How to Reset the Bluetooth Hardware Module on Mac OS X to Troubleshoot Challenging Bluetooth Issues

Dec 15, 2015 - 42 Comments

Bluetooth on the Mac

Bluetooth allows wireless devices like keyboards, mouse, speakers, trackpads to be used with the Mac, and while they usually work just fine, sometimes specific Bluetooth difficulties can arise and be very frustrating to troubleshoot. Maybe it’s a persistently disconnecting device, maybe it’s a device that refuses to acknowledge a specific Mac or vice versa. Sometimes disconnecting and reconnecting with new batteries or trashing the Bluetooth preferences and an SMC reset is enough to resolve the problem, but other times issues still persist. Rather than giving up, another approach for troubleshooting particularly stubborn Bluetooth problems is to reset the Macs Bluetooth module using a little known debug menu option.

Access the Hidden Bluetooth Debug Menu in Mac OS X for Hardware Module Reset

Keep in mind this is going to disconnect every Bluetooth device on the Mac, so if you only have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse you’re going to temporarily lose the ability to use those devices as the Bluetooth hardware module is reset.

  1. From the OS X desktop, hold down the Shift+Option keys and then click on the Bluetooth menu item to reveal the hidden Debug menu
  2. Select “Reset the Bluetooth module” from the Debug menu list
  3. Reset Bluetooth module in Mac OS X

  4. When finished resetting, reboot the Mac as usual and go through the process of connecting the Bluetooth device(s) to the Mac as you typically would, everything should now work fine

You’ll notice there are several other options available in the Bluetooth Debug menu, including logging options, the ability to factory reset all BT connected Apple devices, and the ability to remove all BT connected items in one fell swoop, those options can be useful for other scenarios, but for troubleshooting purposes the reset seems to be most valuable.

Keep in mind that if a Bluetooth device is too far away form the Mac it may also have problems connecting to the computer as well, you can monitor connection strength of Bluetooth devices with this trick if you’re uncertain about signal quality.

This should not need to be done often since Bluetooth is typically pretty reliable on the Mac, but I had to reset Bluetooth on a MacBook Pro recently after using a PS4 controller with the Mac and later trying to add a similar PS3 controller which was refusing to be discovered by the Mac. The reset trick worked and now both gaming controllers work with the Mac as expected.

Thanks to our friend Keir over at MacKungFu for discovering the debug menu item access, this should be useful to anyone who has fumbled through troubleshooting Bluetooth issues.

This debug and reset options appear to be available only to the latest versions of OS X, but if you find it working in something prior to El Capitan let us know in the comments.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

42 Comments

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  1. Rick Thalhammer says:

    I’m using Yosemite 10.10.5 and, while I didn’t go on to reset my bluetooth devices, the menu option did show up. So it works at least in Yosemite as well as El Cap.

    • LexS says:

      You only find the debug menu when you have a Bluetooth device connected.
      Is the debug action only for that connection or for all possible connections to other devices?

  2. Corb Sponcel says:

    Also shows up in 10.9.5, didn’t do reset.

  3. lucky says:

    The information about reset the bluetooth device on Mac OS X is valueable. Thanks Paul

  4. LexS says:

    You only find the debug menu when you have a Bluetooth device connected.
    Is the debug action only for that connection or for all possible connections to other devices?

  5. not overly impressed says:

    I was hoping this would fix the broken AirDrop problem after upgrading to El Crapitan but no joy

  6. coxsone says:

    I was having a heck of a time trying to get an Auvio speaker to reliably pair with my MacBook Pro. Had to finally download Hardware IO Tools (free developer download from Apple) and use the Bluetooth Explorer to do pretty much the same thing. This shortcut would have saved me some time and, quite frankly, some bewildering menus.

  7. choiceweb says:

    Thanks, this might be what I need to do get my macbook to recognize some skull candy earbuds that work fine with my iPhone, but not with my macbook or iMac.

  8. lifferent says:

    If you press Shift+Option, then click the Wifi icon, ther will be also a Debug menu :)

  9. Mike the Mac Man says:

    Apple Wireless Mouse paired after some of the steps above but Apple Wireless Keyboard would not. Only thing that actually allowed successful pairing of the Apple Wireless Keyboard with a 2009 Mac mini was turning off the WiFi antenna via the WiFi menu.

  10. rotmoris says:

    This solved my BT connection issue with SoundLink Mini bluetooth speaker. Thank you.

  11. Bart says:

    With only 1 meter between Macbook and bluetooth from QED i can hear a lot of noise. Reset didn’t helped at all.

  12. ARUN GANESAN says:

    I have connected my bluetooth mouse, sometimes when my mac wakeup from sleep state, the bluetooth is automatically turned off in mac and it is not turning on even when i click “Turn on”. I had to restart the system anyway(even after “reset blutooth”). Is there any way to turn on bluetooth in mac without restarting ?

  13. SAM says:

    my sub woofer has a problem when pairing,as soon as it pairs it doesnt it doesnt produce sound and if it does its a scatched one, any one with an idea?

  14. dude says:

    Thank you! Fixed my problem – headphones that wouldn’t connect
    Cheers!

