Where Do AirDrop Files Go? Locating AirDrop Files on Mac and iOS

Jan 20, 2017 - 12 Comments

Where do AirDrop files go

AirDrop is the excellent wireless file transfer feature available to Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and with it you can easily and quickly transfer pictures, movies, documents, and whatever else between any iOS or Mac OS device. Being on the receiving end of AirDrop, have you ever wondered where AirDrop files go on a Mac or on an iPhone or iPad? Wonder no more, we’ll show you exactly where AirDrop files are saved to and how you can access their location in iOS and Mac OS.

Obviously you’ll need to have received an AirDrop file on a Mac or iPhone or iPad to be able to track down where AirDropped files go and are located, so if you want to try this yourself you’ll probably want to quickly AirDrop a file to yourself from another device. Otherwise, read on so you know where to look in the future for data transferred by AirDrop to Mac OS or iOS.

Where AirDrop Files Go on the Mac

Using AirDrop to move files between Macs is fast and easy done entirely through Finder, but have you ever wondered where those AirDrop files are saved? It turns out that AirDrop files on a Mac go into the user Downloads folder by default.

Thus, if someone sends you a file via AirDrop to your Mac, you will want to look in your Downloads folder. There are multiple ways to access the Downloads folder on a Mac, perhaps the quickest way for most users is to use the Dock or the Finder.

AirDrop Files go to Downloads folder on Mac

This applies to all file types transferred by AirDrop to a Mac, whatever they are, whether movies, photos, word documents, texts, presentations, PDF files, images, you name it, all files from AirDrop go into the ~/Downloads folder.

Where AirDrop Files Go on iPhone, iPad

Using AirDrop to move files and pictures to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch is also super easy and accessible from Control Center as well as the Photos app and Sharing functions. Because iOS does not have an official user accessible file system however the AirDropped files will go to different locations depending on the file type being transferred. This might sound a little confusing since there is not a central location for AirDrop files in iOS, but the way it is presented to the user is quite simple.

Where AirDrop Photos, Videos, Images, and Movies are Saved in iOS

Photos and videos transferred to an iPhone or iPad via AirDrop will appear in the Photos app and your camera roll.

Photos iOS icon

Where Other AirDrop File Types Go in iOS

Other files, like PDF, doc file, text, etc, will bring up a little menu with different options available on the iPhone or iPad to open and store the file that has been AirDropped.

AirDrop files go to different apps in iOS

Once you get an AirDrop file to an iOS device, you just need to choose an app to open it in, and the file will then be copied and available to that app. If the file is a PDF or something similar, iBooks is probably the best location for it, whereas other files may be better stored in DropBox or another similar app that mimics file system access. Perhaps in the future AirDrop in iOS will allow storing files received in iCloud Drive?

AirDrop icon in iOS

Because of the way iOS handles AirDrop files, some users may think it’s not working properly when it actually is (by the way, if you actually do have a problem with the feature we have two excellent guides on troubleshooting AirDrop not working issues in iOS here and here if AirDrop isn’t showing up at all in iOS). Just remember, with photos, videos, movies, and images, they go into the Photos app by default, whereas other file types will reveal the pop-up menu to show where the user chooses to send the file to.

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


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  1. B. says:

    I always wondered in Mac why Airdrop files didn’t simply go to the Airdrop folder. Very confusing UI decision.

  2. david watts says:

    I have a Macbook Pro, Summer 2010, now running OS X 10.12. I cannot find AirDrop on the Finder sidebar. It shows up in System Preferences (in Extensions) but although it shows the box as clicked it is greyed out. Can anyone suggest how to get access to that. There doesn’t seem to be an “unlock” button anywhere for that section.

    • Kevin says:

      Open Finder, then go to Finder/Preferences and tick AirDrop under “Show these items in the sidebar”.

      • Kevin says:

        If it isn’t there then your Mac doesn’t support AirDrop.

        • david watts says:

          Thx Kevin. I suspect, as simple as it is, this is the ultimate answer. It’s not that bad though. I don’t need AirDrop; I just wanted to have it if I was supposed to be part of my package.

  3. expobill says:

    Try dragging the folder from apps to your sidebar.
    there could be a add to fav in OSX10.12 option as well
    good luck!

  4. Dot says:

    It looks like your Mac is too old to support AirDrop. It needs to be 2012 or later.


  5. Felicity O'Brien says:

    I have been trying this between my phone and iPad. I dont get the menu that you showed…..the airdrop goes straight to Safari
    Can I change this

  6. David Leyshon says:


    Camera roll does not show up on my photos sidebar. I have a 27 inch Desktop, Latest model. Is this just the settings adjustment?


    David L.

  7. Fedux says:

    The most annoying thing of airdropping pictures between your ios device and your Mac is that, if your Mac is currently using the same iCloud account as your iOs device, MacOs don’t prompt you about where to save those pictures… So automatically they are saved in Downloads folder. If you airdrop to a Mac that isn’t using the same icloud account as your device, you are prompted about saving them in Download folder or, infinitely better, if you want to directly save them to Foto!!! Unbelievable they never fixed this issue! Maybe someone here knows a workaround?

  8. rawan says:

    I sent some pdf files to my iphone yet i did not opened only canceld , so my question did those files were deleted or moved to somewhere ?

    • John Smith says:

      A Million dollar question! Also, how do you airdrop a file (.pdf) further from the airdropped iPhone when opened for example with Chrome??

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