.

  2. Click Share.

    MacOS Finder window with share icon highlighted.
  3. Click AirDrop.

    MacOS Finder window with AirDrop highlighted.
  4. Click the device you wish to share with.

    Make sure that device is unlocked and nearby.

How Does AirDrop Work?

AirDrop works across Bluetooth to provide a secure, short-range way to share files. To use it, you just need multiple Apple devices such as a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Users need to have Bluetooth enabled on both devices, have them relatively close to each other physically, and have sharing preferences set to allow in order to have AirDrop work.

What to Do If AirDrop Doesn't Work

If AirDrop won't work for you, here's a quick look at the main reasons.

  • Your Mac is out of date. If you own a Mac running an older macOS than Yosemite, AirDrop won't work with other devices like iPhones. You'll need to update it first.
  • You have AirDrop disabled on one or more devices. Check that AirDrop will accept files or links from everyone or your contacts list. If not, it won't work.
  • You don't have Contacts set up correctly. Only accepting or sending files to known Contacts is a smart move but it requires you to add someone to your contacts list to work.
  • Bluetooth is disabled. If Bluetooth is disabled on your devices, you won't be able to use AirDrop.
  • How do I AirDrop from iPhone to Mac?

    AirDrop is an option in the Share menu in iOS; the icon looks like a square with an arrow coming out of the top. If the Mac is nearby and awake, it will appear as an AirDrop option in the top row of the menu. Select it to automatically send the item to the Mac.

  • Where do AirDrop files go on Mac?

    If you AirDrop a link, it will automatically open in Safari on the Mac. Photos and other files go to the Mac's Downloads folder.

Was this page helpful?