The In-Depth Guide to Fix Airdrop Not Working (12 Tips)

This guide will help you troubleshoot AirDrop if it's not working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

iphone receiving a photo via airdrop

This is a complete guide on how to fix Airdrop not working.

If you own an iPhone, chances are you’ve used the Airdrop feature before. Sometimes you may have trouble to make it work properly. Whatever reasons that might be, this in-depth guide will walk you through the steps to fix Airdrop problems on your Mac.

Before we dive right into the troubleshooting tips, let’s take a quick look at what AirDrop is and how it works. This is going to be a long-form article. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax and read on.

Here’re all the tips you’ll learn about in this guide:

  1. Is Airplane mode activated?
  2. Are you in Do Not Disturb mode?
  3. Is Personal Hotspot on?
  4. Is your device discoverable in AirDrop?
  5. Check files type for multiple share
  6. Check your Mac firewall settings
  7. Any special character in your device name?
  8. Is your Mac using Ethernet?
  9. Restart your device
  10. Update your iOS and macOS
  11. Reset network settings
  12. Contact Apple Support

Note: Click the links above to jump to a specific section, or continue scrolling through to learn how to fix AirDrop on Mac. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get started.

What’s AirDrop?

AirDrop, introduced in iOS 7 and Mac OS X Lion, is an awesome feature that lets you quickly and easily share files between Apple devices (including Mac, iPhone, iPod, and iPad). You can use it to transfer different type of files like documents, photos, videos, websites, map locations, etc.

How does AirDrop work?

AirDrop requires that you and the person you’re sending to have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on for it to work. Why do we need Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?

Well, your device will use Wi-Fi to transfer the data to other devices. Bluetooth, on the other hand, creates a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between devices. In plain English, it detects other devices.

Devices should be physically close (less than 30-feet) and don’t need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi, contrary to what most people think. Don’t worry, each device creates a firewall around the connections, so all transfers are encrypted for security measure.

Now let’s fix the “AirDrop not working” problems.

Fixing AirDrop not working in Apple devices

Before we start troubleshooting things, first let’s make sure your device supports AirDrop. Obviously, there’s no way on earth you’ll be able to use AirDrop if your device doesn’t support it.

For iOS devices, you can swipe down from the upper right corner for iPhones that have no Home button. And swipe up from the bottom of iPhones that have a Home button to open Control Center. Then, tap and hold the connection area to expand it. If you see the AirDrop icon listed in the panel, you’re in luck your device supports AirDrop.

For Mac computers, click the Apple logo at the upper right corner of the window. Select About This Mac, then System Report.

A window will open with your Mac’s system information, click on Wi-Fi on the left-hand side. If you see Supported next to AirDrop, your Mac is compatible with AirDrop.

Screenshot of MacBook Pro system report
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Not every Apple device meets the AirDrop system requirements. For a complete list of all the supported devices, visit this page.

1. Is Airplane mode activated?

When Airplane mode is on it disables all cellular connections like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which AirDrop relies on to work. Make sure to turn that off by going to Settings and toggle off Airplane Mode.

Alternatively, you can swipe up (for iPhone 8 and older) or swipe down from top right corner (for iPhone X and later) to access Control Center and deselect the Airplane mode icon.

2. Are you in Do Not Disturb mode?

Do Not Disturb mode can prevent AirDop from working properly. Don’t get me wrong, you can still use AirDrop while you’re in Do Not Disturb mode. The problem is, DNM disables notifications so you won’t get the AirDrop alert. It will also make your device undiscoverable.

Here’s what you need to do. Turn off Do Not Disturb mode by going to your iOS device’s Settings, scroll down tap DND and toggle off the switch next to it. You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen or swipe down from the top right edge of the screen to access Control Center and deselect the DNM icon.

Screenshot of macOS method for turning Do Not Disturb off.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

If it’s your Mac that was in DNM, deactivate it by clicking on the menu icon in the upper right corner of your Mac, click on the switch next to it to turn it off. You can also swipe with your two fingers from the left edge of the trackpad to the right to access the Notification Center.

If you wish to not deactivate DNM but still want to use AirDrop, just awake your device so it can be discoverable. It doesn’t matter if DNM is set on “Always or While iPhone is locked”.

3. Is Personal Hotspot on?

This happens to me all the time. If Personal Hotspot is on, AirDrop won’t work since both features rely on the Wi-Fi connection. We recommend you to turn Personal Hotspot off in order for AirDrop to work.

To do so, head over to Settings on your phone, tap Personal Hotspot and switch the toggle off to deactivate it. Once Personal Hotspot is off on your iPhone, you may need to manually disconnect your Mac from it.

