AirDrop Not Working on Mac (macOS Sonoma)? How to Fix It

AirDrop is a very useful, proprietary feature that typically works seamlessly between Apple devices. You can AirDrop several gigabytes in under a minute between an iPhone and a Mac or an iPad and a Mac. Sometimes, it runs into errors where the waiting time is too long, or it refuses to connect to the system.

In many situations, one device fails to detect the other. Apple partially addressed this problem when using AirDrop between an iPhone and another iPhone. Even if tapping for AirDrop doesn’t work or doesn’t recognize the device, bring the two iPhones close together, and the AirDrop file transfer will start, as long as you both have AirDrop turned on from the Control Center.

This doesn’t work for Macs, and AirDrop has had very questionable consistency for the last few years. People hoped that the latest iOS 17 update and the macOS Sonoma update would even things out and make AirDrop more reliable. However, that isn’t the case since many reports online say AirDrop isn’t working properly. If file transfer occurs at an excruciatingly slow pace, that’s still a major bug Apple must address with future iOS versions.

If one device fails to recognize the other, you can’t share files via AirDrop. Sometimes, the phone recognizes your Mac properly but gets stuck after you tap the icon to share. The connection gets cut, and the file eventually doesn’t get sent; you’ll be shown an error message. There are other file compatibility problems, where some files sent via AirDrop refuse to open. In such cases, there’s probably an issue with extensions.

AirDrop failed

Sending Files with AirDrop: What You Need to Know

AirDrop uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for image transfer, so ensure you have both on. You also have to turn on AirDrop from the Settings menu. You can share various things from one device to another (freely share between iOS, iPadOS, and macOS). Contacts, Photos, PDFs, MP3s, Maps, Safari links, plain text, Music, etc- you can share all of them. Since it uses a peer-to-peer network transmission system, it’s very secure, robust, and relatively easy to operate.

Your Mac has to support the proper file extension. The Mac must support opening any file you send from the iPhone. Apple’s QuickTime Player and built-in Preview app support the most common file formats. Most regular users shouldn’t have compatibility issues. If a PowerPoint, Word document, or Microsoft Excel sheet is sent, they’ll open directly on Apple’s first-party Key Note, Pages, or Numbers app.

If you still have problems with file compatibility, you have to download third-party software on your Mac that supports it. Some less common video formats might have this problem. There’s another reason why your file might not open properly, and that’s the way AirDrop works. It’s tuned and optimized to work best when the files you share are all the same file type.

This may fail if you send an MP3, a JPEG image, a HEIC image, a PDF, and a MOV video from the Files app directly via AirDrop. AirDrop isn’t good enough to transfer and handle many different file formats simultaneously, which might terminate the transfer entirely. If you want to send so many formats simultaneously, it’s better to send them one by one in a proper order to avoid problems with file types. If you send a PDF file and an image file together, the transfer won’t work. Make sure you’re choosing the files you send carefully to avoid hassle.

Sending Files with AirDrop

Why is AirDrop not working on my Mac?

There are several possible reasons for this. AirDrop works on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, and both of them are prone to inconsistencies and bugs. Hardware failures are rare. There could also be problems with optimization and refinement. Compatibility with new Operating Systems is a major concern. If the developers haven’t refined the newer versions properly and tuned AirDrop well, it’s prone to run into bugs that disrupt the overall experience.

AirDrop is imperfect, and you will encounter glitches or compatibility problems. In some cases, it’s a problem with the specific device. AirDrop sometimes refuses to send larger files altogether, and detection issues are prevalent.

Also, make sure that AirDrop is actually compatible with your device. To use AirDrop on iOS, you must have an iPhone 5 or later. That’s a 2012 phone, so anyone reading this will unlikely be running an iPhone 4S. However, many people use older MacBooks. You need a 2012 MacBook and up to use AirDrop. You can open the Finder app and click on Go on the menu bar. Under the dropdown menu, you’ll see AirDrop listed there.

