AirDrop is supposed to make it easy to transfer data from one Apple device to another. It does so using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to create an encrypted communications channel. But unfortunately, AirDrop is far from perfect and doesn’t always work the way it’s meant to.
If you’ve ever questioned why AirDrop isn’t working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, we can help you. Below, you’ll find everything you can do to fix AirDrop on an Apple device.
AirDrop Requirements for Apple Devices
First, you need to check that your device is actually compatible with AirDrop. Sometimes Apple’s requirements change, but at the time of writing, you can use AirDrop with:
- Any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 7 or later
- Any Mac introduced after 2011 (excluding the 2012 Mac Pro) running OS X Yosemite or later
Once you know your device is compatible, make sure you know how to use AirDrop properly. You might find that your devices aren’t showing up in the AirDrop sharing window, you can’t send files to devices that do appear, or you can’t find certain files after someone else sent them to you.
So if AirDrop still isn’t working on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, follow the troubleshooting steps below to fix it.
1. Update the Operating System
Apple frequently releases new updates to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS that are designed to fix software bugs. If AirDrop isn’t working, install the latest updates for your devices to fix it.
On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Software Update. On a Mac, open the Apple () menu and go to System Settings > General > Software Update.
2. Restart Both Devices
This is a classic troubleshooting tip because it’s so effective. Restarting your iPhone, iPad, or Mac might be all you need to get AirDrop working again. And it only takes a moment to try it.
3. Turn Off AirDrop Restrictions
If AirDrop isn’t showing up at all, you might have blocked it in your Content & Privacy Restrictions. On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps. On a Mac, go to System Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy > App Restrictions. Make sure AirDrop is turned on for each device.
You may need to enter a Screen Time passcode to make changes.
4. Disable Personal Hotspot on Your iPhone
Both AirDrop and Personal Hotspot utilize your Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, so you can’t use them at the same time. If AirDrop isn’t working on your iPhone, go to Settings > Personal Hotspot to turn off that feature, then try using AirDrop again.
5. Turn Off Do Not Disturb Mode
Your device might not receive transfer requests from AirDrop because Do Not Disturb or another Focus mode is turned on. Open Control Center and hit the moon or Focus icon to turn it off on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
6. Restart Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on Both Devices
A particularly useful solution if AirDrop isn’t working is to disable and re-enable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Open Control Center on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac and hit the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons to turn them off, then select them again to turn them back on.
7. Change Your AirDrop Visibility Settings
AirDrop gives you three visibility options: Everyone, Contacts Only, or Receiving Off. If your device isn’t showing up in AirDrop, try switching to each of these options to fix it.
On an iPhone or iPad, open Control Center, then tap and hold in the top-left section to reveal an AirDrop button and choose a different option. On a Mac, open Control Center and click AirDrop from the top-left section. In the window that pops up, choose Everyone or Contacts Only.
8. Prepare Both Devices to Receive an AirDrop Request
Sometimes it helps to prepare your device for incoming AirDrop transfers, making it more likely to show up on someone else’s device. Unlock your iPhone or iPad and leave it on the Home Screen to prepare it. For a Mac, open a new Finder window and select Go > AirDrop from the menu bar.
9. Use AirDrop From a Third Apple Device
This isn’t an option for everyone, but if you have a spare Apple device, you should try using that to connect over AirDrop. Usually, if your iPhone, iPad, or Mac shows up on this new device, it suddenly appears on the original device as well.
10. Send a Single File Instead of Multiple Files
AirDrop lets you share many kinds of files at the same time. But if AirDrop isn’t working, you might want to simplify matters by sending a single file at a time instead.
AirDrop files automatically open in a relevant app. For instance, images open in the Photos app. But multiple file types don’t always open in the same app, which might explain why the AirDrop transfer failed.
11. Check the Downloads Folder for Missing Files
If AirDrop sent a file to your device but you can’t find it, take a look in the Downloads folder. On an iPhone, open the Files app and look for a Downloads folder in iCloud Drive or go to On My iPhone. On a Mac, you can usually find the Downloads folder by opening a new Finder window and pressing Option + Cmd + L. You may also find it next to the Trash in your Dock.
12. Turn Off Your VPN for AirDrop to Work
Some users found that AirDrop didn’t work until they turned off the VPN on their iPhone or Mac. You might need to do this in the VPN app or in your device settings.
On an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > VPN to do this. On a Mac, go to System Settings > Network > VPN.
13. Open Your Mac’s Firewall to More Connections
The firewall on your Mac might be set to block all incoming connections, which often includes new AirDrop transfers. You’ll need to loosen these restrictions from the System Settings if AirDrop still isn’t working.
Go to System Settings > Network > Firewall. Click the toggle to disable the Firewall, you may need to enter your administrator password to do this.
14. Sign In to Your Apple ID Account Again
Go to Settings or System Settings on your iPhone or Mac, respectively, then select [Your Name] at the top of the Settings and choose to Sign Out. Choose the data to keep on your device, then confirm you want to Sign Out. It doesn’t matter too much if you keep data on your device since you’re planning to sign in to the same account again.
After signing out, return to Settings to sign in to your Apple ID again.
15. Reset the Network Settings on Your iPhone
You can reset the network settings on an iPhone or iPad to fix all kinds of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth problems, including problems with AirDrop not working. When you reset these settings, your device forgets any Wi-Fi passwords you’ve saved, so you’ll have to reconnect to trusted networks again.
If you still want to go ahead with it, go to Settings > General > Transfer or Reset [Device] > Reset and tap Reset Network Settings. Enter your passcode, then confirm you want to Reset Network Settings.
If AirDrop Still Isn’t Working Try an Alternative
Until Apple makes AirDrop more reliable, you might have better luck using an alternative transfer method instead. One of the best AirDrop alternatives is actually Apple’s own iCloud Drive. Simply upload files to iCloud from one device, then you can download them from another.
Managing files with iCloud Drive isn’t as quick as using AirDrop because you need to upload and download files instead of transferring them directly. But when AirDrop isn’t working, it’s often the next best option.