4. Is your device discoverable in AirDrop?

Screenshot of Mac AirDrop discoverable settings.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Another common reason why AirDrop is not working is your device is not discoverable. Here’s what you need to do to let others see your device in AirDrop.

On your Mac, go to Finder, click on AirDrop in the lefthand sidebar. Once you’re there you’ll be able to configure who you’d like to share contents with by using one of those three settings:

  • No One: It’s pretty straightforward. No one will be able to see you, but you can still share files with others.
  • Contacts Only: Only someone in your contact list will be able to see your device in AirDrop. (both devices have to have each other’s phone number or Apple ID and be signed into iCloud to work)
  • Everyone: Straight to the point. Everyone who’s using AirDrop and are nearby can see your device.

To enable AirDrop on iPhone, go to Settings tap General then AirDrop. You’ll find the same options mentioned above.

5. Check files type for multiple share via AirDrop

If you’ve used AirDrop before you should’ve noticed that your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod) automatically opens the received file with the appropriate app.

So if you send multiple files of different types, it won’t be successful. An error message will show up on the screen: “Cannot receive all of these items at the same time”. To avoid this issue try to send one type of file at a time.

6. Check your Mac firewall settings

Your Mac firewall settings might be the one to blame if AirDrop still not working after trying all the tips above. If your Firewall is enabled it will block certain or all incoming connections, which will prevent AirDrop from working.

Screenshot of macOS method for turning Firewall off to fix AirDrop not working.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

To turn it off, go to your Mac System Preferences from the Apple menu on the upper left corner. Click the Security & Privacy icon, then select the Firewall tab.

In order to make any change to the settings, you’ll need to click on the Lock icon at the lower-left corner of the windows and enter your administrative password when prompted.

Click Firewall Options and deselect the box next to “Block all incoming connections.”

7. Any special character in your device name?

If your device name contains any special character like the one in the image below, AirDrop may have problems to detect your device.

To change your iOS device’s name, go to Settings > General > About > Name. Don’t include international characters, space or any character that rarely make up a word.

If you’re using a Mac computer, click the Apple logo > System Preferences > Sharing. A window will open where you can change your Computer Name.

Screenshot of macOS method for changing Computer name.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

Make sure to restart your device after you’re done.

8. Is your Mac using Ethernet?

Despite Wi-Fi is much more convenient than a wired connection, some people may prefer the latter because of speed. If you happen to be one of those people, disconnect the Ethernet cable from your Mac and turn on Wi-Fi. Now try to send a file using AirDrop.

9. Restart your device

Sometimes a quick restart of an electronic device can fix many issues it may have. By doing so, you’ll clean the device’s system and kill any unnecessary processes.

For iPhone 8 or earlier, iPod Touch, and iPad with Home button, press and hold the Top or Side button for a few seconds. When a Slide to Power Off button appears on the home screen swipe it to right to turn it off. Once your device turns off, press the Top or Side button to restart it.

For iPhone X or later, and iPad with Face ID, press the Side (Top for iPad) button and either Volume button. When the slider appears on the screen, swipe it to the right to turn it off. To restart it press and hold the Side button again until you see the Apple logo.

For Mac computers, click the Apple logo, then Restart to reboot your device.

Screenshot of macOS method for restarting Mac.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

If either of your iOS devices is running iOS 7 or later, you can go to Settings > General > Shut Down to turn off your device.

10. Update your iOS and macOS  

It’s recommended to keep your device updated with the latest software. Failing doing so may cause certain functionality of your device not working properly.

To update your iOS device, go to Settings > General > Software Update. The system will check if there’s any available update for your device. Tap Download and Install to update your device.

Screenshot of macOS method for updating software.
Screenshot: Herby Jasmin/Gotechtor

For Mac computers, click the Apple logo > About this Mac > Software update. The system will perform a system update check for your computer. If there’s any available, you’ll be able to download and install it.

11. Reset network settings

AirDrop still not working yet? It might be a good time to reset your device Network Settings. This will put your Network settings to the factory settings, which can fix many network related problems with your device.

On your iOS device go to Settings, tap General and scroll down to find Reset. Once you’re there you’ll find a range of reset options, select Reset Network Settings. Enter your password to confirm that’s what you want to do.

You’ll have to re-enter the Wi-Fi password to connect to a Wi-Fi network if it’s password protected.

12. Contact Apple Support

At this point, it looks like your iPhone might have a hardware problem related to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios. If you have Apple Care+ we recommend you to contact Apple Support, they sure will take care of it.

Now over to you

This was our complete guide to fix “AirDrop not working” issues.

In your case, what was the culprit? Was Hotspot enabled? Was AirDrop set up to Contacts only?

If you’re taking your iPhone to the Apple Store, please let us know how it goes.

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