  15. George Smith says:

    Isn’t Apple going to fix this really pesky issue that makes Bluetooth devices UNusable!!!!???

    The issue has been around at least since 2012. How many years do you guys need to fix a small hardware problem!?

    Reboot the machine!? That is another 7 to 10 min + all the time I need to restore the state of any open applications. Altogether about 20 min.

    When people pay you 4K for souped up Mac Book Pro they expect quality and robustness to save time and money. The Bluetooth issue reduces productivity and costs companies time and money.

    • nope says:

      Rather than ranting about Bluetooth on a random website that attempts to troubleshoot these issues, maybe you should contact Apple directly and let them know your concern.

    • Molly says:

      Absolute trash… What are you using for reboot times like that!? I can reboot my wonderful Mac in less than two minutes and that is with it fully on the desktop, all applications opened too with that wonderful “restore your last session on reboot” feature! LOVE APPLE AND LOVE MAC BECAUSE IT IS A JOY TO USE ❤️

  16. Lloyd says:

    Can anyone explain what is going on with my Bluetooth please.
    My Bluetooth keyboard would not work. My Bluetooth is turned off and the option to turn it on is greyed out. Then my keyboard started working. The Bluetooth still says it’s off. I can not get the full debug menu. So I can’t add any devices because it’s not on yet my keyboard works.
    Thanks

  17. Dock says:

    The problem is that I cannot find the bluetooth icon neither on the top icon nor on the system preferences!!!!

  18. Stephanie T says:

    My bluetooth keyboard isnt working after installing os sierra!!! Now I cant login to my computer because I need to enter my password!!!

  19. Emma A says:

    Thanks! Resetting bluetooth and rebooting worked perfectly. Thanks for the useful advice!

  20. Anthony Johnson says:

    This seems to have worked for me. Didn’t even need to re-pair the mouse, keyboard etc. (Sierra). Thanks

  21. Koen Bruyninckx says:

    Sorry guys, this is not so useful, restarting your mac usually solves all bluetooth issues I have, that’s exactly the point, I need to restart my machine in order to make the stupid mac bluetooth work.
    A better trick is to reset the WiFi module:
    sudo networksetup -setnetworkserviceenabled “Wi-Fi” off
    sudo networksetup -setnetworkserviceenabled “Wi-Fi” on
    That usually does the trick for me, but unfortunately not always.

  22. Chris Morris says:

    Using El Capitan
    The file
    /Library/Preferences/com.apple.Bluetooth.plist
    has collected an enormous amount of cached bluetooth devices, I guess they are stored everyone I take my laptop, once this file was deleted and devices are re-paired problems very lessened but no totally fixed.

  23. kosh says:

    Yeah after travelling the system has picked up a lot of noise from third-party devices. If I get bluetooth refusing to reconnect after suspend I delete /Library/Preferences/com.apple.Bluetooth.plist and kill blued and toggle bluetooth in the menu bar. Still necessary with Sierra.

  24. TWX says:

    My mid-2011 Mac Mini started having an issue with the fan running at high speed while the machine was sleeping, and then wouldn’t wake from sleep (had to be powered off by holding the power button). This only seemed to happen overnight – short sleeps were okay. After a few days(nights) of this, my Magic Mouse 2 also stopped working. Resetting BT today via the debug menu fixed the mouse problem. I’ll let you know if the sleep problems are fixed as well. Thanks!

  25. Betty says:

    Thank you! Your instructions above to reset fixed my Bluetooth issues! You saved me more headaches and a trip to the Apple Store and for that am grateful!

  26. Alex says:

    “This should not need to be done often since Bluetooth is typically pretty reliable on the Mac”

    Aha, ahaha, hahahaha, hahaaa…

    Thanks, I needed that.

    Bluetooth performance – at least for audio devices – is by far my biggest complaint with OSX. Was on El Capitan, Yosemite, and now on Sierra.

  27. danny says:

    IT WORKED! thanks my BOHM B-66 was having issues, this fixed it

  28. John says:

    This instruction seems to have partially remedied my Bluetooth stuttering problem on Sierra 10.12.3, at least for now. Running on a MacBook air, paired to a GGMM M3 Wi-Fi Bluetooth Wireless Leather Speaker. I note that the speaker paired effortlessly with my iPhone and played without stuttering.

    It still stutters intermittently, whereas before the fix it stuttered constantly. I will ultimately activate the Airplay configuration of the M3.

    Very valuable and thank you!

    John
    Kemah, TX

  29. Francis Fabian says:

    I’m wondering how do I ‘click” when bluetooth doesn’t work??? Do I go out and buy a mouse with a cable? I still don’t know how to fix this.

  30. Matt says:

    Fixed my Bluetooth headphones stuttering problem. I’ve tried a bunch of things, but this actually worked.

  31. dennis says:

    It worked! Thx a lot! You are such a lifesaver!

  32. Gib says:

    I accidentally had my Mac forget bluetooth headphones. This fixed it.

    Thank you!

  33. Pat says:

    Fixed my problem. Thank you!

  34. Robert says:

    I tried everything you mentioned above on my MacBook. Nothing worked. I’m confused about this now. This is the fist time I had ever experienced this.

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