What is AirDrop?
AirDrop was first introduced to the Mac in OS X Lion, as an easy way to share files between computers without having to use email or even an USB drive. It makes sending files between devices extremely quick and simple.
AirDrop was also available on iOS from iOS 7 but unfortunately wasn’t compatible with OS X. Thankfully, with the latest version of Apple’s desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite, Apple has made AirDrop work between all of its devices.
On a Mac, you can either drag and drop files to an iOS device or use the Share button which is available in certain applications (such as Safari, Preview and Pages). On iOS, you only need to tap the Share button from relevant apps.
Ensure your devices are compatible with AirDrop
Even though AirDrop is simple to use, there are a few things to check before you start.
- You will need iOS 7 or later and OS X Yosemite
- AirDrop works on all Macs from 2012 and later. An easy way to check if it’s supported by your Mac is to go to Finder and select Go from the menu bar. You will see AirDrop listed if you have a compatible Mac (see screenshot below)
- Do you have an iPhone 5 or newer, iPad 4 or newer, iPad Mini 1 or newer, or an iPod Touch 5th generation?
If items 1-3 above are all OK, you’re now ready to use AirDrop.
Note: it is not necessary to use the same iCloud account on each device, but by doing so you won’t have to approve every file transfer. The devices also need to be within range of each other to use Bluetooth – usually around 30 metres or so.
Also if your device is locked, AirDrop won’t work because the device won’t even appear in the list.
There is also one last check you might perform (though AirDrop should be on and the icon in the Sidebar by default) on your Mac to make sure that AirDrop is shown in Finder windows:
- Open Finder and select Preferences from the Finder menu
- Click the Sidebar icon and make sure that AirDrop is checked, as shown in the screenshot below
How to use AirDrop
Step 1: turn on Wi-Fi
Make sure Wi-Fi is enabled on your iPhone and your Mac. Note that they don’t have to be on the same Wi-Fi network
Step 2: turn on Bluetooth
Turn on Bluetooth on both devices. The quickest way on your iPhone is to swipe up to open Control Centre and tap the Bluetooth icon. On your Mac, Bluetooth is normally found on the top right of your menu bar, where you can turn it on or off.
Step 3: turn on AirDrop on your iOS device
Open the Control Centre on your iOS device by swiping up and tapping on the AirDrop icon. A popup appears with several options (Off, Contacts Only or Everyone), so just choose the desired option. If it’s someone that you don’t have in your contacts list, Everyone is the only option that you can use. Most of the time, I tend to leave it set to Contacts Only, just for a bit of extra security…
Once you have chosen the relevant AirDrop option, you’ll notice the status shown in the Control Centre, as below.
You can also check that your iOS device appears in the Finder on your Mac. Open Finder and select AirDrop from the Sidebar. The list of available devices within range should appear in the main window.
You can also control who you allow your Mac to be visible to using AirDrop in this window. As shown in the screenshot above, select the desired option from the blue dropdown list shown in the main window. If you don’t see who you expect, select the second option and you’ll have the option to search for an older Mac that doesn’t support the latest version of AirDrop.
Step 4: send a file to your Mac
On your iOS device (I used an iPad for the purposes of this tutorial), find an item (like an image or a document) that you want to send to your Mac. As mentioned earlier, some of the built-in apps (like Pages) have sharing buttons to send via AirDrop. The Photos app also includes this feature, so in this case I selected a photo, tapped Share, and my MacBook then appeared beneath the photo:
Next up on your iOS device, tap on your Mac to start sending the file. On your Mac, you should also see a notification slide in from the right of the screen, as below. If you are signed into the same iCloud account, you won’t need to approve the file transfer – it will just transfer automatically and is saved in your Downloads folder.
Here’s an example of AirDrop as it appears in the Share menu from Safari:
Step 5: send a file from your Mac to your iOS device
In this step, we will perform the reverse – i.e. send a file from the Mac to the iPad. Just choose an item to share and drag it onto the AirDrop window in Finder, or choose AirDrop from the Share menu from an application.
In this example, I previewed a screenshot, selected the Share button and clicked on AirDrop.
Nearby devices are shown in the popup as shown below – just choose the device you want to share with:
Note that if you’re not signed into the same iCloud account on both devices, you’ll see a popup on your iOS device like this:
Lastly, when the file transfer is in progress, the iOS device indicates progress as follows:
That’s really all there is to using AirDrop. Of course, you can still use it to transfer files just between iOS devices, but it’s really great to be able to share files quickly and easily with a Mac. Personally, I use it all the time because it takes just a few clicks and it’s done!
A small number of users have reported problems with AirDrop on various Macs, so there are lots of troubleshooting resources available on the official Mac support pages and forums.
More tips from Apple can also be found here.
If AirDrop is not working on your Mac, check out another related article on Apple Toolbox.