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Question: Why can't airdrop on my iMac see my iPhone?

I'm running Sierra 10.12.2 on an iMac and I have an iPhone 5 running iOS 10.2. The iPhone's Airdrop is set to 'Everyone', but when I look at Airdrop on the Mac via the Finder, I don't see anything - I believe I should see an icon representing the phone. I'm on the same wifi for both devices and Bluetooth is on, and the devices are a few inches apart. What can I do to make it work?

iMac, macOS Sierra (10.12.1), New for 2012. 8Gb

Posted on Jan 11, 2017 6:31 AM


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Jan 12, 2017 12:15 PM in response to Living Fossil In response to Living Fossil

Hi Living Fossil,

​I understand that you're unable to see your iPhone listed in the AirDrop section of Finder on your Mac. Let's see if we can get this working properly!

First, please restart both the iPhone and your Mac before trying again. Once you're done, take a look at these tips:

Tips for sending items

If you don't see the recipient in the AirDrop window or sheet:

  • Make sure that both devices have AirDrop turned on and are within 30 feet (9 meters) of each other.
  • If you're sending to an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:
    • Your Mac needs to be a 2012 or newer model with OS X Yosemite or later.
    • The iOS device must be using iOS 7 or later and have Personal Hotspot turned off in Settings > Cellular.
  • If you're sending to a Mac:
    • If the receiving Mac is using OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, or Lion, it needs to have an AirDrop window open: choose Go > AirDrop from the menu bar in the Finder.
    • If the receiving Mac is a 2012 or older model, click “Don't see who you're looking for?” in the AirDrop window or sharing sheet of the sending Mac. Then click “Search for an Older Mac.”
    • Find out if the Mac has “Block all incoming connections” turned on in Security & Privacy preferences. A Mac won't receive items using AirDrop if this setting is turned on.
  • If AirDrop on the receiving device is set up to receive items from contacts only, make sure that both devices are signed in to iCloud. Also make sure that the email address or phone number associated with your Apple ID is in the Contacts app of the receiving device.

Use AirDrop to send content from your Mac - Apple Support
Please review the article linked above to review the requirements and steps to get AirDrop configured.
Take care!

Jan 12, 2017 12:15 PM

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Jan 12, 2017 12:25 PM in response to rose_10 In response to rose_10

Ha - I think absolutely all the criteria you suggest are OK except that my iMac is "mid-2011". So despite running the latest versions of Mac OS Sierra and iOS, and having the devices close to each other on the same wifi and Bluetooth networks, and having the Firewall off, it just won't work? Suppose so. The odd part is that 'Airdrop' does appear in the Finder sidebar, so I for one would see that as an indicator that it would work with my configuration.

I have not budgeted to buy a new Mac in 2017 unless this one breaks down irretrievably, so that's it.

Thanks for the explanation.

Jan 12, 2017 12:25 PM

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Jul 3, 2017 5:14 AM in response to Living Fossil In response to Living Fossil

I had exactly the same problem. The solution was to smack the phone a few times, scream obscenities and wait. After 4 minutes and 30 seconds the iMac icon appeared on my iPhone and it all worked.Patience may be a solution in itself.

Jul 3, 2017 5:14 AM

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Jul 3, 2017 9:26 AM in response to Living Fossil In response to Living Fossil

I think iCloud must be "on" on both units, it's how the units decide if all Apple features are allowed to flow between your units.

Check your settings make sure both logged in to iCloud. That makes sure your two units are 'secured' and willing to talk to one another. Particularly check iCloud->Account_Settings->Devices on the iMac to see both units appear as icons and there are no "security lapsed messages" appearing when device icons are selected.

Now check the app settings (found in Settings for the particular app). It should have a setting for iCloud. Try signing out of iCloud then back in on both units (using the app's settings, not main Settings). This is done to make the app is registered to be on of the apps "allowed to talk". This is not automatic, because all apps do not automatically get ability to use apple security. This app likely did ask you for your password a long time ago - sometimes the password lapses and you must reset the app's use of iCloud so that it will take to the newer iCloud connection).

Next I'm a little confused 🙂 Airdrop works on many apps but itself isn't an app. You were right to find any Airdrop settings and check them - though I'm unsure if Airdrop itself has iCloud login / logout.

Jul 3, 2017 9:26 AM

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Nov 4, 2017 6:27 PM in response to fiercer In response to fiercer

that is unusual. you should inform apple of that?

do you using "paired security?" i do not. paired security makes these issues more difficult (why i avoid it), and might even required "location" be used on both devices (i'm unsure if that's intentional or if it's a bug you found)

Nov 4, 2017 6:27 PM

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Nov 5, 2017 4:45 AM in response to QuietMacFan In response to QuietMacFan

I am going a bit OT here, so maybe I should start a new topic, but I find that not only can't I do AirDrop from my iPhones to my iMac (apparently because of the model of iMac I have, even though AirDrop is featured in its Finder menu), but I also can't AirDrop from one iPhone to another, even though both are on the same wifi network and both are running the latest version of iOS 11. When I try to transfer a photo for example, I click the 'sharing' icon, and choose AirDrop, which shows a note saying

"Share instantly with people nearby. If they turn on AirDrop from Control Centre on iOS or from Finder on the Mac, you'll see their names here. Just tap to share".

Well, I don't see any names, despite setting AirDrop to "everyone" on both phones. At the very least, this amounts to poor instructions from Apple - I mean, if there are other conditions like sharing location services, they should say so. I'm going back to try it some more and may start a new topic. I realise that AirDrop has NEVER worked for me.

Nov 5, 2017 4:45 AM

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Nov 6, 2017 5:57 AM in response to Eric Root In response to Eric Root

Thanks Eric Root for all that info. I just solved part of my problem (phone-to-phone communication) via a chat with Apple Support. They pointed out something I was completely unaware of, which is the 'Settings/General/Restrictions' property on iOS. These are what people usually call Parental Controls, and if you just turn it on (Enable Restrictions), it will block everything, including AirDrop - you can also turn it on or off for individual apps and services. On my iPhone 7 the whole thing was on. I didn't consciously do this and I had not read anything about it.

Anyway that slightly OT problem is solved, but my current iMac still won't play AirDrop with my phones - still looking.

Nov 6, 2017 5:57 AM

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Question: Why can't airdrop on my iMac see my iPhone?