Fixing a “Bluetooth Not Available” Error on a Mac
Some Mac users may encounter an apparently random disappearance of Bluetooth functionality, often after rebooting or updating Mac OS X. The first obvious indicator is that no Bluetooth hardware works, be it a keyboard, mouse, headset, or otherwise, and when attempting to visit the Bluetooth menu of Mac OS X a “Bluetooth: Not Available” error is displayed while the menu bar items icon has a squiggly strike through it.
Investigating further, the Apple System Profiler will show “No information found” when drilled down by Hardware > Bluetooth. This suggests a more complicated issue than when a Bluetooth device repeatedly or randomly disconnects from a Mac, which is usually resolved by toggling the functionality off/on or changing a devices batteries.
After working through this issue, you’ll find the Not Available error can usually be resolved with a fairly simple process of dumping the Bluetooth preferences and pairing the device to the Mac again, though sometimes a hardware specific SMC reset may be necessary as well.
1: Trash Bluetooth Preferences & Shutdown the Mac
First up, delete the Bluetooth plist file and have the Mac create a new one:
- Close System Preferences and/or any app that was trying to use or configure any Bluetooth device with the Mac
- From the Mac OS X Finder, hit Command+Shift+G to summon Go To Folder and enter the following path:
- Locate the file named “com.apple.Bluetooth.plist” and delete it (you may see a com.apple.Bluetooth.plist.lockfile too, if so delete that as well) – this is a system folder so you will need to authenticate with an admin user
- Head to the Apple menu and choose “Shut Down” to power down the Mac
- Wait a minute or so before booting the Mac again
- Head to the Bluetooth menu or System Preference panel to resync your hardware
(Note this is /Library/Preferences/ not ~/Library/Preferences/)
This presumably fixes the issue if it’s just a matter of a corrupted plist file. Yes, shut down the Mac and keep it turned off for about a minute, do not simply reboot. Why shutting it down versus rebooting works here isn’t entirely clear, but after googling around a bit that seems to be a universally experienced situation.
With the Mac up and running again, Bluetooth should now be working as normal and the “Not available” message should be gone from the Bluetooth menu, System Preference panel, and System Profiler utility. If not, you can try the next step to reset the Mac SMC.
2: Reset SMC & Power Functions
Don’t jump straight to this without trashing the Bluetooth preference plist file first, there are reports that users had to perform both actions to get Bluetooth hardware functioning again.
The exact process of resetting the SMC is slightly different per hardware, thus the MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Mini all have slight variations to complete the process. Rather than repeat the full list here, head over to read our guide here or follow Apple’s instructions to get the job done.
After booting the Mac, re-enable Bluetooth and pair the device(s) as usual.
Bluetooth Still Not Available? Still No Bluetooth Hardware Found?
If you’ve trashed the plist and reset the SMC to find Bluetooth still not functioning on the Mac, you may have an actual hardware issue. This is fairly rare and usually doesn’t happen at random, but it can occur after a computer or hardware has been dropped or had water contact. Regardless, if you’re still having problems, it’s time to go the official route and contact Apple Support or head to the Genius Bar, they’ll be able to run some lower level diagnostics tests to make a determination of what’s going on and get things situated again.