AirDrop also works with the 4th gen iPad, 5th gen iPod Touch, and all iPhones after the 5 running iOS 7 or later. Your iPads must have the iPadOS 13 update or later to support this feature. Recently, Apple introduced a new feature. Suppose you move out of the range of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; the AirDrop transfer used to just cancel before. Now, AirDrop continues via the internet (Wi-Fi or cellular). It uses iCloud as a transmission medium to send files from one device to another. This feature needs iOS 17.1 or iPadOS 17.1 and up.

12 ways to fix AirDrop not working on macOS Sonoma

1: Check your AirDrop Settings

Apple has three settings for AirDrop. One of them completely turns AirDrop off, and you’re totally inactive and hidden from the AirDrop map. You can still use Wi-Fi and Bluetooth without necessarily turning AirDrop on. The other setting, Contacts only, limits AirDrop to people in your contacts. If someone’s mail or phone number is in your contacts, they can see you on the map and send files to you.

The last option, Everyone, is strictly self-explanatory. Apple later revised the setting to Everyone for 10 minutes to prevent unauthorized people from sharing random files with AirDrop. If you have trouble with AirDrop, we recommend setting it to Everyone for 10 minutes.

On your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap on the General menu.
  3. Tap on AirDrop.
  4. Here, you’ll see a submenu with all the options.
  5. Tap on Everyone for 10 Minutes.
  6. You can also find AirDrop settings in the Control Center of your device. Swipe down from the top right and long-press on the bundle of icons at the top left. You’ll see Wi-Fi settings, Bluetooth settings, and AirDrop settings.

On your Mac:

  1. Open the Finder tool on your Mac.
  2. From the sidebar, select the AirDrop window. If it’s not part of the list, use Command-Shift-R to bring it up.
  3. Then, click on the “Allow me to be discovered by” tab that appears.
  4. Choose the Everyone option from the dropdown menu.
  5. Alternatively, you can search for AirDrop using Spotlight Search or navigate to AirDrop settings from the Control Center at the top right. You’ll have to expand it to full view.

Restart both of your devices if this doesn’t help.

Allow me to be discovered by

2: Toggle Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

AirDrop uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to transfer files from one device to another. If changing AirDrop settings didn’t help, and you still have issues, turn off both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and turn them on again. This will effectively restart both the radios.

On your iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iOS device.
  2. Tap on the Wi-Fi tab.
  3. Tap on the toggle next to Wi-Fi to completely turn it off. Note that this is different from turning Wi-Fi off from the Control Center. Turning it off from the Control Center only disconnects the network and doesn’t actually turn off the Wi-Fi.
  4. Now, tap on the Wi-Fi toggle again to turn it back on.
  5. Go back to the main menu and tap on the Bluetooth menu.
  6. Tap on the toggle next to Bluetooth to turn it off. Tapping it again will turn it on. It’s the same logic as the Wi-Fi; turning it off from the Control Center only disconnects the devices but doesn’t actually turn Bluetooth.
  7. There’s another way to do both of these. You can open the Control Center, long-press the Wi-Fi icon, and directly open Wi-Fi settings from there. You can also do that for Bluetooth.

On your Mac:

  1. Open the Control Center on the top right; the button is next to the Spotlight icon.
  2. If the setting is enabled, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi will directly appear in the Menu bar, and you don’t have to open the Control Center.
  3. Toggle the switches to turn both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off. Then, enable them again.

3: Turn off Personal Hotspot

Using a personal hotspot provides an internet connection to another device. However, the AirDrop functionality will not work if you’re doing so. Personal HHotspot also relies on Wi-Fi to share your network, so you can’t use it for both simultaneously. Until you turn the HHotspot back on, the other device will temporarily lose internet access unless it has a SIM card with mobile data. You can easily turn Hotspot on again after the AirDrop file transfer.

If your phone is on iOS 13.1 or later, you can’t directly turn Hotspot off from the Control Center. You have to manually turn off the discoverability of Hotspot in the Settings app. Verified devices you trust can instantly discover and connect to your Hotspot if no network is available.

4: Your device should be unlocked

AirDrop will not work as a security measure if your device is locked. Even if you have AirDrop on and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, it won’t work if you don’t unlock it. Enter the passcode, or use Touch ID or Face ID first to unlock the device you are trying to send files to.

5: Make sure the device is in range

AirDrop relies on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. If Wi-Fi isn’t available, AirDrop relies entirely on Bluetooth for the file transfer. Ensure that your two devices are as close together as possible and that you’re in the same room.

