How to Use AirDrop in Mac OS X
Using AirDrop is the quickest way to transfer files between two Macs, even if they’re not on the same network or if there is no Wi-Fi network available to connect to. This is done by creating an instant Ad-Hoc network between the Macs, and there is practically no configuration required.
For those who have never used AirDrop before or who have ran into problems with it, here’s how to move files between Macs the easiest possible way with AirDrop.
- All Macs must running macOS 10.14, macOS 10.13, Mac OS 10.12, Mac OS X 10.11, 10.10, 10.7+, 10.8, 10.9, or newer, and have AirDrop support (here is how to enable AirDrop on older unsupported Macs or over ethernet too)
- Macs must be within reasonable range of each other, but not necessarily on the same network
- Both Macs must open the AirDrop window before they will be visible to each other – this seems to be the primary point of failure for most users who can’t get it to work
Assuming you meet those requirements, you are ready to use AirDrop to copy and transfer files between Macs. Let’s dive in and see how it works.
Using AirDrop to Transfer Files Between Macs
- Open AirDrop on both Macs, you can do this through any Finder window by clicking “AirDrop” in the sidebar or by hitting Command+Shift+R from anywhere on the Mac OS X desktop
- Wait a few seconds for the Macs and their user icons to appear in the AirDrop list – all Macs wishing to transfer files must open AirDrop to become visible to each other
- Drag and drop files to the Mac you want to send files to, click the “Send” button when asked to confirm
- On the recipients Mac, they’ll get a notification of incoming files with the option to accept or reject, click on “Save” to start the transfer
- A file transfer progress indicator appears around the user icon of the Mac, and you can watch progress in the “Downloads” icon of the Dock
When a file transfer is complete you’ll hear the familiar sound effect triggered by OS X indicating the file has finished.
AirDrop Files Will Be Saved to ~/Downloads Folder
Just where are AirDrop files saved to by default? The user Downloads folder, ~/Downloads. All transferred files are stored in the recipients “Downloads” folder, located in their user home directory, but also accessible from the Dock for most Mac users. As of now, there is no way to change where AirDrop saves files to in Mac OS X.
Assuming all the Macs are running a compatible version of OS X, the primary point of failure in nearly every instance of AirDrop troubleshooting is the lack of both users opening the AirDrop folder. That is mandatory for both users to see each other on the ad-hoc network. Such a simple mistake causes frustration and people to believe the service doesn’t work, but it’s just as simple to resolve. I’ve encountered several instances of this directly and I’m sure many others out there have as well, check there first. Another important consideration is proximity, be sure the Macs are fairly close to one another to be able to properly find each other via AirDrop and to be able to transfer between each other.
As mentioned earlier, you can enable AirDrop over ethernet connections and also on unsupported Macs, but they still must be running a modern release of Mac OS system software with AirDrop support, whether that’s something older like Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, Mavericks, or newer like macOS Mojave or Sierra.
For the tinkerers out there, you can also change the AirDrop sound effect from that ‘pop’ sound to something else. That can be a fun way to customize the experience a bit, and it can be useful to differentiate the sound of AirDrop on Macs that are frequently in the same location, office, or desk.
This obviously covered AirDrop from Mac to Mac, but you can cross the Apple OS platforms with AirDrop too. You can also use AirDrop on an iPhone to copy to a Mac or vice versa, as iOS to Mac OS X AirDrop support is available in newer versions of Mac OS and iOS system software. If you want to learn how to AirDrop from Mac to iPhone or iPad click here, or you can go the other direction and learn how to AirDrop from iPhone to Mac (and that method works on iPad to Mac too of course).