Not very long ago swapping files between Macs was complex, getting them to iPhones required cables, email, or third party apps, and beaming a file between devices was deeply unreliable. Apple’s AirDrop solution makes the process of transferring files significantly easier.
What is AirDrop?
Apple introduced AirDrop in 2011. AirDrop enables easy transfer of files between Macs and Apple devices over the same Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network using the latest iteration of Apple’s useful Bonjour zero-configuration networking protocol. Because the system creates a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network in order to transfer the files, AirDrop can handle large file sizes (video, or photos, for example). This makes it useful for people who often need to exchange large files with colleagues, such as those working in magazine or film production.
However, there are some known issues with AirDrop. Most of these issues are prevalent because there have been different implementations of AirDrop since it was first introduced. AirDrop versions before OS X 10.10 were incompatible with AirDrop on iOS so you could not share files with your devices this way. However, as a rule of thumb you should find AirDrop works really well when used with a current Mac or iOS device running the latest version of the operating system.
When to use AirDrop
AirDrop is an excellent solution if you want to quickly get something to someone in the same room. You do need to be within Bluetooth range of each other, around 30-feet with no walls in between both parties.
If you are further away, or in different places then you will need to use a different way to exchange files other than AirDrop. You may want to email items using MailDrop, send links to shared content in iCloud or anther cloud-based storage system, or use third party services such as MailBigFile. AirDrop does not work across platforms, such as between iOS and Windows devices, or Macs and Android smartphones.
The Benefits of AirDrop
AirDrop is a secure way to share data. It uses Bluetooth to build a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between the devices, which helps keep the data transfer private. Data is also encrypted while the transfer takes place. This makes sharing files using AirDrop much safer than email as the information is never shared online and is only made available while the transfer takes place at a very limited range.
Because the system uses Wi-Fi for file transfer it makes it really good at sharing almost anything, including larger files. You can also use it to share photos, self-created video clips, documents, Notes, shopping lists and more. You can even use it to share contact information, grocery lists, even web pages. Once you get used to using it you’ll wonder how you ever used anything else.
Can my Mac use AirDrop?
You can share content using AirDrop between any recent Mac and/or iOS devices. To check if your Mac can use AirDrop, choose the Go Menu item in Finder. If AirDrop appears in the drop down list then your Mac can use AirDrop.
To AirDrop content between Macs and iOS devices you must be running OS X 10.10 or later on Macs manufactured from 2012 or later. The iOS devices must be running iOS 8 or later and should be no more than five years old.
You can use AirDrop to transfer content between older Macs running OS X 10.7 or later, so long as the computers were manufactured in 2008 or later. These Macs cannot share data with iOS devices using AirDrop.
To send or receive items from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you must use a 2012 or later Mac running OS X Yosemite or later, excluding the mid 2012 Mac Pro.
Apple claims the following systems can use AirDrop to share with Macs:
Are You Ready to AirDrop?
If you are running a compatible Mac and/or iOS device(s) and have AirDrop enabled on both the host and destination device, AirDrop is very easy to use. We’ve put together complete instructions on how to use the technology on the Mac and iOS platforms below, but there are a few things you need to check first:
How to set up AirDrop on an iOS device
You set AirDrop up using Control Center on iOS, just swipe up to access this and then tap AirDrop. You can now select one of the following options:
How to use AirDrop on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
You can use AirDrop to share photos, videos, documents and more with other iOS or macOS devices that are nearby.
For example, in the Photos app you may decide you want to share a few images of a memorable moment with a friend, or want to send some 4K video clips from an iPhone to a Mac for editing in Final Cut Pro X.
To share content from an iOS device using AirDrop follow these steps:
You can also share some apps using AirDrop. To share an app just press and hold the app icon on the Home screen until the option to access the Force Touch commands for that app, tap Share [app name], and then choose the relevant AirDrop share.
Receiving AirDrops on iOS
When someone attempts to share content with your iOS device using AirDrop you will see a preview of the content and will be asked if you want to Decline or Accept it.
The file transfer begins once you tap ‘Accept’. If you decline the transfer the person attempting to share an item with you will be informed in their AirDrop panel.
They will also see a colored progress indicator that shows the transfer is taking place if you accept the transfer. The word “Sent” will appears on the sender’s AirDrop window once the transfer is complete.
Whatever information you have shared is automatically be placed inside an appropriate app – photos in the Photos app, for example.
How to set up AirDrop on a Mac
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi must be enabled on your Mac in order to use AirDrop.
Once you have both switched on choose the Go>AirDrop item in the Finder Menu.
A Finder window will appear in which you will see icons for all the Macs and iOS devices that are in range and available for an AirDrop session.
Your AirDrop options are described in tiny blue lettering at the bottom of the main pane of this window. These options are:
You will also see another item, “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” This will remind you of the steps you need to take to ask someone to make themselves available for a share, and will also let you search for people using older Macs. These use an older version of AirDrop which needs to be enabled.
How to use AirDrop on a Mac
Once you have AirDrop setup on your Mac you can easily share all kinds of documents, files, photos, videos, and more using AirDrop.
To share something you can:
You can also use the Share pane in your Mac app if it is available.
Mac Users Need to Know…
AirDrop works a little differently on Macs running older versions of OS X because the technology has been improved over time.
Fast Track AirDrop
Things work a little differently when you share content between your own devices. This is because your content is automatically sent to your recipient device when you hit share, so long as you are signed in with the same Apple ID on both devices. If you are not signed in using the same Apple ID on both devices AirDrop will work in the normal way and you will need to accept the content on the destination system before the transfer takes place.