6: Change your firewall settings

If you’re trying to send files to your Mac via AirDrop and you’ve already done all of the steps, it’s an issue with a stringent firewall on your Mac if AirDrop still has problems.

  1. Open the System Settings app on your Mac. It’s usually on your Dock. If not, you can click the Apple Logo and select it from there or find it with Spotlight.
  2. Select the Network menu that’s under the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi menus. On older Macs, this setting is called Privacy and Security.
  3. Click on the Options tab. On older Macs, this is called Firewall Options. You must click the padlock and use Touch ID or enter your administrator password.
  4. Switch off the toggle that says Block all coming connections. On some Macs, you have to uncheck the box.
  5. Now, choose the Automatically Allow built-in software to receive incoming connections option. Check whether AirDrop now works on your device.

Change your firewall settings

7: Try some third-party tools

There are multiple tools online that allow you to share files using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. It’s not as fast or as well-integrated as AirDrop. But if AirDrop refuses to work properly, you can try these websites as an alternative.

Send-anywhere is a reliable website that replicates the same function as AirDrop. Just drag and drop your files into the Send tab and choose which device you want to share it with. You can also enter your ID to receive files.

Another popular tool is Snapdrop. Just open Snapdrop on another device to send files to it. You can tap the user’s icon, and it’ll send the files.

Finally, you can also download the KDE Connect app on both devices. This app has a very similar functionality to AirDrop and many other similar ecosystem features. The transfer speeds are close to AirDrop, too.

8: Check for a Software Update

Your device not getting recognized by another one is likely a software bug. iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma have their fair share of bugs and reports about trouble with AirDrop. It’s affecting no particular model, and many phones, including older iPhones and the latest, have the same issue. If the scale of issues is large enough, Apple will fix it with a software update. Make sure both of your devices are running on the latest software.

9: Some basic troubleshooting methods

  1. Ensure that you turn off Do Not Disturb on your Mac.
  2. Remove non-standard characters from the name of your device. This could cause errors when searching for your device. Try changing them to simple letters and numbers, which are easier to detect.
  3. You can try resetting the mDNSResponder Service. To do this, open the Terminal app on your Mac.
  4. Reset the mDNSResponder service. Open the Terminal app and type the following command: sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/ BroadcastGroupID -int 0 && sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
  5. You can also try using iCloud Sync for smaller transfers. Just paste an image into the Notes app and wait for it to sync with your Mac. This is a very restricted use and only works for a few images, not videos.

11: Hard Reset your iPhone or Mac

Note: We don’t usually recommend resetting your entire device for this. A reset could work if it’s a very serious issue and you depend on AirDrop for your daily life. You will lose all your data, so ensure you have a backup of your essential data. You must sign in to iCloud again and reinstall all the apps when you set it up. The same goes for your Mac; you must set everything up from the beginning.

For iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to the General menu.
  2. Tap on Transfer or reset iPhone.
  3.  Tap on Reset.
  4. From here, tap on Reset all settings and confirm the factory wipe. You will be prompted to type your iCloud password.

For Mac:

  1. Open System Settings on your Mac.
  2. Click the General sidebar.
  3. Click on Transfer or Reset.
  4. Now, click on Erase all content and settings. Make sure you’re on an administrator account when you’re doing this. You’ll have to enter your password and iCloud password to reset your Mac.

12: Contact Apple support and provide Product Feedback

If none of these methods are successful, contact the official Apple Support and describe your problem. They’ll raise a ticket, and you probably have to visit an offline store where they’ll reflash your OS with new firmware.

If it’s within warranty, any hardware damage that isn’t your fault is covered under it. Apple will primarily repair the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modems free of cost. You can also give them Product Feedback and state your experience. If enough people report the same problems with AirDrop and mainstream media picks it up, Apple could address it with software updates.

About: Sudhanshu

At Gizpie, Sudhansu covers the latest news and guides focused on Apple's MacOS platform. As an experienced Mac user, he loves finding tips and tricks to get the most out of Apple apps and services. He loves being able to make complex topics easy to understand for beginners too. Follow Him on X

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