How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard or Mouse on Mac

Jul 16, 2016 - 19 Comments

Enabling Bluetooth on Mac without a keyboard or mouse

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where Bluetooth needs to be enabled on a Mac, but you don’t have a mouse or keyboard handy? This can pose a conundrum; in order to re-enable Bluetooth, you must use a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard… That may sound a little silly, but it’s a situation which can arise if you use a Bluetooth keyboard or Bluetooth mouse, and if Bluetooth gets disabled somehow. Since most desktop Mac usage scenarios utilize Bluetooth hardware, it’s not as rare as it may sound, and it can be challenging to enable the Bluetooth service and thus regain access to input devices on the Mac.

We’re going to show you how to tackle that situation in Mac OS, so that you can enable Bluetooth even if you can’t connect a Bluetooth mouse or Bluetooth keyboard to the computer to do so.

Keep in mind this is not a general Bluetooth troubleshooting guide, it’s aimed specifically at users who find the Bluetooth service to be disabled and they are therefore unable to use a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse on their Mac. If you need general Bluetooth troubleshooting steps, start with replacing the batteries of the devices, reset the Bluetooth hardware on Mac, and some other tips for resolving Bluetooth Not Available errors.

Also, remember that the latest Apple Magic Mouse 2 and Apple Wireless Keyboard 2 models both have a USB lightning port on them, which means they can be plugged in directly to the Mac to get around such a problem.

How to Enable Bluetooth on Mac Without a Mouse in Mac OS X

This demonstrates how to enable Bluetooth if you only can connect a keyboard to a Mac. This is common if your Mac uses a Bluetooth mouse or trackpad and somehow Bluetooth is disabled, where it can be extra challenging to get the service turned on again. Fortunately as long as you have a keyboard handy (USB or otherwise), plug it in and you can enable Bluetooth with just that keyboard by following these instructions:

  1. Connect a USB keyboard to the Mac (or use the built-in keyboard on a MacBook laptop)
  2. Hit Command+Spacebar to bring up Spotlight, then type in “Bluetooth File Exchange” and hit the Return key
  3. Search for Bluetooth app to enable the service

  4. This launches the Bluetooth File Exchange app, which will immediately recognize that Bluetooth is turned off, simply hit the “Return” key again to choose the “Turn Bluetooth On” button
  5. Enable Bluetooth with keyboard only

  6. Once Bluetooth is enabled, quit out of Bluetooth File Exchange app

You can also navigate to and through the Bluetooth settings with just the keyboard, but that’s quite a bit more complex than simply searching for the app which triggers the service enabler directly.

How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard in Mac OS X

Enabling Bluetooth when you don’t have a USB keyboard is easy since you can just use any USB Mouse or USB trackpad as usual to enable the service with the cursor:

  • Pull down the Bluetooth menu item in Mac OS X and choose “Turn Bluetooth On”

Enable Bluetooth from menu

Simple, right?

If the Bluetooth menu item is also disabled, simply go to the  Apple menu, choose System Preferences, Bluetooth, and turn the Bluetooth service on from there with the mouse.

Once Bluetooth has been enabled with the mouse, you can connect the Bluetooth keyboard as usual, along with any other devices.

How to Enable Bluetooth Without a Keyboard or Mouse in Mac OS X

This is a trickier situation, which is usually encountered if there is no USB keyboard or USB mouse available, and both the mouse and keyboard are Bluetooth instead. It’s usually iMac, Mac Mini, and Mac Pro users who encounter this experience, in which case the following steps are necessary:

  1. First thing first, be sure the Bluetooth keyboard and Bluetooth mouse have sufficient battery power and are turned on
  2. Disconnect all physical devices from the Mac, including any peripherals and anything except the power cable
  3. Reboot the Mac (or boot the Mac if it was shut down) using the physical hardware button located on the machine (it’s usually on the back on modern Macs)
  4. This will trigger the Bluetooth setup wizard and detect the Bluetooth devices and enable the service automatically, assuming they are within range and sufficiently charged

Enabling Bluetooth on Mac without a keyboard or mouse

If for some reason the bluetooth setup wizard doesn’t trigger and the Mac boots up again with Bluetooth disabled, you’ll probably want to get your hands on either a USB mouse or USB keyboard and refer to the methods outlined above to enable Bluetooth with either just a mouse, or just a keyboard.

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

19 Comments

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  1. Sebby says:

    I don’t disable Bluetooth, and it works perfectly, except when I need the recovery mode. Then I need a USB keyboard because no matter what I try, I can’t get the firmware to recognise Bluetooth keypresses on startup, even though it’s supposed to.

    Any ideas?

    Really, I only use Bluetooth for the form factor of the keyboard/trackpad. I run Yosemite, so I’m using the older ones. If the newer ones could run on Yosemite, then it’d be awesome, since I have Lightning cables close to hand, whereas fetching a USB keyboard actually requires that I, like, get up off the chair and find it, returning it to the cabinet once I’ve done whatever it is. :)

    • Dan Uff says:

      Bluetooth cannot work in recovery mode, because recovery mode doesn’t boot any drivers, which Bluetooth has to be enabled in order to work.

      • Sebby says:

        Yup, it does work. Your device pairings are in the NVRAM.

        Or at least it’s supposed to work, according to Apple. A bit of googling finds people very frustrated that it doesn’t actually work the way Apple says it does, until they learn from elsewhere–as I just have–that one must wait until after the Bluetooth hardware is properly initialised before hammering the keyboard sequence. I’m blind, so I don’t see lights on my devices indicating they’re paired, but wait about 500 ms after the startup chime, and then press your key sequence.

        It worked for me. First try. :)

  2. Floyd Tolar says:

    When I followed your instructions, all that happened was my Documents folder opened.

  3. Robert says:

    This is exactly why I would never use a wireless keyboard or mouse, plus you need to keep buying batteries, it’s a waste of money.

    • Anne says:

      A wired mouse also performs better in certain programs that require fine control. I tried non wired but after problems (not related to Bluetooth) I returned to wired.

      On my iPad, I use Bluetooth for a speaker. I’ve never had Bluetooth shut down on the iPad.

    • TJ says:

      I agree with your statement in large but I use rechargeable double-A batteries and the Bluetooth keyboard works well.

      There is also a great solar powered rechargeable Bluetooth keyboard too from Logitech

  4. Charles says:

    It is not Command+spacebar… but CONTROL+SPACEBAR

  5. Bill says:

    When I change the batteries in my Bluetooth mouse and turn the mouse on again, my iMac does not “see” the mouse. How can I get the computer to connect to the mouse without rebooting the iMac?

  6. Albena says:

    This just saved my night. Who would have thought? Thank you?!

  7. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much. This was super helpful. I wasn’t paying attention, and I turned off the bluetooth on my 2011 Mac. Both my trackpad and keyboard are bluebooth operated, so this was perfect. I was actually considering buying a usb mouse.. All I did was reboot, and once it turned on, I waiting a few seconds then the bluebooth connectivity notification popped up!

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