AirDrop not working? Here's the fix!

Using AirDrop in iOS 16
(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

AirDrop is the fastest, easiest, and safest way to move files between your Apple devices. It remains one of the best features in iOS 16, but it can sometimes not work quite as expected.

If you're having trouble with AirDrop, there are some steps you can try to correct the behavior on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac and get you back to transferring files with ease. 

1. Make sure your device is compatible with AirDrop

Most likely, your devices are compatible with AirDrop since the feature has been around for a long time so you don't always need the best iPhone. However, if you're on older tech, it's possible you may not have the feature. Here's what devices are compatible with AirDrop.

  • iPhone and iPad using iOS 7 or later. 
  • Macs released in 2012 or later running at least OS X Yosemite should have AirDrop. To check, launch Finder, click Go in the menu bar at the top of your Mac. If you see AirDrop in the dropdown menu that appears, your Mac has the feature built in. 

2. Adjust your AirDrop settings

AirDrop has three levels: Off, Contacts Only, and Everyone.

Contacts Only is the most complex option as it has to verify who knows who. 

Enabling Everyone, is a quick way to fix AirDrop as you may be trying to send files to an unknown contact.

The AirDrop menu also allows you toggle On and Off

How to adjust AirDrop Settings on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap AirDrop
  2. Choose between Receiving Off, Contacts Only, Everyone for 10 Minutes

(Image credit: iMore)

Quickly change AirDrop settings on iPhone and iPad

(Image: © iMore)

1. Slide down to access Control Center

2. Press and Hold on the Connectivity square

3. Press and Hold on AirDrop

How to adjust AirDrop settings on Mac

If you're trying to use AirDrop to transfer files from an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to your Mac, but your Mac isn't showing up, here's a quick fix to try:

  1. Launch Finder on your Mac
  2. Click on AirDrop in the sidebar

(Image credit: iMore)

You can toggle between Everyone, Contacts, and No One right from the tab, as described in the step above. That puts your Mac in an AirDrop-ready state and can help with detection. If this doesn't work, keep reading!

3. Toggle radios

If toggling AirDrop itself doesn't get things going, you can escalate the issue to the radios. You need Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled for AirDrop to work properly, so try switching them off and then on again to jump-start things.

Note: Control Center no longer turns Wi-Fi or Bluetooth completely off. It simply stops the current connection for the next 24 hours but leaves accessories like AirPods, Apple Pencil, and Apple Watch available.

How to toggle Wi-Fi on and off on iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap Wi-Fi
  3. Tap the Wi-Fi On/Off Switch twice — once to turn it off and another time to turn it back on

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Bluetooth on and off on iPhone or iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen 
  2. Tap Bluetooth
  3. Tap the Bluetooth On/Off Switch twice. Once to turn it off and another time to turn it back on

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Wi-Fi on and off on Mac

  1. Click the Wi-Fi symbol in the menu bar
  2. Toggle Wi-Fi to Off and then Toggle On again

(Image credit: iMore)

How to toggle Bluetooth on and off on Mac

  1. Click the Control Center symbol in the menu bar
  2. Click the Bluetooth symbol
  3. Toggle Bluetooth to Off and then Toggle On again

(Image credit: iMore)

Alternatively, you can turn Airplane Mode On and then Off to toggle all the radios at once.

Once you're done, try connecting again. If it works, great. If not, continue onward.

4. Hard reset

If the previous steps haven't fixed your AirDrop issue, the next thing to try is a hard reset. Make all the "Did you try turning it off and on again" jokes you want but it's a cliché for a reason!

How to hard reset your iPhone

For iPhone 7 and older, follow these steps:

  1. Press and hold down the On/Off button on the right side
  2. While continuing to hold the On/Off button, press and hold the volume down button on the left side of your iPhone
  3. Hold both buttons as the screen turns off
  4. Keep holding them until the screen turns back on and displays the Apple logo

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

For iPhone 8 and later, follow these steps:

  1. Quickly click and release the Volume Up button
  2. Quickly click and release the Volume Down button
  3. Press and hold the sleep/wake button
  4. Keep holding down the Side button, even after the Shut Down screen shows up. (iOS 11.2 and later)

Source: iMore (Image credit: Source: iMore)

How to hard reset your Mac

If you're having trouble with AirDrop on your Mac, you can try a hard reset as well by following these steps:

  1. Click the Apple icon in the far left of the menu bar
  2. Click Restart

(Image credit: iMore)

Once you've rebooted, try connecting it in again. If it works, you're good. If not, there are a few more things to check.

5. Check for updates

Apple's Bluetooth stack, the set of software that controls your device's radio, isn't without its occasional quirks. Sometimes, new versions of iOS introduce compatibility problems, while other times, they fix them. 

If you're having Bluetooth connectivity problems, you're better off updating rather than not as this can fix your AirDrop issues.

How to check for updates on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Software Update
  4. If there's an update available, tap Install

(Image credit: iMore)

How to check for updates on Mac

Just like for iPhone and iPad, sometimes updating your Mac can help resolve issues with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi which will in turn fix AirDrop. 

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of your Mac's screen
  2. Select System settings from the drop-down menu

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click General
  2. Click Software Update
  3. Click Update Now if there is an update
  4. If there is an update, you'll need to click Restart

(Image credit: iMore)

Once you're done updating all your devices, try to use AirDrop again. If it works, awesome. If not, there's even more to try!

6. Reset networks

Resetting can be a huge pain, but if something has gone wrong with the way your iPhone or iPad connects to other devices, like with AirDrop, it might just be necessary to finally get a fix. 

  1. Launch the Settings from your Home screen
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap Transfer or Reset iPhone
  4. Tap Reset. You'll need to scroll down to the bottom

(Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap Reset Network Settings
  2. Enter your Passcode if prompted
  3. Tap Reset Network Settings to confirm

(Image credit: iMore)

Once this is complete, you'll have to reconnect to every Wi-Fi and Bluetooth device you own or use. Once you're done, check AirDrop again. If it works, it was all worth it. If not, there's one more step you can try to hopefully put your AirDrop teething issues behind you.

7.Beta issues

Apple occasionally offers updates to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, tvOS, and macOS as closed developer previews or public betas. While the betas contain new features, they also contain pre-release bugs that can prevent the normal use of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, or Mac, and are not intended for everyday use on a primary device. That's why we strongly recommend staying away from developer previews unless you need them for software development, and using the public betas with caution. If you depend on your devices, wait for the final release.

If you're running the beta for iOS 16, iPadOS 16 , or macOS Ventura, there is a chance that the beta could be what's causing your issues with AirDrop. Beta software is in beta for a reason, and it's bound to have a few bugs.

There are no new or additional steps you need to take in iOS 16 or iPadOS 16 to try and resolve your AirDrop issues. Try all the steps listed above as normal, and if that still isn't working, you might want to consider going back to the public release of iOS 16.

If all else fails, contact Apple support

Although AirDrop is a very helpful feature, things can go wrong. Hopefully, these steps have helped you resolve your AirDrop issues. If not, don't hesitate to contact Apple to troubleshoot further.

Luke Filipowicz
Staff Writer

Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way. 

Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.

With contributions from