Learn How to Share Files on AirDrop for Mac OS X and iOS

Use AirDrop to transfer a file to another nearby Apple device

AirDrop logo
Image Courtesy of Apple

AirDrop is Apple's proprietary wireless technology you can use to share specific types of files with compatible Apple devices that are nearby—whether they belong to you or to another user.

AirDrop is available on iOS mobile devices running iOS 7 and higher and on Mac computers running Yosemite and higher. You can even share files between Macs and Apple mobile devices, so if you want to transfer a photo from your iPhone to your Mac, for example, just fire up AirDrop and do it.

Use AirDrop technology to wirelessly send photos, websites, videos, locations, documents, and much more to a nearby iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Mac.

How AirDrop Works

Rather than using an internet connection to move the files around, local users and devices share the data using two wireless technologies—Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. One of the main advantages of using AirDrop is that it negates the need to use any internet connection or remote cloud storage service to transfer files. 

AirDrop sets up a wireless local network to distribute files securely between compatible hardware. It's flexible in how files can be shared. You can either set up an AirDrop network to share publicly with everyone in the vicinity or with just your contacts.

Apple Devices With AirDrop Capability

All the current Macs and iOS mobile devices have AirDrop capability. As for older hardware, AirDrop is available on 2012 Macs running OS X Yosemite or later and on the following mobile devices running iOS 7 or higher:

  • iPhone 5 or later
  • iPod touch 5
  • iPad 4 or later
  • iPad mini

If you are unsure whether your device has AirDrop:

  • On your Mac, click Go in the menu bar in the Finder. If AirDrop is in the Go menu, the Mac can use AirDrop.
  • On an iOS mobile device—iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch—open the Control Center. If AirDrop is in the Control Center, the device can use AirDrop. On devices running iOS 10 and earlier, access the Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. On devices running iOS 11, swipe down from the top right corner to access Control Center, and then force press the Cellular icon to display a menu that contains AirDrop. Click AirDrop and select one of three options: Receiving Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone.

    For AirDrop to work properly, the devices must be within 30 feet of each other, and Personal Hotspot must be turned off in the Cellular settings of any iOS device.

    How to Set Up and Use AirDrop on a Mac

    To set up AirDrop on a Mac computer, click Go > AirDrop from the Finder menu bar to open an AirDrop window. AirDrop turns on automatically when Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on. If they are turned off, click the button in the window to turn them on.

    At the bottom of the AirDrop window, you can toggle between the three AirDrop options. The setting must be either Contacts Only or Everyone to receive files.

    The AirDrop window displays images for nearby AirDrop users. Drag the file you want to send to the AirDrop window and drop it on the image of the person you want to send it to. The recipient is prompted to accept the item before it is saved unless the receiving device is already signed in to your iCloud account.

    The transferred files are located in the Downloads folder on the Mac.

    How to Set Up and Use AirDrop on an iOS Device

    To set up AirDrop on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, open Control Center. Force press the Cellular icon, tap AirDrop and select whether to receive files only from people in your Contracts app or from everyone.

    Open the document, photo, video, or other files type on your iOS mobile device. Use the Share icon that appears in many of the iOS apps to initiate the transfer. It is the same icon that you use to print—a square with an arrow pointing upward. After you turn on AirDrop, the Share icon opens a screen that includes an AirDrop section. Tap the image of the person you want to send the file to. Apps that include the Share icon are Notes, Photos, Safari, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and others, including third-party apps.

    The transferred files are located in the appropriate app. For example, a website appears in Safari, and a note appears in the Notes app.

    Note: If the receiving device is set up to use Contacts Only, both devices should be signed in to iCloud to work properly.

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