Best fixes for AirDrop not working issues

6 min read

AirDrop is one of the fastest and most convenient ways to wirelessly send files to people on the same Wi-Fi. You can use it to instantly share images, documents, and videos without any file size limitations between Apple devices: Mac to Mac, iPhone to Mac, Mac to iPad, and so on.

Introduced back in 2011, AirDrop has become a feature that you expect coming built-in with your new iPhone and Mac. So finding yourself and your AirDrop stuck on waiting can be a frustrating experience. Luckily, there are more than a few tricks you can try to get your file transfer back up. 

What are the most common reasons for AirDrop to misbehave and what can be done about it? Let’s find out. 

Why is AirDrop not working? 

The two factors that influence AirDrop performance the most are software glitches on your device and connection problems. The great news for anybody trying to do something about AirDrop being stuck on waiting is that it’s possible to take measures and fix both kinds of malfunctions.

How to fix AirDrop not working issues? 

The first thing to do before you try tackling any system problems with AirDrop not working is to make sure that both of your devices:

  • Are made by Apple
  • Share the same Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection (are within at least 30 feet from each other)
  • Are unlocked 

If the problem persists, consider the following methods to fix your troubles with AirDrop. 

Check your device’s compatibility with AirDrop

A good place to start when you’re wondering why is AirDrop not working, is to make sure that both of your devices support AirDrop.

Devices compatible with AirDrop include:

  • Any iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS 7 or later
  • Any iPad running iPadOS 13 or later
  • Any Mac running OS X Yosemite or later

You can also easily check if your device supports AirDrop by going through the list of available apps in Settings on iOS (Settings ➙ General ➙ AirDrop) or in the Finder menu on macOS (Finder ➙ Go ➙ AirDrop). 

AirDrop on Mac

Check wireless connectivity

AirDrop might get stuck if something’s wrong with your wireless connection.

So, first of all, if you're using your iPhone as a personal hotspot, make sure you disable it when sharing files via AirDrop. Otherwise, it will cause problems for your connection.

Second of all, try disabling and re-enabling Bluetooth and WiFi on both devices if you’re wondering why is AirDrop stuck on waiting. 

To check WiFi and Bluetooth on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Click on Wi-Fi and make sure its toggle is on
  3. Click on the arrow at the top left corner of the screen to go back to Settings
  4. Click on Bluetooth and check that the toggle next to it is turned on 

check wifi on iPhone

To check your wireless settings on Mac: 

  1. Go System Settings in the Apple menu
  2. Choose Network
  3. Check that the status on Wi-Fi says Connected
  4. Go back to System Settings and choose Bluetooth
  5. Make sure Bluetooth is On.

And, finally, the third thing to try when shaking things up with wireless connection, is a network reset (Settings ➙ General ➙ Reset ➙ Reset Network Settings). This one is a little bit tricky, because your device will forget any networks you’ve connected to before, and you’ll have to reconnect afresh. But it’s an effective method to try if you want to revive AirDrop stuck on preparing.

Another easy way to check that there’s no interference weakening your WiFi is to run a fast signal diagnostics with NetSpot. 

NetSpot is a WiFi booster that lets you find and fix weak spots in your wireless coverage and optimize your network performance without any special technical knowledge:

  • Perform live Wi-Fi scan with built-in speed tests for any points in your living, outdoor, or office space 
  • Visualize where the signal is strong/weak
  • Find areas of channel interference
  • Adjust the locations of your access points and choose placement for new hotspots, if needed

NetSpot signal and noise settings

Check AirDrop settings on a receiving device

It’s important that AirDrop settings on the receiving device allow for connection.

You can choose from the following options:

  • Receiving Off: make sure your AirDrop isn’t set to this option
  • Contacts Only: the safest choice since it helps you avoid situations with strangers trying to send you random files
  • Everyone: often an effective solution for AirDrop not working problems, as it skips the additional complexity of having to verify the contact details first

To configure AirDrop settings on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch:

  1. Go to Settings 
  2. Choose General ➙ AirDrop
  3. Select either Contacts Only or Everyone

    AirDrop settings on iPhone

To check the receiving AirDrop settings on Mac:

  1. Choose AirDrop from the Finder menu (Finder ➙ Go ➙ AirDrop)
  2. Click on the dropdown menu by “Allow me to be discovered by”
  3. Choose Contacts Only or Everyone
 tap AirDrop to change your setting

Check VPN and firewall settings 

If you’re trying to send files to Mac, another possible reason for why is AirDrop not working might lie in the firewall block for incoming connections. 

Here’s how you can fix this in a few simple steps:

  1. Go to System Settings form the Apple menu
  2. Click on the Network in the sidebar and choose Firewall on the right
  3. Turn the firewall off for the purpose of your file transfer or use firewall Options to uncheck the box next to “Block all incoming connections”

Sometimes AirDrop not working issues may also be caused by VPN, active on your iPhone or Mac. Try turning it off inside your VPN app or from your device settings (Settings ➙ General ➙ VPN on iOS, or System Settings ➙ Network ➙ VPN on macOS).

Hopefully, the steps above helped you to fix AirDrop not working. Now, if you want to reduce the number of clicks when transferring files via AirDrop, try Dropzone. Simply start dragging a file.You’ll see the Dropzone icon. Drop your file to the AirDrop icon in Dropzone, and it will start sending the file to your iPhone.

Restart or do a hard reset of your devices 

If nothing else has worked, try restarting your devices. As a general rule, if an issue is with your device malfunctioning, a restart might get rid of the minor glitch. 

If turning the device off and on again doesn’t help, the answer may be in a hard reset of your iPhone or Mac. You should be aware, though, that a reset of this magnitude not only fixes issues but also returns your device to the factory settings, clearing the RAM. So, use this option with caution and make sure your device is backed up.

You can find detailed instructions on how to hard reset iPhone and how to factory reset Mac in our dedicated articles.

Contact Apple support 

If you think you’ve exhausted all the tricks trying to fix AirDrop stuck on waiting by yourself, consider contacting Apple Support for assistance. 

How to reset my Apple AirDrop? 

AirDrop is a built-in feature on your Mac and iOS device that you can turn on and off, but there isn’t really an option to reset it. 

AirDrop stuck? There’s no reason you should be too

AirDrop is a great way to transfer data between Apple devices in a few clicks. If, however, you find your AirDrop stuck on waiting for too long, there’s a number of settings you can tweak to refresh the connection. Hopefully, the above mentioned tips help you.

After resolving any AirDrop issues, why not enhance your Apple device experience even further? Setapp offers a curated collection of apps for Mac and iPhone, designed to streamline tasks and boost productivity. From file management to data recovery, Setapp has you covered. Also, the apps mentioned in this article – NetSpot and Dropzone – are available on Setapp. The best part? You can use all apps at co cost for seven days! If you like Setapp, pay $9.99/mo. 

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