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How to fix AirPods connection issues

9 min read

Compared to other gadgets you own, AirPods seem the easiest thing to manage — until they stop working. With only one button on the charging case, it seems like there’s nothing you can do to fix the problem. But that’s not really true. Mostly because that one button can fix many things. This means you don’t have to run to the nearest Apple store to have your AirPods replaced — at least not before you try these DIY fixes. Here’s how you can solve AirPods not connecting to Mac and iPhone, one AirPod not working, and more.

One AirPod not working 

One is better than none, but it’s not enough. Without a doubt, the most common AirPods troubleshooting question is the following: “Why is only one of my AirPods working?” There might be many reasons why this happens — from sound balance problems to complex hardware defects. 

Whether it’s left AirPod not working or the right one suddenly disconnecting, the first thing to try is put them both back into the case and make sure they are charging. Wait a few minutes and then re-pair AirPods with your iOS device or Mac once again. If this is no help, there are at least four other solutions you can try: 

Clean your AirPods, delicately 

Just like the clothes you wear, AirPods require regular cleaning to function properly. However, you have to be very careful with the liquid. The thing to remember is AirPods of the 1st and 2nd generations, as well as the charging cases you use with your AirPods, aren’t waterproof. AirPods Pro are water-resistant “to a certain degree,” according to Apple. So make sure you don’t do any extra damage while removing that dirt. 

Here are a few ground rules on how to clean AirPods to fix only one AirPod working: 

  • If there are any stains that should be removed, use a slightly dampened cloth to wipe AirPods clean. 
  • If you only need to wipe away the dust, Apple recommends using a soft, dry, lint-free cloth. 
  • Make sure the AirPods are completely dry before placing them back into a charging case. 
  • Use a dry cotton swab to clean microphones and speakers. 
  • Avoid sharp objects while cleaning AirPods or AirPods Pro. 

Clean AirPods Pro ear tips: 

  • You can pull off ear tips and rinse them with water if necessary. 
  • Wipe ear tips with a dry lint-free cloth. 
  • Wait until the ear tips are completely dry before reattaching them to AirPods Pro. 

Clean the charging case: 

  • Use a dry or slightly dampened cloth to wipe away the dirt. 
  • If it’s hard to remove the debris, consider cleaning the inside of the case with a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush or a Q-tip. 
  • Avoid putting anything inside the charging port. 

If you want to disinfect your Airpods or the charging case — which is particularly important in the time of the Coronavirus outbreak — you can do it. Apple recommends using a 70% isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes to disinfect AirPods. Also, check out airpods battery life.

Adjust stereo balance 

Another common reason why one AirPod stopped working could be a stereo balance problem. Any Apple device allows you to shift sound all the way to the right/left AirPod unless you disable the option. This means the right AirPod not working might be caused by you accidentally moving the stereo balance slider to the left. Luckily, this is super easy to solve. 

Fix stereo balance on an iOS device:

  1. Access Settings > Accessibility 
  2. Scroll down to Hearing > Audio/Visual and check the stereo balance slider — it should be midway between L and R
  3. Adjust the slider if necessary 
  4. Lastly, set Mono Audio to Off to ensure both AirPods play the same content. 

stereo balance on an iOS device

Fix stereo balance on Mac: 

  1. Access Settings > Sound 
  2. Select your AirPods from the Output menu 
  3. Make sure the slider is midway between L and R
  4. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility and disable Mono Audio. 

Unpair and re-pair your AirPods

Another thing to try is “forget” your AirPods on the device you’re pairing them with, and then re-pair again: 

  1. On your iPhone, open Settings > Bluetooth > the “i” icon next to your AirPods > Forget This Device
  2. On Mac, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth > the “x” button next to your AirPods > Forget Device
  3. Put both AirPods into the charging case, close the lid, and wait for about 30 seconds
  4. Press and hold the setup button until it flashes white
  5. Place AirPods close to your Mac or iPhone, open the lid, and re-pair with your device. 

AirPods 3 connect to Mac

Reset AirPods to default settings

If nothing fixes the only-one-AirPod-working problem, get ready for the last resort. Restore your AirPods or AirPods Pro to default settings: 

  1. Put AirPods into the charging case
  2. Press and hold the setup button until the status light flashes amber three times and then flashes white
  3. Try re-pairing your AirPods with the device.

Why won’t my AirPods connect to my Mac 

It could happen that your AirPods act weird whenever you try to pair them with Mac — even though they work all right with other devices. If your AirPods won’t connect to Mac, it’s either a Bluetooth problem, an old macOS version, or something wrong with your AirPods. The good news is you can certainly troubleshoot at least two of them — Bluetooth and incompatible macOS. Here are all the fixes to try. 

