How Does AirDrop Work – How to Set Up Your Service

AirDrop is a quick way to share nearly anything between iOS devices, meaning iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Macs. How does AirDrop work? We’ll show you how to use it below. Article updated March 2018.


How to Activate AirDrop on iOS

To activate the service on your iPhone or iPad, you must launch Control Center. But first, check to see if both Bluetooth and WiFi are on. Now, hard press on the edge of the square with WiFi and Bluetooth. Tap AirDrop and choose your device’s visibility. If you choose the “Off” option, you will, of course, make it impossible for people to share files with you. “Contacts Only” ensures you are visible to your contacts, and “Everyone” allows you to receive and send data from and to anyone nearby.

To activate the service manually on your Mac, go to Settings and then AirDrop from the menu bar. The service automatically turns on if both Bluetooth and WiFi are on, so if you must activate it yourself, then it’s a sign that your connectivity options are off. You will be notified if you need to turn them on.

In order to receive or send files from everyone, not just the people in your Contacts app, the “Allow me to be discovered by” option at the bottom of the service’s window will do the trick.

How to AirDrop Files from Your iOS Device

To share files using AirDrop:

  • go to the thing you wish to transfer.
  • tap the Share button.
  • tap the device you want to share with.

The files you have sent or the ones you have received yourself through this method will appear in the dedicated app. For example, if you have sent a video, the receiver should look that file up in Videos.

How to AirDrop Files from Your Mac

If you want to transfer files from your Mac computer:

  • open a Finder window.
  • select AirDrop from the Favourites menu.
  • make sure the device with which you want to share is there.
  • open a separate Finder window and navigate to the file you wish to share.
  • drag and drop the file over the icon of the device you want to send it to.


  • select the file you want to share and click the share button at the top of the Finder window.
  • pick AirDrop out of the drop-down menu. If it’s not there, click “more” and rearrange the options so that it will appear.
  • a list of nearby AirDrop devices will appear – pick the one you want.

While browsing the internet in Safari you can:

  • go to the webpage you want to share.
  • click on the share icon on the right side of the address bar.
  • select AirDrop. Likewise, if it’s not there, use the “More” option to find it.
  • pick the AirDrop device you want to share with out of the list.

Receiving Items via AirDrop

If the devices are signed into the same iCloud account, then the documents will be both accepted and saved automatically. As we stated above, the receiver should see the items in the Photos, Videos, or any other app on their device.

If your device is not signed into the same iCloud account:

  • Your iOS device has to be unlocked. The sender must either make sure your device is unlocked or tell you to unlock it.
  • You will be prompted to accept the file.
  • The item will open in the respective app. If it’s a photo, it will show up in “Photos.” If it’s a link – it’ll open in Safari.

If sent to a Mac computer, then the document can simply be found in the Downloads folder. There’s no need to accept it as the Mac is typically always unlocked.

How AirDrop Works

AirDrop uses Bluetooth low energy (LE) to broadcast and negotiate connections, and point-to-point WiFi to actually transfer the data. Each of the two devices creates a firewall, and the files are transferred encrypted. This makes the service fast, secure, and power-efficient. It is also a safer way to send data than the standard email, for example.

How does AirDrop work – do you need to set up something? The service will automatically detect the supported devices located nearby, but you have to be sure the receiver or the provider of the file is close enough to establish a WiFi connection.

For a good connectivity, make sure you are the recipient are within 30 feet of each other.

Supported AirDrop Devices

Which Apple devices can run AirDrop? Almost all of them. Well, the service is supported on devices running iOS7 or later and Macs with OS X Yosemite or later.

We hope you found this guide useful.  For a complete take on AirDrop, there’s always the official AirDrop guide from Apple.

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