Unpair and re-pair your AirPods

Find a detailed guide on Why won’t my AirPods connect to my Mac here. 

Set AirPods as the output device 

Just to make sure the Bluetooth pairing works properly, check the output settings. With your AirPods connected, go to System Preferences > Sounds > Output. Make sure your AirPods or AirPods Pro are set as the output device. 

Fix naughty Bluetooth when AirPods connection failed

If the AirPods connection failed, MacBook could be the problem. Old Mac models come with Bluetooth chips that simply tend to misbehave. If that is the case, you can try and fix the problem by turning Bluetooth on and off. No luck? In this case, you need to get into some Terminal magic and kill the Bluetooth daemon running in the background: Type sudo pkill blued in Terminal > Enter > Admin password > Enter. Once it’s done, reconnect your AirPods to Mac. Fingers crossed it’s working now. 

Check out How to make AirPods louder.

Check macOS compatibility

Both AirPods and AirPods Pro have the macOS requirements that should be followed. Specifically, AirPods of the 1st generation require macOS Sierra or later, AirPods of the 2nd generation — macOS 10.14.4 Mojave or later, AirPods Pro will work properly with macOS 10.15.1 Catalina or later, and AirPods of the 3rd generation work with macOS 12 or later. So if there’s any kind of connection problem, macOS compatibility is definitely something to look into. 

Here’s how to check your current macOS version on Mac: 

  1. Click on the Apple icon in the top left corner
  2. Select About This Mac > Overview 
  3. Go to Software Update to check your macOS version and see whether there are any pending updates. 

macOS compatibility

Unpair AirPods from Mac

This might sound obvious but unpairing your AirPods might fix it all. Whenever you have a connection problem, click on the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar, select your AirPods, and toggle Connect/Disconnect. If this doesn’t help, try “forgetting” AirPods and then re-pairing them with Mac: 

  1. Open System Preferences > Bluetooth > the “x” button next to your AirPods > Forget Device
  2. Put both AirPods into the charging case, close the lid, and wait for about 30 seconds
  3. Press and hold the setup button until it flashes white
  4. Place AirPods close to your Mac, open the lid, and pair them with Mac. 

Set up a new Bluetooth connection with ToothFairy 

Finally, you can change the Bluetooth connection experience completely. And by “change” I mean not touching the Bluetooth icon in the menu bar — at all. If Bluetooth is the reason your AirPods won’t connect, this will fix the problem. To have your AirPods pair with Mac in a new way, you’ll need to set up a new connection using the ToothFairy app. It places an easy-to-use toggle into your menu bar, which you’ll use for AirPods pairing — or connecting any other Bluetooth device. 

ToothFairy app

Apart from fixing the Bluetooth trouble, ToothFairy is very handy. The app reduces all the steps you’ve used to go through to a single stroke. Simply install the app and click on the icon, it will connect the previously paired AirPods to Mac automatically. Best of all, you can set up multiple connections and use different icons for different headphones. 

And if you don’t want to touch any menu bar items at all, install AirBuddy — a Bluetooth helper tool we’ve mentioned above. AirBuddy is the simplest and most transparent tool to pair AirPods with Mac, using a simple pairing screen.

Optimize sound with Boom 3D 

Hopefully, you’re no longer struggling over the “why won’t my AirPods connect” question. The fixes described above cover all the common scenarios on what could have gone wrong with your AirPods. So unless there’s some kind of hardware damage, they will solve the problem. If nothing helps though, you might need to take your AirPods to the nearest Apple store. Life is unfair. 

If you’ve fixed one AirPod not working or AirPods not connecting to Mac, but the sound experience is just bad, there’s a great sound quality and volume optimizer that will help. It’s called Boom 3D. The app can adjust audio outputs, based on your needs. This means if Mac sound doesn’t cut it, Boom 3D will enhance it for you.

Boom 3D comes with sound presets you can switch between, depending on what you do on Mac, whether it’s listening to some rock music, playing games, or running a Zoom meeting with colleagues. The best thing about the app is its 3D Surround Sound feature, which makes you feel like you’re surrounded by speakers — think a movie theater. Plus, Boom 3D helps adjust the volume per app so that you have personalized sound experience. 

Whether it’s right AirPod not working or AirPods not connecting, don’t let it disrupt your routine. With a few DIY tricks, you can quickly identify and fix the problem. Make sure you keep your AirPods safe and clean, always check macOS compatibility, and reset AirPods if they keep acting naughty. 

For a faster and smoother pairing experience, use AirBuddy. To set up multiple Bluetooth connections, try ToothFairy. For sound and volume enhancement — Boom 3D. The three apps are free for 7 days with Setapp — so if you want to unlock the full potential of your AirPods-Mac union, you should definitely give it a try.

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